PhD-Programme: FAQ

You have to hold a degree in fields such as biology, biochemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, bioengineering, pharmacology, neuroscience, medical biology or a related area. Furthermore, you must have gained sufficient research experience during your studies. Individual applications will be examined for eligibility on a case-to-case basis. 

Host lab proposals of the upcomming application phase can be found here.

Further host groups will present their proposed PhD projects during the on-site selection in Cologne, Germany.

next application call: The next call for applications will be open between November 1, 2018 and January 7, 2019 with a programme start between July and October 2019.

online submission: Only complete applications submitted via our online application portal will be accepted and further processed. Please note that it is not possible to change your data after submission. The completed form will not be sent back to you, therefore please take screenshots for your own records before submitting it. Make sure your email address and the contact details of your referees are correct. If you should not receive a confirmation email with your registration code within an hour after submitting the application, please check your spam filter.

host laboratories: Carefully check the available host laboratories. In the application form, tick 3 laboratories, which you consider for 3-hour rotations in case you should be invited to the on-site selection in Cologne, Germany. Please note that these laboratories cannot be changed once submitted. During the selection process, it will be possible to choose up to 2 further laboratories for rotations.

documents: Start compiling your documents (CV, transcripts, certificates etc.) and approach possible referees early. Allow your 2 referees sufficient time to compose their letters of recommendations. Enable Java and JavaScript for submitting your data.

referees: After submitting the application form, the referees will automatically receive an email linking them to the letter of recommendation form. It is your responsibility to contact your referees and make sure that they submit the form until January 15, 2019 at the latest. Reference letters received after this date will not be taken into consideration. It is not possible that applicants submit the letters of recommendation on behalf of the referees.


PhD projects will start between July and October 2019 on an individual basis. The structured CGA programme will start in October 2019 with the CGA orientation days.

Yes! Have a look at our international CGA student body and alumni.

The CGA Coordination offers support in all personal and administrative matters including visa, residence permits, housing, opening of bank accounts, insurances, contracts and all issues related to your PhD. The CGA orientation days in October 2019 provide you with all information needed in order to start your PhD. Every student will furthermore have one main supervisor as well as two co-supervisors with whom regular thesis advisory meetings take place and are documented to ensure the smooth conduction of your PhD. In order to facilitate integration to Germany, free-of-charge German classes are offered. We also have a PhD regular's table as well as other social CGA events where you can meet your fellows. You can rest assured that you will never be left alone in case you should encounter any difficulties! Any open questions? Please find out what our students say about the CGA!

All PhD students receive a work contract including social benefits for a period of 3 years. Payment is based on the German TVL-13 scale, 65% (monthly gross salary approx. €2,330 in the first year) if terms and conditions under collective bargaining law are fulfilled or on the equivalently remunerated PhD support contract of the Max Planck Society (Promotionsfördervertrag, sui generis). If the PhD project should not be finished within 3 years, the respective PI will finance the student for at least one additional year under the same conditions. Depending on the affiliation of the research group, the work contract will either be with the University of Cologne, the University Hospital Cologne or the Max Planck Society. Certain aspects of the contracts such as vacation days therefore differ.


Your application will also be accepted if the Master's degree has not yet been awarded by the time of application. However, it must be awarded before your individual start of your PhD projects between July and October 2019. Students holding a 4-year Bachelor's degree with outstanding grades and exceptional scientific qualification are also eligible to apply. If you should receive the degree after having submitted the application form, please send it to cologne-grad-school-age[at]

You have been asked to write a letter of recommendation? Please refer to the applicant's registration code as stated in the e-mail you received from us. Please use the link that has been sent to you, rate the applicant and submit the letter of recommendation to our online application portal in English until January 15, 2019 at the latest. Please note that applicants are not allowed to submit letters of recommendations on your behalf, they have to come from you directly

Excellent English (C1 level) skills are a prerequisite for our programme. However is not mandatory to provide a certificate. If you have taken an English test such as the TOEFL, you can upload the result if you wish.

Please mention "not applicable", in case your degree does not include a thesis. If your thesis has not been completed yet, please indicate this and submit a preliminary abstract. Please discriminate between obtained result and planned experiments.

Please indicate "not applicable".

For the initial application, we accept documents in all Germanic and Romanic languages. We can unfortunately not accept applications with foreign language characters such as Cyrillic or Chinese. Please submit an official translation of your certificates in these cases.

As a first step, all applications will be reviewed for completeness and eligibility by the CGA Coordination. Applications that fulfill these requirements will be shortlisted by CGA faculty members based on their academic qualifications and research accomplishments. Skype interviews will be scheduled for the short-listed applicants. 25 candidates will be invited to the on-site selection, taking place from April 08 - 12, 2019 in Cologne, Germany. Up to 12 candidates will receive an offer for a PhD at the CGA!

There will be a 4-days on-site selection taking place in Cologne, Germany. Hotel accommodation will be provided for all invited candidates, who live too far away from Cologne for travelling the same days. Travel costs will be refunded several weeks after the selection. Candidates will be interviewed by a PI panel and perform lab rotations in up to 5 different groups of their choice. 3 laboratories have already been selected for rotation in the application form, up to 2 more can be scheduled in Cologne. Possible projects can be discussed during the faculty poster session and social events where candidates can interact and network with current CGA students, alumni and PIs. Candidates will be informed if they received a position approximately 2 weeks after the selection.

No, there is only a minor semester fee of approx. €263/semester for the public transport pass, student sports, student usage of the cafeteria and the General Students' Committee, the acting executive board and the external representing agency of the student body of the University of Cologne. Find more information here.

A single apartment at the student housing costs approx. €300/month. On the private market, depending on size, location and equipment apartments cost approx. €500/month.

Student Services

You will take part a structured curriculum, including lecture series, journal clubs, retreats and intensive and exclusive training in scientific and soft skills as well as a personalised career mentoring programme. Furthermore, you will have access to a yearly travel grant of €1,000 for conferences. You will develop skills outside of official modules such as event organisation including practice in fundraising and inviting as well as interacting with internationally renowned guest speakers. Being part of the CGA, you cannot only rely on the support of the Coordination Office but also on the CGA network consisting of your classmates, senior students and alumni! Besides being able to interact with highly talented students from various countries, classes and social events such as a regulars' table bring together students working on different research topics which tremendously facilitates networking and starting collaborations.

The German doctorate enjoys an outstanding reputation worldwide due to its long scientific tradition and an excellent infrastructure for research work in Germany. Not only does Germany offer state-of-the-art technology and well-equipped research institutions but is also known as "Land of ideas" with a high standard of living. Find more information here.

Cologne offers an outstanding international research environment at the most prestigious ageing research cluster in Germany, including the "Cologne Excellence Cluster on Stress Responses in Aging-Associated Diseases" (CECAD), the University Hospital Cologne, the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing, the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research and the "Center of Advanced European Studies and Research" (caesar). Cologne has emerged as leading global research centre with a stellar constellation of institutes and scientists dedicated to ageing research.

Find out more about the vibrant city life in Cologne here.

You have various possibilities in academia, industry or the sector of your choice! Check our alumni profiles to get some ideas!

We support our employees in gaining (and maintaining) a good work-life-balance. We foster family-friendly work conditions and a family-conscious organizational culture. Some of our PhD students have children.

Find more information at our Dual Career and Family Support service.