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Photos: Fabian Stürtz (Plants and reseachers) | Thomas Josek (Main entrance uni) | Britta Hoffmann MPIPZ (Research building MPI for Plant Breeding)

International doctorates! Apply now for your PhD!

Enrol at the University and sniff the atmosphere at the MPI

Birds of a feather flock together. To inspire talented students for cutting-edge research - that’s the goal of all universities which focus on the education of early-career researchers and excellent research. That’s why in the area of doctoral training the University of Cologne works closely together with the institutes of the Max Planck Society in the shape of International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). Young and talented scholars enjoy first-class supervision and excellent conditions for research work in these joint international research schools. There is such an IMPRS in the field of Plant Sciences, managed by the IMPRS co-ordinator Dr. Johanna Spandl at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ). A further partner in this IMPRS alongside the University of Cologne is Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. The research focus of this IMPRS at the MPIPZ is: “Understanding complex plant traits using computational and evolutionary approaches.”

An article by Svenja Rausch

Hands-on research: Professor Marcel Bucher and a young researcher in our green house. Photo: Fabian Stürtz

“The IMPRS at the MPI for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) was founded in 2001 together with the University of Cologne. Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf joined in 2013. The intention of the doctoral programme is to attract the most promising young researchers from around the world by offering comprehensive and high-quality training for doctoral candidates in the field of plant sciences. Several of the highly dedicated research group leaders in the IMPRS are also involved in the CEPLAS Cluster of Excellence on Plant Sciences”, explains Marcel Bucher, Professor of Plant Sciences at the University of Cologne and Director of the Botanical Institute.

The research building of the MPI for Plant Breeding Research in Cologne. Photo: Britta Hoffmann, MPIPZ

Within the programme, outstanding research work with an interdisciplinary approach is being conducted in the fields of plant genetics, structural biology, cell biology and bioinformatics. The unique partnership between the MPI and the University permits research at the very highest level through a close exchange of know-how between research staff on the one hand and the very good infrastructure both on campus as well as at the MPI on the other. Both aspiring scholars as well as already established researchers profit from this: “As a doctoral candidate in the International Max Planck Research School (IMPRS), I have the opportunity to use both institutions for my research work and that makes it easier for me to set in motion new partnerships. What’s more, I am really pleased to be associated as a doctoral researcher not only with the University of Cologne but also with the MPI for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ) and thus to be able to integrate the institute’s excellent reputation into my CV and profit from it in future”, explains Georgios Saridis, a Greek national who is an IMPRS doctoral candidate at the Botanical Institute and a member of Professor Marcel Bucher’s research group.

Our plant breeding research is located in the "Bio Center" on campus. Photo: Fabian Stürtz

Apart from research, the three-year programme, which leads to the doctoral degree, also offers courses in the latest technologies at the universities of Cologne and Düsseldorf as well as at the MPIPZ. The working language is English. “Each doctoral researcher is supervised by a committee of three experienced scholars and is free to consult his/her personal supervisor at any time. In addition, there are lectures and seminars on topics such as scientific communication, time management, career planning or leadership skills. IMPRS doctoral researchers may also register with the Graduate School for Biological Sciences (GSfBS) and take advantage of its activities and services” says Dr. Johanna Spandl.

IMPRS Research class of 2016/17. Photo: B. Hoffmann

“The course offer is very broad and includes workshops on specific methods, e.g. statistical data analysis, but also on ways to improve soft skills: For example, at the beginning of my doctorate I attended a course on project management which helped me from the outset to plan and focus my work”, says Oliver Artz, IMPRS fellow in Cologne. He is very enthusiastic about the IMPRS and continues: “By attending workshops together but also through regular seminars and retreats there is the opportunity to meet lots of plant researchers and talk about problems and obstacles. Apart from excellent research, this possibility to exchange ideas and the helpfulness of other researchers make Cologne particularly attractive for doctoral studies in the field of plant sciences. In particular the IMPRS helps to build a bridge between the University and the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research.”

A vivid exchange between teachers and young academics is a vital part of the IMPRS. Photo: T. Josek

Alan Wanke just started his doctoral studies at the beginning of the 2016/17 winter semester in the research group led by Professor Alga Zuccaro (Functional Genomics and Molecular Biology of Symbiotic Fungi): “For my doctoral studies, it was important for me to be involved in teaching and to stay in close touch with students. The IMPRS allows me to stay in a university environment and at the same time get to know the excellent research infrastructure at the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research. Joint seminars, annual retreats and lectures at the MPIPZ itself guarantee a regular exchange of ideas and are a constant source of motivation”, he says, listing further reasons why he decided in favour of the IMPRS.

Yanhao Zhou came from China to Cologne for his PhD. The IMRPS counts 55% international young academics. Photo: Yanhao Zhou

Internationality is a top priority in the IMPRS. 55% of the places are at present allocated to foreign doctoral candidates from 14 different countries: A truly international atmosphere which makes research and other joint activities in Cologne particularly colourful and dynamic. “As an IMPRS doctoral candidate, I have the possibility to work in a first-class research institute with outstanding conditions for research work. In addition, I am convinced that the international environment and the interdisciplinary approach at the University of Cologne and the MPIPZ will have a positive influence on my research career”, says doctoral researcher Yanhao Zhou from China, full of enthusiasm about his experience here in Cologne.

Interested students may apply up until 15 January 2017 for acceptance as a doctoral researcher in the “Complex Plant Traits” IMPRS at the MPI for Plant Breeding Research (MPIPZ). Admission to the programme is dependent on the scientific merit of the individual applicants.