PhD Program Brochure

Apply for a PhD at the MDC

Call opens: November 04, 2019 - Deadline: January 12, 2020

Apply

Fully-funded PhD positions

We are committed to meet today’s challenges in biology and medicine and realize that excellent science requires outstanding researchers. If you aspire to be one of them – welcome to the MDC! 

Calls for PhD candidates open in Spring and Fall each year (usually around May for Fall recruitment, and in November for Spring recruitment). 

For details on eligibility and application process, please see tabs Eligibility and Application manual. For further information, make sure to visit the FAQ section, and the pages of the Application portal.

I have said […] that people go into science because they are misfits, and that it is a sheltered place where they can spin their own yarn and have recognition, be tolerated and happy, and have approval for it.
Interview with Max Delbrück (1978), Oral History Project, California Institute of Technology Archives.

Recruitment process

We have set up a multi-step recruitment process with the goal of identifying people with right mix of skills, experience, and future potential. This involves an assessment of the application based on academic accomplishments and professional experience, presentations, structured interviews, and on-site visits.

Our communication policy aims to maintain an objective and fair hiring process for all applicants. Communication between candidates and institute will be primarily by e-mail. We acknowledge every submitted application immediately with an automatic e-mail response. During the hiring process, all successful applicants will receive notifications on the next steps via e-mail. In due course, candidates who have not been short-listed will be informed by email. 

We value diversity and are committed to carrying out a transparent recruitment process for every position. There may be minor variations, but in general our selection process has the following structure:

 

Application

Applications are submitted through the online recruitment portal.

The required application documents are described in the job advertisement for each advertised position and include in general a research interest letter, CV, education, and contact details of two referees. Applications via email can unfortunately not be accepted.

After submission of your application, you will receive an automatic email confirming that your application has been received. To be eligible for review, your application must be submitted before the deadline stated in the job advertisement.

Application screening and interviews

Following the application deadline, applications will be checked for eligibility and reviewed by the hiring committee.

Applicants will be chosen based on their academic qualification, aptitude, motivation, scientific interest and letters of recommendation.

Complete submissions will be forwarded to participating group leaders at the MDC and partner institutions. If your application is preselected, you may be invited to participate in a Skype, video or telephone interview. Short-listed applicants will be invited for a 4-day assessment and interview week to Berlin. You can expect invitation letters 5-6 weeks after the application deadline.

Interview week in Berlin

Short-listed applicants will be invited to visit the MDC in Berlin.

Interviews at the MDC are organised as a 4-day symposium in Berlin. During the visit, you will have the opportunity to introduce yourself and your research through a presentation, discuss your research interest in a panel interview, followed by a series of one-on-one interviewsDuring an information session you will learn more about benefits associated with working at MDC, work-life balance policy, and other HR-related topics you may want to discuss. The interview week also includes a Berlin city tour, Campus tour, as well as dinners and various occasions to meet faculty and PhD researchers.

Travel, visa expenses, accommodation and meals during interview days are fully covered by the MDC. The MDC cannot buy your transportation tickets in advance or reimburse the travel expenses before the Interview week. Initially, you have to cover all of the travel expenses by yourself and the money will be reimbursed to you after the Interview week. 

Outcome

On Friday morning candidates provide names of the research group(s) they would like to join for a PhD project. In a final closed plenary session for faculty, the candidates who will be accepted to the Int. PhD Program are determined. Results of the plenary session are announced within 1 week. 

Successful candidates start their research project within 6 months after the interviews.

Offer

After the interview week, all candidates will receive feedback within a few days.

After your visit, all candidates will receive feedback within a few days. At this stage, if you have been successful you will be made an offer.

We adhere to principles of responsible research, good scientific practice, openness and transparency, and are committed to setting a good example as a scientific environment where scientists can flourish and grow, independently of their national or ethnic background, functional variation, sex/gender identity/alignment/orientation, family configuration, or other such feature of their persons or contexts. 

Funding

PhD researchers are fully funded through an initial 3-year employment contract with the MDC. Salaries are competitive to national standards, according to 65% TVöD 13 (monthly net payment of approximately 1600 EUR). Health and social insurance are included in the contract. In many cases, contracts are extended for an additional year. All PhD researchers are expected to complete their doctoral research and thesis in 4 years. The university tuition fees per semester are approximately 350 EUR, and include public transportation ticket.

Berlin

The MDC is situated at two locations in Berlin: majority of infrastructure is located on Campus Berlin-Buch, a modern science and biotechnology park with a clear focus on biomedicine. Since April 2019, the laboratories and offices of the MDC-BIMSB are located in our new building on the campus of Humboldt-Universität in Berlin-Mitte.

