Institute of Science and Technology Austria – ISTA is looking for highly qualified candidates with Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees to apply for the PhD program: We offer fully-funded PhD positions in Biology, Chemistry & Materials, Computer Science, Data Science & Scientific Computing, Mathematics, Neuroscience, and Physics in a world-class research environment on the outskirts of Vienna.

In 2019, ISTA was ranked #3 in the world-wide Nature Index ranking (normalized). In 2018, ISTA was ranked within the top ten of Nature Index Rising Stars “Top 30 academic institutions under 30” list. All PhD students are offered 5-year employment contracts , they receive internationally competitive salaries, and full social security coverage. There is also financial support for students for attending scientific conferences and workshops.

The application deadline is February 28, 2023 for a Ph.D. start date in September 2023. Close mentorship, coursework, and opportunities for cross-disciplinary study allow students to tailor their learning experience to their interests and needs.


The PhD program comprises two distinct phases:

When joining the PhD program of ISTA, students are not part of any specific research group.

During the first phase, students:

  • Do three rotations with three different professors (lasting approx. two months each)
  • Find a PhD supervisor (a professor at ISTA)
  • Form a thesis committee, consisting of:
    – the supervisor(s)
    – two other thesis committee members (one of whom must be external)
  • Pass a qualifying exam, which consists of:
    – an oral presentation of the thesis proposal, and
    – an oral exam on the thesis proposal and reading list
  • Fulfill course and credit requirements (see below for details)


In Phase II,  students mostly work on research towards a PhD thesis. They work closely with their supervisor and research group, to produce original research of the highest standard, and make significant contributions to the understanding of a specific topic.

Students are expected to offer teaching assistance. They also have biannual progress reviews as well as give annual presentations on their research. 

The thesis defense consists of a public presentation of the draft thesis, followed by questions and answers on the thesis.

Once a final thesis is submitted and accepted by the thesis committee, the PhD degree is awarded by the Institute.

ISTA welcomes students with different academic backgrounds who can bring their skills and experiences to the scientific setting.

Students with a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Biology, Chemistry & Materials, Neuroscience, Mathematics, Computer Science, Physics, Data Science & Scientific Computing and related areas are encouraged to apply.


The selection committee uses a collection of indicators to evaluate the applicant’s preparedness, motivation, and potential. The following will be considered:

  • Scientific promise:
  • undergraduate performance: overall, with a special focus on relevant field-specific courses
    reference letters provided by professors and senior scientists: one letter from industry is acceptable, but letters from an academic background are given priority; referees are asked to address analytical capabilities, technical proficiency, ability to work independently and motivation/commitment;
  • statement of purpose: the applicant’s past research experience and motivation for applying to this particular PhD program: is it a good academic fit? does the program contribute to the candidate’s future career plans?, etc.;
  • additional relevant skills (field-specific): demonstrated in, e.g., internships and/or participation in research projects, participation in science Olympiads, programming languages, lab techniques, etc.
  • Background:
  • quality of the undergraduate background;
  • transferable skills: e.g. communication skills, experience with working in teams, previous mobility and international experiences, leadership experience as demonstrated in student organizations, etc.;
  • diversity: e.g. a woman in computer science/math/physics; an applicant who switched fields, etc.;


  • International and Diverse Scientific Community
    Our scientists, from professors to postdocs to students, hail from all corners of the world, representing over 80 different nationalities, and building on research and degrees earned from the finest global scientific institutes and universities.
  • English-Speaking
    We use English throughout the institute as the language of instruction and communication.
  • Interdisciplinary
    Our Graduate Program is characterized by modern comprehensive training with a special focus on interdisciplinarity.
  • Cutting-edge Research Training
    Students work closely with outstanding faculty within small research groups and have access to first-rate facilities. Students spend the first year completing coursework and rotations before affiliating with a group.

This first phase of exploration allows students to be sure that the research topic, as well as the research group, are the best match for them before they embark on in-depth thesis research in the second phase.

  • Entry with a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree
    We welcome students with a bachelor’s or a master’s in science to apply for our PhD program.
  • Funding
    In all fields of research, funding is a very important topic. ISTA relies on diverse funding sources to support all its researchers. The Grant Office is there to support ISTA scientists who would like to apply for external funding.

All PhD students are offered 5-year employment contracts. All students making reasonable progress are fully funded until the time of their thesis defense.

Students also receive financial support to attend scientific conferences and workshops during their studies.

  • Careers
    Our distinguished alumni have gone on to successful careers after their PhD studies at ISTA.

PhD students receive support through our mentorship and career development programs which focus on training in transferable skills for academia and beyond. Throughout their studies, PhD students are supported by Career Services, which provides career development advice and training.

There are also regular TWIST talks organized by the Technology Transfer Office, which aim to support researchers in the commercial development and use of their research results.

Selection process:

ISTA processes applications for its PhD program once a year . To apply, you have to create an online account, which will allow you to track your application through its various stages. 


We ask you to upload the following documents to the application portal:

  • CV
  • Statement of purpose that explains your research experience and your motivation for applying to the ISTA PhD program. It should be 1-2 pages maximum. In your statement, specify up to three research groups you find the most interesting. At this stage you do not need to contact potential supervisors.
  • University transcripts and diplomas of all degree programs and all years you have attended and/or are currently enrolled in (in English and in original language)
  • Contact information of 3 referees
    All documents have to be submitted in English and copies of university transcripts also in their original language.

The application deadline is February 28, 2023 for a Ph.D. start date in September 2023.

Apply now!


Graduate School Office Graduate School Office

Student Recruiting & Admissions

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