PhD-Programme: FAQ

Next call for applications: The call for applications will be open from August 12  to November 04, 2024, with the programme starting between July 01 and October 01, 2025.

Online submission: Only complete applications submitted through our online application portal will be accepted and processed. It is possible to access your individual application form to add or change information until you submit your details in the final step of the application process. Please note that it is not possible to change your details once you have submitted them. The completed form will not be returned to you, so please take screenshots for your own records before submitting. Make sure that your email address and the contact details of your referees are correct.

Academic details and degrees: In the 'Academic Details' section of the application form, you must list 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 may also indicate this.

Host laboratories: Carefully consider 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 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 contact potential referees early. Allow sufficient time for your 2 referees to write their letters of recommendation.

Referees: Once you have specified your referees in the relevant section, your referees will automatically receive an email linking them to the recommendation form. You can view the status of your referees' submissions in your application profile. It is your responsibility to contact your referees and ensure that they submit the form by the specified deadline (referee deadline = one week after the application deadline). References received after this date will not be considered. It is not possible for applicants to submit letters of recommendation on behalf of referees.


In general, you must have a Master's degree or equivalent (MD, Diploma, ...) in fields such as biology, biochemistry, biophysics, bioinformatics, bioengineering, pharmacology, neuroscience, medical biology or a related field. In addition, you must have gained sufficient research experience during your studies. Individual applications will be considered on a case-by-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 (provisional) diplomas and/or marksheets and your current transcripts. If you receive the degree after submitting the application form, please send it to cga-coordination[at]

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

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

You must provide two referees for the application process. The first referee should be your current or most recent academic supervisor, e.g. of your BSc thesis project. Your second referee can be a former supervisor, not necessarily from academia, but from a science-related work environment (e.g. industry). Your second referee can also be a supervising postdoctoral researcher, but this person should have a PhD.

If you are having problems logging in to the application system, please try the following first: 1. Try a different browser (preferably Chrome or Firefox). 2. Clear your cache and try logging in again. 3. Copy and paste your login details instead of entering them manually. If all of these steps do not work, please email 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 also have a main supervisor and two co-supervisors with whom regular and documented thesis advisory meetings will take place to ensure that your PhD progresses smoothly. To facilitate your integration in Germany, free German language courses are offered. We also hold regular PhD feedback sessions and other CGA social events where you can meet fellow students. You can rest assured that you will never be left alone should you encounter any difficulties! Still got questions? Find out what our students have to say about the CGA or check out our CGA stories!

All PhD students receive an employment contract including social benefits for a period of 3 years. Remuneration is based on TVL-13, 65% (gross monthly salary of approx. € 2,750 in the first year), if the requirements under collective bargaining law are fulfilled, or on the equivalent remunerated PhD support contract of the Max Planck Society (Promotionsfördervertrag, sui generis). If the PhD project is not completed within 3 years, the respective PI will fund the student for at least one additional year or until completion of the PhD under the same conditions. Depending on the affiliation of the research group, the employment contract will be concluded either with the University of Cologne, the University Hospital of 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 sent to you, evaluate the applicant and submit the letter of recommendation in English to our online application portal by the specified deadline. Please note that applicants cannot submit letters of recommendation on your behalf, they must come directly from you.

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 your studies were conducted in English).

Please mention 'not applicable' if your degree did not include a thesis. If your thesis has not yet been completed, please indicate this and provide a provisional abstract. Please distinguish between results obtained and experiments planned.

For online applications, we accept documents in all languages that use the Latin alphabet, however, we regret that we are unable to accept applications in 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 are reviewed for completeness and eligibility by the CGA Coordination. Applications that meet these requirements will be assessed by CGA faculty members on the basis of academic qualifications and research achievements. Online panel interviews will then be scheduled for the top 42 shortlisted candidates. 20 to 25 of these candidates will be invited to the recruitment week, which will take place in Cologne, Germany, from February 17 to 20, 2025. Up to 12 candidates will be offered a PhD position at the CGA.

There will be a 4 day recruitment week in Cologne, Germany or online. Hotel accommodation will be provided for all invited candidates who live too far away from Cologne to travel on the same days. Travel expenses will be refunded several weeks after the actual recruitment week.

During the Recruitment Week, the available projects will be presented to the invited candidates at the Faculty Poster Session. After this information session, all candidates will have the opportunity to attend lab visits in up to 5 different groups of their choice. 3 labs have already been selected for visits during the online application process, 2 more can be scheduled during the lab presentations. Social activities such as BBQs or alternatively online games, meetings with current CGA students and other social activities will give you an idea of your possible life in Cologne and also provide an opportunity for social exchange and networking with CGA students, CGA alumni and faculty members. Applicants will be notified of their acceptance approximately 2 weeks after the recruitment week.

No, there is only a social fee of approximately €320 per semester, which includes a fee for the student use of the cafeteria as well as for the General Students' Commitee ('AStA'), the public transport pass for all of Germany and the university sports. Further information is available here.

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


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 participate in a structured curriculum, including lecture series, journal clubs, retreats and intensive and exclusive training in scientific and soft skills, and a personalised career mentoring programme. You will also have access to an annual travel grant of €1,500 for conferences. You will develop skills outside the formal modules, such as event organisation, including practice in fundraising and inviting and interacting with internationally renowned guest speakers. As part of the CGA, you will not only have the support of the Coordination Office, but also of the CGA network consisting of your classmates, senior students and alumni! In addition to the opportunity to interact with highly talented students from different countries, classes and social events such as a 'regulars' table' bring together students working on different research topics, which greatly facilitates networking and establishing collaborations.

The German PhD enjoys an outstanding reputation worldwide due to its long scientific tradition and the excellent infrastructure for research work in Germany. Germany not only offers state-of-the-art technology and well-equipped research institutions, but is also known as the "Land of Ideas" with a high standard of living. Find out more here.

Cologne offers an outstanding international research environment in Germany's most prestigious ageing research cluster, 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 become a leading global research centre with an exceptional constellation of institutes and scientists dedicated to ageing research.

Find out more about Cologne's vibrant city life here.

You have many options in academia, industry or the sector of your choice! Check out our alumni profiles, the spot on section and our CGA stories to get some ideas!

We support our employees in achieving 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.

For more information, please visit our Dual Career and Family Support Service.

Support for students with disabilities is available at all collaborating institutions. Please indicate your disability status on your application form and upload any relevant certificates. Please inform us if you require any additional support so that we can make early arrangements (e.g. assistive devices or adaptation of learning materials).