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 upcoming application phase can be found here.

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

next application call: The next call for applications will be open in September 2021 with a programme start between July and October 2022.

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.

host laboratories: Carefully check the available host laboratories. In the application form, tick 3 laboratories, which you consider for 3-hour visits in case you should be invited to the on-site recruitment week in Cologne, Germany. Please note that these laboratories cannot be changed once submitted. During the recruitment week, it will be possible to choose up to 2 further laboratories for visits. Hence, all recruitment week candidates can make an informed decision about their their preferred host group from these up to 5 lab visits.

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. 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.


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. Both referees must be current or former superiors (no colleagues), e.g. PIs, supervising postdocs, group leaders, etc.

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]

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".

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 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 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. €2,700 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 may 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. For the application procedure uploading your available marksheets and transcripts of your current status is sufficient. If you should receive the degree after having submitted the application form, please send it to cga-coordination[at]

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) skills are a prerequisite for our programme. However it 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.

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 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. Up to 30 candidates will be invited to the on-site recruitment, taking place from March 14 - 18, 2022 in Cologne, Germany. Up to 12 candidates will receive an offer for a PhD at the CGA!

There will be a 5-day on-site recruitment week 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 actual recruitment week. Candidates will be interviewed by a PI panel and perform 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 in Cologne. Possible projects can be discussed during the faculty poster session, the lab visits and on several other occasions. Social activities such as BBQs, meetings with current CGA students and a fabulous roof tour at the Cologne Cathedral with a brewery dinner afterwards 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. €288/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. €300/month. On the private market, depending on size, location and equipment apartments cost approx. €500/month.


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 €1,000 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 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 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).