The text below provides you with general information, mandatory for GSfBS applications. However procedures in the different PhD programmes can vary.
Application for studentships
The GSfBS is open for students from all countries. Once you are accepted into the programme you will be enrolled at the University of Cologne. To be accepted as doctoral student you must hold a Master’s/Diploma degree. In exceptional cases we can accept students with an excellent BSc (1st class honours) who might need to attend additional courses and seminars during their first year or can apply for our Fast Track Master/Doctoral programme. The programme’s language is English and therefore a good knowledge of English is absolutely required. We encourage you to support your candidature with scores of internationally valid language exams like TOEFL, IELTS, or other tests. However this information is not mandatory.
Evaluation and selection procedure
All applications will be reviewed during the application time frame, prior to the application deadline. A shortlist will be created based on the best written applications and excellent reference letters (do not send these directly to us, we contact your referees). Candidates on this list might be contacted by coordinators and faculty for telephone interviews. Afterwards, the best candidates will be invited for our selection workshop taking place about several weeks after the admission deadline. The selection workshop will take place on two days. On one day candidates will give a 10 minute oral presentation about their previous scientific work (e.g. their Masters thesis) and are then asked questions by the audience for 5-10 minutes. In the afternoon there will be half hour interviews with faculty and coordinators. As preparatory material for the interviews you will be provided with one or two publications 10 days in advance. On the second day you will have the chance to visit research groups and talk to group members. You will also get the chance to meet students from other structured programmes and get a guided tour to learn more about the Institutes. Final decisions for the awarding of doctoral fellowships will be within one week after the selection workshop.
Tips for your application
Because we can only accept applications that are complete, you should take your time in completing the PDF form (see link below). If you are having problems getting certain documents or have gaps in your CV you should provide us with explanations. Sloppy applications will definitely fail to make it to our shortlist. With your written application you show us that you are informed about the research activities of the involved faculty and that you have knowledge of the respective scientific publications in your field(s) of interest. We have seen applications where the proposed research project was described so poorly that we could not consider these candidates further! Please make sure that you think carefully about this part of the application and make use of the permitted 4000 characters (including blanks) to give us a first impression of your scientific creativity and conceptual understanding. However, please do not try to copy/paste published text pieces, as we will control for plagiarism and this will immediately remove you from studentship consideration.
Tips for the telephone interviews
Telephone interviews give us the opportunity to learn more about your personality and what type of scientist you are. Open questions resulting from your written application can be addressed and we will learn about your oral English language proficiency. Also, we will definitely ask deeper questions on the research proposal you have submitted with your written application. Furthermore, we are interested in your understanding of certain analytical techniques and your educational background including your Master’s thesis. Telephone interviews are very important because after these we have to decide whom to invite for our selection workshop. It is therefore very important for you to be well prepared before you pick up the receiver. However we do not always include telephone interviews into our selection procedure.
Tips for the workshop
Seven minutes for a presentation may seem to be short, but we would like to listen to many candidates and thus must impose time constraints. Depending on your scientific background you may not have worked in a field that is related to the research done at our Institute. Your presentation should therefore be clear to an audience that may not be familiar with your topic. It is important that you give a general introduction into the topic and lead the audience carefully through the figures presented. Keep to the time limit! Usually the real presentation takes longer than the rehearsals, and we will have to interrupt you if your talk takes too long. Thus, you may miss the chance to tell your full story. Be well prepared for the discussion since you might get a lot of tough questions, e.g. why you were using certain techniques, what the aim of your project was, what the next steps in the project would be, what kind of further scientific questions would be interesting to address and how you would approach them methodologically etc. Are you (at least in theory) familiar with the methods in the research areas carried out in the groups of the GSfBS faculty? Think about approaches you are familiar with and ask yourself about their potentials and limitations.
Tips for the interviews
The interviews consist of two parts. They usually start with your summary of one of the two publications that will be provided to you at least 10 days prior to the workshop. By this, we want to see how well you deal with original literature. At this point and during the remaining discussion you can impress us with your knowledge, creative thoughts, and ideas. It is furthermore advisable to be well informed about the research in Colognes biology and the involved groups.
The programme begins with three seven-week research projects in different laboratories finished by written and oral rotation reports. This training period provides students with a comprehensive practical background of experimental techniques and approaches. It also helps you to familarize with the different labs of the Graduate School and to select a lab for your thesis research. At the same time, the research group leaders have the opportunity to assess the individual students. The decision of the final thesis research lab is made jointly, on the basis of both the students' and the supervisors' priorities. In outline, we operate this scheme as follows: all accepted students hand in a list of five labs in which they would particularly like to work. Based on these lists, students are assigned to the lab rotations. At the end of the rotation period, both students and supervisors hand in lists of first, second and third choices of labs and students, respectively. These lists are then used for final thesis lab assignments. From this point on the core programme of the GSfBS applies to students and faculty.
Please send the filled application form, your CV and copies of your M.Sc. and B.Sc. degrees and transcripts as PDF files attached to email@example.com or post it to:
Dr. Isabell Witt
Institute for Genetics
University of Cologne