Frequent and radical changes through Berlin's turbulent and noticeably present history have transformed the face of the city many times over. But despite this, the city has succeeded in becoming a thriving metropolis, with a population of 3.7 million people. Extraordinary wealth of cultural opportunities attract increasing numbers of visitors, making Berlin one of the most popular destinations in Europe. It boasts a lively scene with lots of pubs, clubs, restaurants and cafés. Densely urban areas coexist with large green spaces, nature reserves, lakes and rivers, all within the city boundaries, offering a truly metropolitan lifestyle.

 

Eligibility

General

  • Applicants are required to hold a university degree equivalent to a Master Degree (MSc), including a research thesis in biology, biotechnology, medicine, molecular medicine, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, or some related field.
  • Applicants still studying should anticipate receiving their degree not later than 6 months after the interview date.
  • Required MSc final grade is ≥75%, or German score of at least 'good' (<2,5 of 5)
  • Applicants shall at the time of interview be in the first four years of their research careers (master degree obtained within the last 4 years) and should not have a doctoral degree already, according to the European Commission's definition of early-stage researchers.
  • Language skills: Applicants need to have a good command of written and spoken English, while German language skills are not required. English proficiency tests for non-native speakers are recommended (such as TOEFL test with a score of 95+ (internet-based), 240+ (computer-based) or 587+ (paper-based), IELTS certificate with a bandscore 7.0+, or Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)), however, the language proficiency certificates are not a requirement for the application.
  • Please note that candidates who have previously been invited for interviews, will not be considered for further interview.
  • In the application process, applicants having completed their university degree must upload a scanned copy of the certificate, as well as transcripts, including marked coursework from university. Students still enrolled in their university program must upload a provisional certificate stating the already obtained examination marks.

MDC Master students and MDC interns

  • MDC Master students and MDC interns who have been working or registered at the MDC for longer than 3 months during the 2 years prior the MDC PhD interview week, are not eligible to apply to the International PhD Program recruitment. Instead, they are considered internal students and may apply for Internal PhD fellowship positions (internal access only).
  • Short-term interns who have been working or registered at the MDC for less than 3 months prior to the interview week are eligible to apply to the International PhD program recruitment, if they apply to a different research group.
  • Short-term interns (less than 3 months) who wish to join the research group they have been affiliated before are not eligible for the International PhD Program recruitment, and are recommended to apply for an Internal PhD fellowship position.

Application manual

Once you have registered on the Application portal, you will receive an e-mail with your personal login information. If this e-mail has not arrived, please check your spam folder. If the problem persists, contact us at phdmdc@mdc-berlin.de. Please note that we do not accept applications other than those submitted through our Application portal (e.g. CVs sent directly via e-mail or through other job application portals).

After registration, you may start working on your application, editing and saving the information in each section until you submit. The application should be completed in English. All mandatory fields are marked with *. Once you have submitted the form, you will no longer be able to edit the information, however, you can check the status of your recommendation letters. Please note that you will receive a confirmation email upon submission.

Open projects. The list of group leaders participating in this call and their respective research projects can be found under the "Participating group leaders" tab on the left-hand side menu of the portal. After registration, a detailed description of each project will be available. For more information on the participating project leaders please visit the profile pages of our research labsCarefully look into the research information and find projects that best fit your interests. Consider to check this list regularly during the call as more projects may be added. You do not need to contact any of the project leaders at this stage, but make sure to include all the labs and projects of your interest in the text of your application (see below, “Research interest and motivation” section), with detailed statement of interest for each research lab.

Before starting the application process, please make sure that you are eligible to apply for our program. 

Below, you will find a detailed manual to help you fill in your application. Please read it carefully, since incomplete and/or incorrectly filled applications will not be taken into further consideration. Please make sure to include all relevant information in the application portal. Information only included in additional documents (e.g. CV or certificates) might not be considered.

More information about eligibility, application process, language certificates, selection process, salaries, etc. can be found in our FAQ section.

Please note: it's applicant's responsibility to make sure the application, as well as the reference letters, are submitted before the application deadline. Late submissions, incorrectly filled applications, and applications without references will not be taken into consideration. 

Personal Information​​​​​

 

If you have multiple names, please enter the name from your passport. This is especially important if you need a visa to attend the Interview week in Berlin, since we will use it later for your visa application. If applicable, please use hyphens. Please enter the address that is available to and used by courier delivery services. Make sure to use an address where you will be reachable in the period until the Interview week in Berlin (especially at the time of visa applications, ca. 4 weeks before the Interview week). Furthermore, make sure to provide at least one telephone number.

