The CEPLAS Graduate School offers a structured four-to-five-year doctoral program covering the fields of molecular plant sciences, plant genetics, plant-microbe interactions, synthetic biology as well as quantitative and computational biology.  The program is jointly organised by the Universities of Düsseldorf and Cologne, the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the Forschungszentrum Jülich and it leads students with a Bachelor’s degree through a unique qualification phase to the PhD.

PhD students work in one (or sometimes two) of the CEPLAS member laboratories on a topic related to the CEPLAS research program. CEPLAS Graduate School members benefit from comprehensive training programs that address their academic as well as career development aspirations and needs. 

What we offer – at a glimpse

  • A stimulating research environment focussing on plant science
  • PhD projects cover topics including molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, developmental biology, plant-microbe interactions, synthetic biology and computational biology, all using state-of-the-art technology and computational analyses
  • A comprehensive training program in scientific and transferable skills, starting with a 1-year qualification phase that includes lectures, exercises and lab rotations
  • A comprehensive career development support and employer networking
  • Funding for up to five years
  • Additional funding to attend conferences and workshops
  • Funding for a research period in a laboratory abroad (Mobility Fund).
  • Help with organisational issues (e.g. visa, health insurance etc.)
  • No tuition fees are charged


During the one-year qualification phase, CEPLAS Graduate School students receive a stipend of 934 €/month to cover their expenses for cost of living.  During their dissertation research phase, CEPLAS PhD students receive a contract according to German pay scale (E12/E13) for up to four years. This contract includes benefits according to German law (health insurance, unemployment insurance, etc.).  Funding is dependent on successful performance.  PhD students who fail during the qualification period (e.g. do not pass the subject modules with the necessary performance) can continue by pursuing a Master´s degree outside the CEPLAS Graduate School.

The CEPLAS Graduate School invites talented and motivated students from all nationalities to apply for a structured four-to-five-year doctoral program covering the fields of plant molecular biology and computational science (plant genetics, plant biochemistry and physiology, plant-microbe interactions as well as synthetic, quantitative and computational biology).

There are no tuition fees associated with this programme, except for an approx. 315 € fee per semester for enrolment at the University. This grants you student’s rights including free local public transportation in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Application requirements

  • Applicants must hold a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences or a subject related to biological sciences (e.g. cell or molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, computational biology/bioinformatics, quantitative or synthetic biology). A completed bachelor’s degree is required at the start of the CEPLAS Graduate School program in October 2023. Students already holding a master’s degree are not eligible to apply. Students who are now just starting a 2-year master´s study program (< 3 months into the program) are eligible to apply.
  • The program is conducted in English. Non-native speakers need to provide evidence of proficiency in English (see requested documents).
  • Only complete applications submitted in English will be considered (see requested documents).

Application deadlines

  • Annual call for applications starts in autumn 2023.

Application procedure

  1. Please fill in the online application form completely and in English. 
  2. After you have successfully completed the online application form you have to submit the following required documents to Therefore, please have all documents prepared before submitting the online application form.

Required documents for an application

Please submit the following required documents as one pdf-file (max. 5 MB). Applicants with a foreign school and university degree must also send certified translations (in English or German) of degree certificates if those certificates are not in English or German.

  • Letter of motivation explaining why you would like to join the CEPLAS Graduate School
  • Curriculum vitae (CV, including publications)
  • Bachelor’s degree (or equivalent university degree; if available)
  • Transcript of records
  • Abstract of bachelor thesis (if available)
  • Higher Education Entrance Qualification “Hochschulzugangsberechtigung”  e.g. high school diploma
  • Proof of English language skills (e.g. German Abiturzeugnis, TOEFL (90 points internet-based), IELTS (score 6,5) or a comparable proof). Alternatively, you may provide evidence of having spent at least 6 months in an English-speaking country or having completed a study program taught in English.

If you have additional documents relevant to your application (e.g. proof of scholarships, awards, certificates from previous employers, …) you can add them to the pdf file.

Your application will be evaluated by a selection committee who defines a shortlist of candidates. Shortlisted candidates will be invited for interviews to the selection workshop.

Apply now!

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