PhD Program


The TransCard program offers a wide range of training activities to provide a strong scientifc education as well as support the personal development of its students.

In addition to a research project in the lab, the scientific curriculum consists of

  • a Lecture Series covering cardiovascular and metabolic biology as well as clinical topics
  • a corresponding e-Learning Platform
  • Student Seminars
  • the monthly Wollenberger Seminar Series
  • the annual TransCard PhD Retreat
  • International Conferences
  • Methods Workshops at the MDC or abroad

Scientific Curriculum


TransCard Lecture Series and e-Learning Platform

This lecture series is meant for 1st year students and takes place once per week over the course of two semesters.

Topics of the Winter Semester

Topics of the Summer Semester

gross and fine anatomy of the vertebrate cardiovascular system

clinical cardiology

development of the cardiovascular system


cardiovascular physiology


renal physiology


metabolic pathways


signaling pathways

human genetics

hormonal regulation of metabolism

clinical studies

molecular mechanisms of cardiovascular and metabolic regulation

animal models


stem cell biology



For more information and the current schedule, please check the MDC event database or visit the TransCard Sharepoint site (from the MDC intranet and for registered users only).

TransCard Student Seminar Series

In the Student Seminars, 2nd and 3rd year 'TransCard' students get the chance to present and discuss their research projects in an informal setting. In this forum, students also share their experience from their participation in scientific conferences or courses supported by TransCard travel funds. We also organize student held workshops on special techniques, software tools etc. The Student Seminar Series takes place every first Thursday of the month.

Wollenberger Seminars

This is a monthly seminar series, in which research groups of the Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases Research Program present their most recent work. For information on the present and past schedules, please check the MDC event database.

TransCard PhD Retreat

The annual PhD Retreat gives TransCard students a unique opportunity to present their work in an informal setting, and to network within the TransCard community. Students also get the chance to contribute to the program of the retreat and invite external speakers from Germany or abroad.

International Conferences

TransCard students can apply for Travel Grant Fellowships to support their active participation at scientific conferences worldwide. This gives them the opportunity to present their work to internationally renowned experts in their field.

Methods workshops and collaboration visits

TransCard supports students who would like to participate in methods workshops and courses in Germany or abroad that will advance their research project. Likewise, students who work in close collaboration with other research groups outside of Berlin can  apply for fellowships to support their travel and stay at a host lab.

A special feature of the TransCard Research School is the 'Clinical Visits' Program that provides students unique insight into the clinical perspective.

'Clinical Visits' Program


In collaboration with Dr. Ralf Dechend from the Charité and the Helios-Klinikum in Berlin-Buch, we have established a 'Clinical Visits' Program that allows TransCard students to get first-hand insight into the clinical perspective of their research.

During their visit, students attend clinical results evaluations, measure their own heart function, and attend live surgeries commonly used in cardiovascular medicine. The 'Clinical Visits' Program thus provides a unique opportunity to literally move 'from bench to bedside'.

Sudhir Gopal Tattikota (TransCard student class of 2009) describes his experience as follows:

"It was really amazing I would say. Especially for people who are often stuck in the lab focused only on lab research, it is very essential for us to know how the clinical setup functions and what are the cutting-edge surgeries and medicines the doctors follow. We had wonderful ward meetings where the doctors team up in the evening to discuss the patients they are dealing with, just like our lab meetings. We also had ward rounds with Dr. Stefan Donath with his colleague in the morning and it was superb. The way the doctors discuss what to talk and tell the patients just before they visit them.

Next, we had all the exciting opportunity to see live surgeries during our Electrophysiology and Catheter Lab visits. It was very kind of the doctors to explain every detail of the surgery while it was happening, which I thought was great. It was both informative and exciting to see how they treat stenosis or atrial fibrillation using catheters, without actually opening the heart (no open heart surgery). The doctors were also very kind to explain everything in English for me. Dr. Dechend was very kind to show us echocardiography even during his very busy and hectic schedule. He explained every detail about the technique while he was performing it on his patients.

In sum, it was very cool! It was informative and very exciting for any 'all-lab PhD scientist' to learn and take his bench-work one more step ahead and closer to treating the patients. I'd thank TransCard for this superb opportunity."

For their personal development, students are encouraged to attend centrally organized Helmholtz Soft Skills Courses, as well as Scientific Writing or Language Courses offered at the MDC.

Personal Development


Helmholtz Soft Skills Courses

Helmholtz Soft Skills Courses are centrally organized, two- to three-day workshops, which are open to graduate students from all Helmholtz Centers in Germany. They are thus not only a great opportunity to learn transferable skills, but also to meet other students from different research disciplines. There are three different kinds of Helmholtz Soft Skills Courses, which have been designed for graduate students in their first, second, or third year, respectively. Students who would like to attend Helmholtz Soft Skills Courses are required to register through the TransCard coordination office.

1. Research Skills Development Course

This course addresses 1st year students and covers a range of topics, such as teamworking, networking and communication skills, as well as personal effectiveness. This will provide you with the necessary knowledge and tools to promote your own research project effectively and to manage interpersonal relationships within a research group.

2. Presentation and Communication Skills Course

This course is geared towards 2nd year students who have already gathered research experience in the lab and who are now faced with presenting their work at a conference, or publishing their results in a scientific journal. The course deals with various aspects of how to prepare a presentation for different audiences, as well as how to write well-structured abstracts and articles.

3. Career and Leadership Course

Designed for the more advanced 3rd year students, the goal of this course is to build your skills and confidence with respect to career planning, career development, and your personal leadership style. At the end of this course, you should feel well-prepared for advancing to the next step of your career.

Career Development Program / Summer School

This training program is centrally organized by the Helmholtz Graduate School 'Molecular and Cellular Biology'. It offers scientific writing courses, language classes, as well as IT courses.

Students can accumulate credit points by actively participating in the curriculum and through extracurricular activities such as teaching a course. Our credit point system helps the students keep track of their progress and identify areas they have to work on. The TransCard Research School is embedded within the Helmholtz Graduate School 'Molecular Cell Biology' at the MDC. In addition to his or her group leader, each student is supervised by a PhD Thesis Committee, which is organized through the Helmholtz Graduate School and meets once a year.