Education

 

For detailed information on degree requirements, please check the “Eligibility” section. Applicants holding (or expecting to hold within 6 months after interviews) a MSc (Master in Science) degree (or equivalent), including a research master thesis, are eligible to apply. If you hold a degree that is not a MSc, please send the name of the degree in the original language and the English translation to phdmdc@mdc-berlin.de and we will inform you whether you are eligible. Examples of accepted equivalents are MD, integrated programs, such as Diploma, or BSc-MSc, as well as BTech-MTech Dual Degrees. If you hold only a BSc degree, even an extended one of four years, or if you already have a PhD, you are not eligible.

Furthermore, to be eligible, you need to have some research experience (bachelor and/or master research projects). Also, a research master thesis should have been required for obtaining your degree. If your study programs were structured in this way, you are eligible to apply.

Enter information about your university and research thesis (both BSc and MSc or MD). Please note that information on both BSc and MSc (or integrated program) need to be given, or you won’t be able to submit the application form.

Date of graduation: If you have not graduated yet, put an approximate date of graduation. 

Final score: To transform your grade into the German grading system, a detailed description of your university’s grading system is needed. Therefore, please provide information on i) highest possible grade in your grading system; ii) lowest passing grade in your system (please note: not possible, but passing) and iii) your achieved final grade. These will be used to translate your final grade into the German grading system.

Honors/Awards

 

Scholarships and/or Awards: Please clearly state the type of scholarships/awards you have received, the funding body, and the duration of the support.

Study abroad: Please state all long term (e.g. master program or a semester abroad), as well as short term (e.g. summer school, workshop or a course) visits. Please clearly state type of the program / event, host institution and duration of the study stay.

Publications: Please give a list of your publications (only those published in international journals) and conference contributions (poster presentation and/or talk). Please give full citations of all publications / conference contributions. Publications in preparation or under review should not be given.

Research Interest

 

Please select the research area you are most interested in from the drop-down menu. In addition, you may also select drop-down research key words that particularly match your interests. If you would like to be considered for one of the international exchange programs at the MDC, select the appropriate program field from the drop-down menu. At this stage, this only indicates your interest, and it is not considered an application for the specific exchange program. 

Research experience (max 2500 characters including spaces): Please provide information on your relevant research experience, and list any supervised research projects with a duration of at least several weeks. Please indicate whether your contribution to the project work was of a theoretical or experimental nature. Describe your role in the project, as well as contributions and results obtained from your work. Describe your accomplishments, with emphasis on the techniques you used and skills you obtained. 

Research interest essay - Personal Statement (max 3000 characters including spaces): Use the research interest statement to express which research field you want to pursue during your PhD and why, as well as specify your preferences for particular MDC research labs and projectsMake sure to include all labs and projects of your interest, with detailed statement of interest for each project. This might include, for example, the background of your interest (such as previous experience or personal motivation), details on scientific questions, concepts and/or techniques of interest, as well as your goals and vision of your scientific career development, etc. Here, you should also express and elaborate on any interest in an exchange program.

Scientific discovery that has impressed you the most (max 2500 characters including spaces): Here, you should describe a scientific discovery that fascinates you, avoiding historical and technical overviews, but elaborating why you think this research matters. Did it disprove an existing paradigm, how did it affect everyday lives, or benefit the progress of society and science in general?

Undergraduate courses you found the most inspiring: max 2500 characters including spaces.

Video Upload

 

In this section you may upload a video where you address the following question in ca 2 minutes (min 1 minute): "Which of the Nobel prize awards in the field of Physiology or Medicine, Chemistry or Physics did you find the most inspiring and why?". You may elaborate on any award of the above categories, either recent or older.

Referees

 

Please enter complete contacts for two referees. We recommend choosing referees that know you personally and are willing and able to write a description of your academic performance. After you fill in the contact details of your referees, an automated e-mail with a request for writing the recommendation letter will be sent to them. Please fill in all required fields - only after all fields are filled, the automated request will be sent. Please let your referees know in advance that they will receive an invitation e-mail from MDC! You cannot change your referee yourself once you have saved the contact. If you wish to change a referee, contact us in time to reset the information. Following the invitation, referees should submit their letters directly to the MDC PhD application system, using a link they received in the e-mail. Please make sure your referees have received an invitation email. If they do not receive an e-mail within 24 hours after the automated request is sent, notify us at phdmdc@mdc-berlin.de immediately. 

Also, make sure that your referees have submitted their reference letters in time. You can check the status of your references after submission using the colour code. The colour will change from red to orange after automated requests for reference letters are sent to your referees, and from orange to green after your referees have submitted their letters. Please note: References arriving after the reference deadline will not be processed and applications will be considered incomplete

Supplementary information

 

Please tell us where you have first heard about the International PhD program at the MDC.

