Hans-Georg Sprenger: On the academic fast track

Hans-Georg what is the fast track Master programme of the University of Cologne and how did you learn about it?

I learned about the fast track Master which combines the Masters and Doctoral programmes of the University of Cologne from other students who joined a couple of years before me. The flexibility to work together with PhD students and PostDocs in the lab and thereby getting insights into real research projects especially attracted me to this unique programme. In order to be accepted, you have to attest high marks during the first term of the classical Masters programme. The programme gives you the opportunity to participate in special soft skill workshops and to pursue several laboratory rotations to find the ideal lab in which you perform experiments for your Master and PhD thesis in parallel. Regular meetings with your thesis committee help to set the appropriate timing to conclude experimental work.

In which way did you benefit from combining the Master with the PhD at the CGA? Were there any pitfalls?

I was able to save a lot of time since I knew I would be in the same lab for my Master and PhD. I could start planning and preparing my in vivo research model very early on during the programme while I was working with the corresponding cell culture model. Moreover, joining different labs during the laboratory rotations turned out to be extremely helpful to find collaborations on the campus and to discover all the great opportunities you have here to address a specific research question. The minor downside of the programme, I realized when attending scientific meetings and applying for fellowships, was that I was sometimes asked: “Why have you stayed in Cologne for both Master and PhD?”. To some scientists, this suggested a lack of flexibility which is important for an academic career. However, you don`t necessarily consider this fact when applying for the programme. In my opinion, there are numerous opportunities to go abroad after graduating anyways, which is something that I intend to do. I believe that combining the Master and PhD is a wonderful opportunity not only to save time on your educational path but also if you really enjoy living in Cologne – which I do!

What do you consider your biggest career achievement so far? How did this support your career plans?

Getting my PhD in July this year alongside presenting my research in a number of international meetings. Since I would like to pursue a career in academic research, I look forward to applying for a long-term PostDoc fellowship once my paper has been accepted.