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Graduate School of Life Sciences (GSLS)

The Graduate School of Life Sciences is an inter-departmental graduate school in the life sciences funded by the German Excellence Initiative since 2006. It integrates more than 190 researchers from biology, medicine, chemistry, pharmacy, physics and psychology and more than 300 doctoral researchers from 40 countries.

The GSLS prepares doctoral researchers for a successful career in academia and industry. Several world-class research institutions have joined forces to offer doctoral researchers interdisciplinary research projects at the forefront of science and a curriculum tailored to the individual needs of each graduate. Among the participating institutions are the Biocenter, the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research (IZKF), the Research Center for Infectious Diseases (ZINF) and the Rudolf Virchow Center/DFG Research Center for Experimental Biomedicine (RVZ). The participating faculties include biology, medicine, chemistry and pharmacy, physics and astronomy and parts of the philosophical faculty II (psychology). The school's concept has again won support by the Excellence Initiative of the German federal and state governments in its second program phase (2012-2017).

One of the key features of the GSLS is its emphasis on interdisciplinarity. Progress in modern life sciences has increasingly been fostered by collaboration across the boundaries of traditional disciplines, which is reflected in the interdisciplinary structure of the GSLS. We consider doctoral candidates early stage researchers and believe that original research is at the heart of any good doctoral program. Activities of the doctoral study program besides work on the PhD project are organized such that they support doctoral researchers in the acquisition of key academic skills directly useful for their ongoing dissertation work. Transferable skills workshops and mentoring programs help prepare doctoral researchers for career pathways in academia, but also outside of academia.

The GSLS comprises five sections: Biomedicine, Infection and Immunity, Integrative Biology, Neuroscience as well as Clinical Sciences and an MD/PhD program. Thematically related PhD projects are thereby grouped into research fields. The sections are characterized by intense cooperation of the participating principal investigators. Within each section, the doctoral researchers are associated with programs such as DFG-funded Graduate Training Groups (GKs) or Collaborative Research Centers (SFBs). The programs serve as immediate reference points and provide the doctoral researchers with a "scientific home" and a peer-group for scientific and social exchange.

The GSLS offers a three-year study program "Life Sciences" that confers either the degree "Dr. rer. nat." or "PhD", depending on the candidate's choice. Admission to the study program typically requires a very good to excellent master's ("Diplom") degree. Fast-track options including an international MSc program "Life Sciences" for candidates with a bachelor's degree exist as well. Funding is provided to doctoral researchers in a variety of different ways. The GSLS itself awards fellowships and funded positions based on a competitive selection process. Besides these central funds, the majority of GSLS doctoral researchers are funded through various project grants of their supervisors. On average, it takes doctoral researchers about 3.5 years to complete their project with a drop-out rate of below 5%.These figures testify to the success of the GSLS concept.