PhD-Programme: FAQ

next application call: The call for applications will was opened from August 15, 2023 until November 06, 2023 with a programme start between July and October 2024.

online submission: Only complete applications submitted via our online application portal will be accepted and further processed. It is possible to access your individual application form in order to add or change data, until you have submitted your data in the last step of the application. 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.

academic details and degrees: In the application form, section "Academic Details", you have to indicate all your previous and current degrees, e.g. BSc and MSc degrees. If you have a combined degree, e.g. a diploma or an integrated BSc/MSc degree, you can also indicate this.

host laboratories: Carefully check the available host laboratories. In the "Host Groups" section of the application form, you must indicate three host groups of interest to you (not in the order of preference). Your online application will be evaluated by these groups, among others. Students doing their Master's thesis or internship in one of the selected host groups should be open to doing a PhD in all three groups indicated and should not be biased towards the laboratory of their Master's thesis/internship.
During the recruitment week, all invited candidates will visit the three selected laboratories and up to two other laboratories. This will allow all candidates to make an informed decision about their preferred group for their PhD.

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.

referees: After you have specified referees in the respective section, your referees will automatically receive an email linking them to the recommendation form. You can see the submission status of the recommendation letters in your application profile. It is your responsibility to contact your referees and make sure that they submit the form until the indicated deadline at the latest (referee deadline = one week after the application deadline). 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.


In general, you have to hold a Master degree or equivalent (MD, diploma...) 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. 

Your application will be accepted even if your Master's degree has not been awarded at the time of application. However, it must be awarded before your individual start date of your PhD project between July and October. For the application procedure, it is sufficient to upload your available (preliminary) certificates and/or marksheets and transcripts of your current status. If you should receive the degree after having submitted the application form, please send it to cga-coordination[at]

PhD projects will start between July and October each year on an individual basis. The structured CGA programme will start in October with the "CGA Welcome Days".

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

For the application process you have to indicate two referees. The first referee should be your current or most recent academic supervisor of your thesis. Your second referee can be a former superior or supervisor, not necessarily from academia, however, he or she should come from a science related (e.g. industry) work environment. Your second referee can also be a supervising postdoc, however the person should have a PhD.

If you are facing problems with logging into the application system please try the following steps first: 1. Try a different browser (preferably Chrome or Firefox). 2. Clear the cache and try to log in again. 3. Copy and paste your log in data instead of manual entry. In case all of those stepps are ineffective please write an email to cga-coordination[at]

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

The CGA Coordination provides assistance with all personal and administrative matters, including visas, residence permits, accommodation, opening bank accounts, insurance, contracts and anything else related to your PhD. Our buddy programme provides further support with many of the questions that new doctoral students may have. The "CGA Welcome Days" in October provide you with all the information you need to start your PhD and give you the opportunity to meet other CGA students and faculty and to get to know the campus and Cologne. Once you have started your PhD, you 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 that your PhD progresses smoothly. In order to facilitate integration to Germany, free-of-charge German classes are offered. We also have regular PhD feedback session as well as other, social CGA events where you can meet fellow students. 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 or check out our CGA stories!

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. €2,750 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 or until the PhD is finished 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 may therefore differ.

You have been asked to write a letter of recommendation? 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 the indicated deadline 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) is a prerequisite for our programme. If you have taken an English test such as TOEFL, you can upload the results to the documents section. However, it is not compulsory to provide a language test certificate and you can instead provide a written statement explaining why you believe you are fluent in English (e.g. part of the studies were conducted in English).

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.

For online applications, we accept documents in all languages that use the Latin alphabet.We regret that we are unable to accept application documents with foreign language characters/alphabets such as Cyrillic, Devanagari, Greek or Chinese. In these cases, please provide an official translation of your certificates.

As a first step, all applications will be reviewed for completeness and eligibility by CGA coordination. Applications that fulfill these requirements will be shortlisted by CGA faculty members based on their academic qualifications and research accomplishments. Online panel interviews will then be schduled for shortlisted top 42 candidates. 20 to 25 of those candidates will be invited to the  recruitment week, taking place from February 19 to 22, 2024 in Cologne, Germany. Up to 12 candidates will receive an offer for a PhD at the CGA.

There will be a 4-day recruitment week taking place in Cologne, Germany or online. 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 actual recruitment week. Candidates can visit lab presentations and will attend lab visits in up to 5 different groups of their choice. 3 laboratories have already been selected for visits during the online application, 2 more can be scheduled during the lab presentations. Social activities such as BBQs, or alternatively online games, meetings with current CGA students and further social activities will give you an idea about your possible life in Cologne and also provide the opportunity for social exchange and networking with CGA students, CGA alumni and faculty members. Candidates will be informed if they received a position approximately 2 weeks after the recruitment week.

No, there is only a minor semester fee of approx. €320/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.

There are different options available for accommodation in Cologne. A single apartment at the student housing costs approx. €350/month. On the private market, depending on size, location and equipment apartments cost approx. €600/month.


The CGA is organised to best promote the well-being of our PhD students, to foster an environment of scientific excellence and to provide student representation on all relevant management bodies. During your PhD you will take part in 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 €1,500 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 and the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research. 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, the spot on section and our CGA stories 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.

Support for students with disabilities is provided at all collaborating institutes. Please indicate your disability status in your application and upload the corresponding certificates if applicable. Please inform us, if you do require additional support, so that we can make arrangements early on (such as supportive equipment or adaptation of learning material).