General Information


The typical duration of the doctoral studies at the DKFZ is three to four years.

The curriculum is in English and includes scientific and professional training.

More than 52 % of our PhD students are international.

Research at the DKFZ is highly interdisciplinary which is reflected by the fact that our PhD students have an academic background in (molecular) biology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics, mathematics, computational biology, data/computer science or epidemiology/public health studies and health economics.

Scientific Mentoring through Thesis Advisory Committees

PhD students are supervised by group leaders and department heads of the DKFZ. A Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) – personal to each student – provides further support during the whole duration of the PhD. It consists of the supervisor and at least two other senior scientists, one of whom is external to the DKFZ. TAC meetings take place once a year to provide students with feedback on research already conducted and to give advice and suggestions for future projects. The students prepare a short written report and give a presentation of their work.

Scientific and Professional Skills Training


The DKFZ offers a number of lectures, seminars, and events to allow PhD students to tailor their education to meet their own needs and interests.

PhD students are further supported through a comprehensive training program, starting with a one-week PhD Initial Course dur­ing the first months of their graduate studies and further opportunities:

Progress in Cancer Research Lecture Series
Often it’s easy to get so involved in your own research project you lose sight of the big picture. This lecture series, which takes place once a week during semester time, is designed to give every student an overview of the current state of cancer research.

Scientific and Professional Skills Courses
Besides your scientific work during your PhD, you can gain additional skills by attending scientific and professional skills courses, such as "confocal microscopy", "scientific writing" or "how to present in English". Many such courses are organized by the DKFZ, but students are also encouraged to attend externally-organised courses.

Active participation in Seminar Series
An important part of PhD training is learning to explain your research to other scientists and to discuss results and hypotheses. Therefore, students present their work regularly in larger division seminars.

There are many possibilities to take part in other activities or courses, including summer schools, student-led activities, English or German language classes, teaching responsibilities… the list goes on and you for sure will find something that fits your needs and interests.

Scientific Networking


PhD Poster Presentation

Every year, there is a large PhD poster presentation, organized in the same style as a scientific conference, where students have the chance to present their work and get feedback from other students and scientists, in addition to finding out what other students at the DKFZ are working on.

International Conference
Students are required to present their work (with either a poster or talk) at an international conference. Students often have the opportunity to travel to conferences abroad, but with so many scientific institutes in and around Heidelberg, you’ll also find excellent international conferences taking place locally.

PhD Retreat

Organised for PhD students, by PhD students this is a great chance to take a step back from the lab bench and find out what your colleagues are working on. Students from different fields meet for three days in a location outside Heidelberg to exchange ideas about recent developments in science. The three-day program includes talks from fellow PhD students and guest speakers, poster sessions and a team event. The short film below shows some impressions from the 2017 retreat.

Career Support

Career Service
The DKFZ Career Service supports PhD students in planning their professional future and provides information on different career opportunities. For more information, please check the DKFZ Career Service page.


Once you have completed and defended your PhD project and attended the necessary courses, you are granted your degree by the university with which you initially registered. For most PhD students at the DKFZ, the doctoral degree is awarded by the Biosciences Faculty, Medical Faculty or Physics Faculty of the prestigious Heidelberg University, the oldest university in Germany (founded in 1386). The degree you are awarded depends on your area of research and the university faculty you registered with. In Germany, although the term "PhD" is used to refer to the doctoral project (as in this website), the actual doctoral title that is conferred is not the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.), but rather an equivalent doctoral title. For example, a Doctor of Natural Sciences (Dr. rer. nat.) is conferred by the Biosciences or Physics Faculties and a Doctor of Human Sciences (Dr. sc. hum.), or in some cases where the candidate has a medical background a Doctor of Medicine (Dr. med.) is conferred by the Medical Faculty.

PhD Program Poster

Poster of the PhD Program

Do you think our PhD Program would be of interest to your colleagues or students? If so, we'd love you to tell them about us. You can download our poster including the application deadlines as a PDF file.

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