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The Core Programme

The Core Programme is the central and a compulsory part of the Graduate School for Biological Sciences. It offers a programme of training and support during the doctorate. 

Training & support elements within the Core Programme are:

1. Thesis advisory committee (TAC)

  • Each student chooses within three months after starting the doctoral project, a TAC consisting of the supervisor and two further scientists independent of the supervisor, called mentors. We recommend that one mentor is from a field closely related to the doctoral research project and the other from a different field but with complementary expertise. One of the mentors needs to be at least an independent group leader.
  • The TAC meets with the student at least once per year to discuss the planning and progress of the research project and any other matter of importance. TAC members comment upon the research proposal, the first and second year report, and on all oral presentations. The TAC is involved in the decision about when the experimental work should be considered complete and the student should write-up. A corresponding comment needs to be part of the TAC minutes form from the second year report onwards. Mentors are available for discussions and advice to the student on all matters.
  • The TAC minutes form needs to be filled in during all TAC meetings and the electronically signed document must be sent to the GSfBS office (isabell.witt(at) together with a PDF of the written research proposal or progress report. Please download the form and open it with Adobe Reader or Professional for electronic signatures.

2. Written and oral reports 

  • To offer possibilities for learning to plan a scientific project, doctoral candidates write a research proposal for their chosen or assigned project within five months. The research proposal will be discussed with the TAC within six months after the doctorate has started.
  • Within 17 months and within 29 months a progress report in the format of a thesis or a scientific research paper will be submitted which will contain a critical discussion of results and of problems encountered. Format for progress reports. The reports form the basis for meetings with the TAC and need to be sent to the mentors by month 17 and 29, followed by an oral progress report  within the following four weeks, where the project, as well as any other matters of relevance, will be discussed.
  • After 41 and 47 months TAC meetings should be held. Deviations from these intervals can be decided by the TAC, which must be communicated to the coordinator. This can also be recorded in the TAC minutes form.
  • If a doctorate is not completed after 54 months, separate consultations will be held with the doctoral candidate and the supervisor by a member of the Steering Committee or by a member of the GSfBS appointed by the coordinator from the group of supervisors.

It is compulsory that the doctoral candidate will meet with the mentors alone for a minimum of ten minutes before or after each TAC meeting.

3. Compulsory training in Good Scientific Conduct (GSC)

4. Breadth of scientific background

Doctoral candidates must focus on a small section of a field to become an expert in the area. A number of programme components are designed to counteract a too narrow focus of interest and to broaden the scientific education. The doctoral candidates will attend regular progress reports and literature seminars of their own research group. In addition, they are expected to attend departmental seminar series to become familiar with the research conducted in biology in Cologne. In addition, discussion and active intellectual engagement between doctoral candidates from different research groups will be fostered by annual meetings that are organized by doctoral candidates and supported by the GSfBS.

5. Career development

For a career in science, doctoral candidates need not only excellent research results and skills but also the ability to present their work orally and in writing and to deal with a complex academic and social environment. Furthermore, a doctoral degree serves not only as a preparation for a research career, but also as entry to other professions, such as in industry and science administration. Doctoral candidates need to learn about career structures and options in these fields. The GSfBS offers training for these skills.

  •  Workshops in statistics literacy, scientific writing and presentation are part of the core training of all graduate students. 

  •  Bioinformatics, data analysis and data visualisation workshops help managing data bases, analysing data sets and understanding the application of statistics.

  •  Workshops in negotiation skills, career management, team management, leadership skills and conflict resolution are offered. 

6. Doctorate related events and networking

To extend the doctoral candidates’ exposure to research beyond that of the local area, they will receive funds to entirely organize a conference called "crossroads in biology" to which they invite and host international top scientists.

Activities such as the Symposium CEWIS, the Alumni Day, Career Day and PhD Days are great opportunities to discuss science with Alumni, famous invited scientists and with many professionals inside and outside of academic research.

Students are asked to join the GSfBS alumni on facebook, LinkedIn or XING