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"We Are More International Than Other Graduate Schools."

By Christine Schoenmakers

The doctoral programmes at the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) offer first-class support and excellent research conditions.

"If I were a doctoral candidate again, it would have to be at an International Max Planck Research School." Christiane Glöckner knows whereof she speaks. She completed her doctorate as a lone warrior and is now co-ordinator at the IMPRS of Marine Microbiology in Bremen. She knows exactly what the difference in support is between a traditional doctorate and structured programmes: Glöckner and her colleague Professor Karl-Heinz Blotevogel are a point of contact for the international young scientists at Bremen IMPRS, which enjoys an outstanding reputation around the world for its excellent research.

Interdisciplinarity from A for Astrophysics to Z for Zoology

Thematically at home both in the natural sciences and the humanities, the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS) are characterised by highest standards in fields from astrophysics to zoology. Since the year 2000, the Max Planck Society has set up over 55 co-operations with universities and institutes across Germany with the aim of increasing collaboration with other countries by attracting international research talents to IMPRS to earn their PhD.

We are More International than Other Graduate Schools

Dr. Christiane Glöckner, co-ordinator at the IMPRS of Marine Microbiology in Bremen

The various partner institutions mean the academic work covers a broad spectrum. For example at Jena's IMPRS on Adapting Behavior in a Fundamentally Uncertain World: "For the interdisciplinary basis of the doctorate we combine law, economy and psychology", explains Susanne Büchner of the co-ordinating team. "To achieve this we co-operate with a graduate school in Jena, the Max Planck Institutes in Bonn and Berlin, and with universities in Israel and the USA."

Internationality as an investment in the future

The scholarships offered by the IMPRS are highly sought after, and qualified applicants from around the world are welcomed. "We see internationality as a key to scientific innovation", says Blotevogel. The IMPRS doctoral candidates come from a wide range of countries; a total of about 60 percent of places are assigned to foreign students. Candidates who in addition to an above-average Diplom or Master's degree can demonstrate English language skills and an interest in the subject area researched by the IMPRS have good chances. The research subject does not have to be definite yet. What's important is "the will to broaden one's horizons", says Glöckner. "We are looking for people who are passionate about their subject."

We are More International than Other Graduate Schools

Prof. Karl-Heinz Blotevogel

Elite training centre with college atmosphere

20 to 100 doctoral candidates per IMPRS graduate from courses designed to take three years. Seminars, workshops, conferences, summer schools and expeditions facilitate intensive exchange with experts on the respective subjects so that young scientists learn first-hand how to conduct research. Each doctoral candidate is advised by a committee consisting of up to four faculty members, and can approach his or her individual mentor at any time. Presentations to the faculty committees take place regularly in the course of internal seminars and at least one large research conference a year attended by external scientists.

In addition, doctoral candidates are offered training that goes beyond their subject matter: "Further education is available in the form of soft skills training and language courses", says Glöckner. Although the working language is English, a knowledge of German makes it easier for the guests from abroad to integrate into the social life at their German research locations. Doctoral candidates are financially secure due to a monthly stipend of up to 1200 euros, and are helped with, among other things, finding a flat and applying for a visa.

The doctoral candidates and their supervisors share a common goal: "In a crisis of purpose, the group provides important backup", Susanne Büchner knows. "That's a great advantage compared to individual doctorates." The more so because the IMPRS rightly considers itself an elite training centre. For that reason alone further institutions are planned for the coming years.

academics :: June 2009

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