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The International Max Planck Research School for Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences


Program Structure Print E-mail

The Goals
The main goal of the research school is to provide interdisciplinary training in molecular and cellular life sciences to doctoral students in an environment of scientific excellence. During the course of their studies, students are exposed to a broad field of scientific questions and methods covering the areas of biochemistry, cell biology, molecular medicine, neurobiology and structural biology. This general interdisciplinary training is combined with a substantial degree of specialization taking place in the direct supervisor’s laboratory thereby providing both a broad and an in depth training to doctoral students. Scientific training is complemented by a variety of training opportunities including lecture series, seminars, elective courses and participation in international conferences. In addition, a comprehensive training program in transferable skills prepares the doctoral students for the challenges of a professional career in academia, industry or elsewhere.

The Faculty
To date, more than 50 research groups, internationally recognized for their innovative research, form the core faculty of the research school, actively contributing to the training and education of the enrolled doctoral students (more…). Using state of the art approaches, IMPRS-LS faculty members aim to answer essential questions relevant to basic and applied biological and biomedical research. Faculty members are affiliated with either a Munich-based Max Planck Institute or one of the two Munich universities (more…).The laboratories of the faculty members are located at various sites on the campus Martinsried and Großhadern, in downtown Munich and in Munich-Garching most of which are within close reach of the university subway line U6 (more…). A network of collaborations between the research groups fosters cross-disciplinary interactions and promotes the development of novel research approaches.

The Students
Currently, 120 doctoral students are enrolled in the IMPRS-LS PhD program and are shaping, together with several hundred doctoral students working on the campus, a lively and dynamic international atmosphere at the institutes (more…). Although a majority of students comes from Germany, strong efforts have been made to attract highly talented doctoral students from different parts of the world. To date, more than 42% of all doctoral students have a non-German nationality and a significant number of students come from other European countries (22%), India (7.4%), Asia without India (6%) and other regions of the world (7%). Annually, between 30 and 40 candidates are accepted to the program.

Doctoral students are supervised by a direct supervisor and a thesis advisory committee consisting of at least three members (more…). To ensure a balanced committee at least one of the members should come from an institution other than the institution of the direct supervisor. The thesis advisory committee directly reports to the IMPRS-LS coordination office that constantly monitors student development and progress.

The Contents
The IMPRS-LS training program is characterized by five core components: (i) the interdisciplinary lecture series “From Biology to Medicine”, (ii) the IMPRS seminar, (iii) advanced method training, (iv) the symposia series “Current Developments in Molecular Medicine and (v) the Career Development and Transferable Skills Program (more...). 
The curricular core components are complemented by additional training opportunities provided by the Munich Universities as well as external training opportunities such as external method courses, summer schools, and others.

Program options

a.) Regular PhD program
Entry level for doctoral students usually is a Master of Science or an equivalent degree (more…). Students are clearly focusing on original and independent laboratory research that is complemented by curricular components organized by the IMPRS coordination office. Students are expected to complete their doctoral degree within 3 to 4 years (currently, our students take 3.8 years to finish their degree on average).

b.) Fast track option (preparatory program)
A fast track option for students with a Bachelor’s degree was established in cooperation with the Graduate School of Systemic Neurosciences, LMU and the Faculty of Chemistry and Pharmacy, LMU in 2007. The fast track option offers to a limited number of outstanding applicants with a Bachelor's degree the opportunity to enter directly into the doctoral program without obtaining a Master’s degree first. Fast track students undergo an intense first year of additional training that is entirely funded by the research school. During this first year, fast track student have the status of “provisional doctoral student”. After successful completion of the “qualifier exam” at the end of the first year, fast track students will advance to “full doctoral student” status and will continue their doctoral thesis studies. Fast track students are expected to complete their doctoral degree within 4 to 5 years in total. To date, less than 10% of the students accepted to the research school are fast track students.

Enrollment and degrees 
The legal right to award the doctoral degrees lies within the program partners Ludwig Maximilian University and Technical University Munich, respectively. Consequently, doctoral students of the research school conduct and complete their doctoral studies following the regulations and guidelines of the respective university department and are usually enrolled in one of the Munich universities (students for example could be enrolled through the department of biology, LMU or the department of chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacy, LMU) . Alternatively, students can opt to graduate through an external university, provided that the external university agrees to a joint supervision with IMPRS-LS.

Most university departments award a “Dr.rer.nat” which is the German equivalent to the American “PhD” title. More and more university departments however, start to alternatively award PhD’s. Please note that Max Planck Institutes legally are not entitled to award doctoral degrees and therefore generally cooperate with universities in this regard.


Monday , 19   September , 2011