Documents

 

All documents must be uploaded as pdf files (max of 3MB). 

A scanned version of the following documents is mandatory:

  • Short CV of max. 2 pages (In the CV, please provide only biographical data and professional development timeline. All relevant education, research experience, motivation, workshops, conferences and publications information should be given in the application form.)
  • Transcript (record of study, including courses list and scores) of Bachelor degree, Vordiplom or equivalent 
  • Certificate of Bachelor degree, Vordiplom or equivalent
  • Transcript (record of study, including courses list and scores) of Master degree, Diplom or equivalent 
  • Certificate of Master degree, Diplom or equivalent 

If you have not completed your Master's program yet, provide temporary transcripts, including scores. All documents should be available in German or English. If you do not have an English version issued by your university, a translation certified by a public notary or other official will be sufficient. If your university does not provide transcripts, a marksheet should be provided instead. Applications without scored transcripts cannot be further processed. 

A scanned version of the following documents is recommended (but not obligatory!):

  • GRE score
  • English proficiency test​​​​​

Please note: Applicants need to have a good command of written and spoken English, since the program language is English. Language proficiency tests for non-native speakers are recommended, however, the proficiency certificates are not a requirement for the application!

Submission

 

Don’t forget to submit your application once you have completed all sections. After submission you cannot change or add information, but you can check the status of your references. The completed application must be submitted by the application deadline. 

Please note that upon submission you will receive a confirmation e-mail.

FAQ

Requirements

Which degrees are recognised?

Applicants are required to hold (or obtain within 6 months of the interview week) a university degree equivalent to a Master Degree (MSc), including a research thesis, in biology, biotechnology, medicine, molecular medicine, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, or some related field. 

Can I apply before finishing my master studies?

At the time of application, you do not have to have finished your degree. However, students are asked to start their research project within 6 months of the interviews, by which time you should anticipate to hold your degree.

I have a medical degree (MD). Am I eligible?

Yes, you are welcome to apply, as long as you have some research experience.

I have a degree in Public Health? Am I eligible?

If your master (or equivalent) program required a research project thesis to complete the program, AND you do have some relevant research experience in biology, biotechnology, medicine, molecular medicine, chemistry, computer science, engineering, mathematics, physics, or some related field, you are eligible to apply. However, please note that the MDC is a research center, with a focus on basic biomedical research, and available projects are mostly not compatible with a Public Health background.  

My degree is from a university of applied sciences (Fachhochschule). Can I apply?

Yes, the graduates from the universities of applied sciences are welcome to apply if their university program required a research project thesis to complete the program, and they have relevant research experience.  

I only have a BSc, but a lot of research experience. Can I apply?

Unfortunately, neither a BSc degree alone, even of a 4-year-long program, nor additional experience represent an equivalent to the Master degree, thus you are not eligible. 

I already have a PhD. Can I apply for another?

If you already hold a PhD degree, you are not eligible to apply.

Does the program have language requirements and what is the program language?

The program language is English, therefore proficiency in English is a must. For your application, proof of English knowledge is recommended, but not mandatory!

What happens if I cannot provide any English language certificates?

Proof of English language knowledge is not obligatory but rather optional. If you do not have such documents, your application will still be valid.

Is there an age limit?

No, there is no age limit. However, please note that you should have obtained your MSc degree within four years prior to the interview.

 

Application process

 

Where and when can I apply?

Applications for the Int. PhD Program are accepted through the online Application portal onlyThe portal opens twice a year, usually around May for Fall recruitment and in November for Spring recruitment. Exact dates and application details are indicated here

Can I save the data of my application and resume, completing it later?

Yes, you can save your application and take up editing again later. Once you have submitted your application, no more changes can be made. 

What information has to be submitted with the application?

You will submit information on education, research skills and interests, a letter of motivation and contacts of 2 referees. In the document section, you are asked to upload a CV, university transcripts and certificates (certification is not necessary at this point), and if available, the certificate of an English language test. English language tests, GRE, etc are not mandatory at this stage. For details, visit the application manual.

How many recommendation letters do I need to have and can I send the PDFs (scans) directly?

You will need recommendation from two referees. We recommend choosing referees that know you personally and are willing and able to write a description of your academic performance. As soon as you have completed the contact details, your referees will automatically receive a request for a letter of recommendation and they should submit their letters directly using a link they receive in the e-mail. Thus, you should not send the PDFs of the recommendation letters directly to us.

