The training program of the MPIPZ Graduate School runs independently from the classical university semester structure. After an orientation period at the MPIPZ, students will join the research group where they applied to carry out their thesis project. During the course of the 3-year program, laboratory courses are offered to specific topics. These courses usually take between 2 and 5 days and will be carried out by all the participating departments. Courses will combine introductory lectures and seminars and practical training in the laboratory.
Thesis advisory committee (TAC)
During the entire graduate program each student will be under the supervision of a thesis advisory committee (TAC) compromised by a supervisor and two co-advisors for guidance, instructions and to critically observe the work progress. During the course of the doctoral work, students have to submit first a written project proposal and then present progress report every year. The students will meet with their thesis committee annually and the committee has to make a written evaluation report of the progress of the student. These meetings and reports are important for your development; both are excellent opportunities to review your work, to discuss possible options to proceed or to re-direct the project if necessary.
Your scientific education will be complemented by a set of soft skill courses (scientific writing, oral presentation, communication skills, self management, etc). Additionally there will be a short orientation period at the beginning of your thesis work, where you will be informed about practical things like registration at the university, rules of the laboratory, and we will discuss how to approach the thesis work in an efficient way, and where you will also get to know your fellow PhD students.
Additionally, there is a yearly retreat for PhD students and their supervisors, where we go to a conference centre somewhere outside of Cologne, to hear all PhD students present their recent work and to discuss science for three days. This symposium gives doctoral students the chance to present their work in a conference like atmosphere. Moreover, you can get individual feedback, suggestions for improvement and fair criticism about your presentation if you want.
There are a lot of seminars each week; some are opportunities to listen to internationally renowned scientists from all over the world, others give you the chance to learn about your peer's work and to discuss openly with them. You may also suggest speakers for the institute's seminar on Wednesdays if they are related to your work.
Of course you will have lots of chances to present your own work to receive feedback from your colleagues and other group leaders. Beside the usual group and departmental seminars we convene regularly for a retreat with the faculty and all graduate students.
It is one of the principles of the MPIPZ Graduate School that every student has a thesis advisory committee (TAC). At least one of the co-advisors will usually be somebody, whose work is related to that field of research but covers a different topic. With this scheme we can ensure supervision with a broader perspective. This committee meets once a year to discuss about the achievements and perspectives of the project, about publication that can be foreseen or all issues around your work, and write an evaluation statement. It is also common that post-docs in the lab or senior doctoral students help with day-to-day issues.
Additionally the PhD office and the international office will support you in any problems that you might encounter with supervision, career planning, the university or local authorities.
However, we also expect from our students that they show initiative and contact other scientists for help or advice, e.g. if you plan to establish new techniques, try a novel approaches or develop new ideas (which is always promoted in the institute).