My referee did not receive an invitation from the MDC to send a recommendation letter, what should I do?

Firstly, please make sure you entered the correct e-mail address of your referee. Secondly, your referee should check their spam mailbox to make sure the invitation letter did not end up there. If you entered the wrong address or the letter simply did not arrive, contact us immediately at phdmdc@mdc-berlin.de

What happens after submission?

Applications are prescreened and the MDC faculty selects candidates for interviews in Berlin. Invitations will be sent about 5-6 weeks after the application deadline.

Where can I find the list of available projects?

The list of group leaders participating in a call and their respective research projects can be found under the "Participating group leaders" tab on the left-hand side menu of the Application portal. After registration, a detailed description of each project will be available. For more information on the participating project leaders, please visit the profile pages of our research labs.

Do I need to select a specific project immediately?

You are not applying for a specific project at this stage, however, make sure to include all the labs and projects of your interest in the text of your application (“Research interest and motivation” section), with detailed statement of interest for each research lab.

After selecting the projects, should I contact the project leader directly?

No. It is neither necessary nor recommended to contact group leaders individually. 

How can I check the status of my application?

Once you have submitted the form, you will no longer be able to edit the information, however, you can check the status of your recommendation letters, using the colour code of the box. The colour will change from red to orange after automated requests for reference letters have been sent to your referees, and from orange to green after your referees have submitted their letters. Other information about changes in the status of your application (submission, invitation / rejection decision) will be communicated via e-mail.

Do I need to have my certificates available in English?

All documents should be available in German or English. If you do not have an English version issued by your university, a translation certified by a public notary or other official will be sufficient.

How and when will I hear about the outcome of my application?

Students who submitted a complete application will be informed by email. If possible, they will know about the result 5-6 weeks after the application deadline.

Am I allowed to apply again?

If you were not shortlisted for the Interview week in Berlin, you are allowed to apply again. However, if you have already participated in the Interview week, you are not eligible to apply again. 

What happens during the Interview week?

Interviews and final assessment in Berlin include a short presentation of your major bachelor or master research project, a panel interview, project presentations of research groups and personal interviews with your groups of interest. For details, see here (section "Interview week in Berlin").

Will interview costs be covered?

All costs during interview week including travel expenses, visa, accommodation and food will be covered by the MDC. Please note: MDC as a public institution is not able to buy your transportation tickets in advance or reimburse the travel expenses before the Interview week. Initially, you have to cover all of the travel expenses by yourself and the money will be reimbursed to you after the Interview week. 

What happens if I cannot participate in the Interview week in Berlin due to time constraints?

Your participation is absolutely obligatory. If you are not available on that week, you would unfortunately not be considered for the selection process. Skype or any other alternative conference call options are not possible.

Will I receive a confirmation after having registered and submitted my application?

Yes, after having registered you will receive a confirmation email to the mail address stated. After you have submitted your application you will again receive a confirmation. If you did not receive any confirmation email, most likely our email ended up in the spam or junk folder. If you cannot find your confirmation email there, you might have misspelled your email address during registration. In that case, simply fill in the registration form again. If you still do not receive your registration email, please contact the graduate school office.

My PDF files are too big. What can I do?

You will have to reduce their sizes. There are several online free tools that can easily reduce the size of your PDF files, for example:

Please make sure you understand their privacy policy before using any of these third-party services.

 

After the Interview week

 

When do I know whether I have been accepted to the program?

Acceptance letters are sent within 5 days after interviews.

When can I start my PhD?

Students have to start their research project within 6 months of the interviews at the MDC.  In general, PhD students will agree with his or her prospective supervisor on a specific starting date.

 

PhD studies, Tuition Fees, Employment, Living in Berlin

 

How do I enroll at the university?

Upon your start at the MDC, the MDC Grad School Office will lead you through the process of the enrolmentMost students at MDC are enrolled at the local partner universities Charité, Humboldt Universität, or Freie Universität. Usually, you will enroll at the institution your prospective group leader is affiliated with. 

Are there any tuition fees?

There are no MDC Grad School tuition fees, however, after enrolling at the university you shall pay the semester fees of ca. 350 Euro, including public transportation ticket.

How will I finance my PhD studies?

PhD students receive a work contract according to the German public system, including health and social insurance, as well as pension scheme. The initial contract is for 3 years and the net salary amounts to about 1600 Euro per month.

Is there support upon arriving in Berlin?

The Welcome and family office at the MDC supports all students upon arriving in their first steps settling in Berlin, including all issues related to VISA and residence.

How long does it take PhD students to complete their PhD?

Students are expected to complete their degree in four years. In exceptional cases, the contracts are extended to 5 years.