PhD Scholarships in Space Life Sciences, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Germany

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PhD Scholarships in Space Life Sciences, Institute of Aerospace Medicine, Germany

The DLR Institute of Aerospace Medicine in Cologne, Germany, offers in cooperation with several partners an excellent and interdisciplinary training for up to 25 doctoral students from different fields.
Members and partners of SpaceLife in Germany are the universities of Aachen, Berlin, Bonn, Cologne, Erlangen-Nürnberg, Frankfurt, Hohenheim, Kiel, Köln, Magdeburg, Marburg, Regensburg, München, the German Sports University Cologne and the University of Applied Sciences Bonn-Rhein-Sieg in Rheinbach. Partners abroad are the University Zurich, the Beihang University and King’s College London.
Together with these cooperating institutions we intend to qualify a new generation of internationally competitive young scientists in the field of space life sciences research. They will be prepared for taking over leading positions in research, management and policy, industry, or consulting and education.
SpaceLife aims to improve the qualification of the participating doctoral students and provide an optimal research environment towards their doctoral degree. Students will learn to develop integrated concepts to solve health issues in human spaceflight and in related disease patterns on Earth, and to further explore the requirements for life in extreme environments, enabling a better understanding of the ecosystem Earth and the search for life on other planets in unmanned and manned missions.
SpaceLife is funded in equal parts by the “President’s Initiative and Networking Fund” (“Impuls- und Vernetzungsfonds des Präsidenten”) of the Helmholtz Association of German Research Centers and by the DLR (Executive Board Member for Space Research and Technology and Institute of Aerospace Medicine).
PhD degree:
SpaceLife gives the opportunity to carry out a full-time doctoral thesis at the end of which the doctoral students will receive a “German PhD” (Dr. rer. nat., Dr. hum. biol., Dr. oec. troph., Dr. med. vet., Dr. rer. medic., Dr. Sports Sciences).
In general, all doctoral candidates at Institute of Aerospace Medicine can actively participate in the Research School regardless of the type of funding they obtained (basic or third-party). SpaceLife scholarship recipients are required to participate. The graduate program is also open for doctoral candidates from the member and partner universities, provided their fields of specialization fits one or more fields of research addressed in SpaceLife.
Prospective students can choose one out of 19 challenging research projects offered by our faculty members. Although students specialize in a particular research topic (Radiobiology, Gravitational Biology, Astrobiology, Space Physiology), the interdisciplinary context of the program facilitates interactions with other research groups and fosters the ability of cross-frontier thinking. Laboratory work is supplemented by lectures, a students’ workshop, journal clubs, elective courses, soft skills training, exchanges with partner universities or partner organizations, and participation in national or international conferences.
The Research School will support candidates in the development of a strong personal career profile and establish a tight network of young researchers. Integration in internationally renowned research groups will give you a broad experience in research to develop and improve your own skills.
We offer

  • a top-level research infrastructure and a supportive environment for doctoral candidates
  • a PhD stipend paid according to the rules of the DFG (German Research Foundation)
  • a clearly focused education and research plan through regularly meetings of the thesis advisory committee
  • efficient supervision by a team of two supervisors and a mentor
  • a structured interdisciplinary training program
  • intensive courses in transferable skills (“soft skills”)
  • stays at labs at the partner institutions or abroad
  • Cologne – a lively city with dynamic business activities, successful scientific centers of innovation and a vibrant cultural scene

We expect

  • Master’s or other degree with excellent grades comparable to a German University Diploma or Master in biology, human biology, biochemistry, physiology, anatomy, biotechnology, microbiology, physics, chemistry, veterinary medicine, biomechanical engineering, and nutrition or sports sciences. Candidates about to earn their degree are welcome to apply.
  • linguistic proficiency in English: Fluent in spoken and written English
  • first laboratory experience / clinical study experience (dependent on research topic)
  • strong interest in space life sciences
  • a high degree of motivation and dedication for scientific working
  • the ability to work creatively in a multidisciplinary team
  • knowledge of standard word processing and spreadsheet software

It is advantageous to have…

  • experience with databases management and statistical software
  • ability using biomedical literature databases
  • experience with working in multicultural groups
  • basic knowledge in German for daily life in Germany

Please download the Application form and the Referee’s Report form and follow the instructions given in these forms.
After filling in the forms, please send by e-mail to Dr. Christine Hellweg:

  • the Application Form (as pdf file with the following file name: “Family name”_”First name”_SpaceLife_Application.pdf) and
  • the CV and Certificates (in one pdf file with the following file name: “Family name”_”First name”_CV_certificates.pdf)

Only applications arriving in this form can be processed.
If there is no possibility to sign the e-mailed application, please, send us in addition a FAX of the last page of the application form (p. 9) bearing your signature. Without signature the application is not valid.
In the Referee’s Report – “topic of doctoral thesis”, please indicate your favorite scientific field preference (as listed in the application form).

  • If you are already sure which specific topic interests you most (after reading the SpaceLife booklet), you can provide the full title of the thesis.
  • If not, just mention the scientific field preference, e.g. radiobiology – radiation protection and space radiation measurements.

Please make sure that your referees use the report form and do not send a letter of recommendation of their own style. The referee’s reports should carry file names composed as described here: “Family name”_”First name”_Referees_Report_”Number”.pdf
For application it is imperative:

  • We do not accept any hardcopies/paper copies sent by ordinary post or fax (excluding the copy of the signed main application form).
  • Regardless of the outcome of your application we are unable to return any documents you send to us.

When will you be hearing from us?
A decision on your application will be made within six weeks after the deadline by which you have to submit your completed application. During the admission process the key faculty members in the academic field for which you are applying may contact you for a telephone interview.
Financial assistance:
During the doctoral studies, SpaceLife can provide up to 13 candidates with a stipend that is limited to maximum 3 years, enabling the students to exclusively work on their research project. A stipend requires at the beginning of the doctoral thesis that the graduation must not date back longer than 3 years. Servitors must not have completed their 30th year of age.
The stipend is paid without any taxes and ranges between 1.277,- € and 1.431,- €, depending on the marital status.
SpaceLife offers the program without tuition fees. However, doctoral candidates might have to be enrolled at one of the member universities. Here, each semester you might have to pay an enrollment fee. Please check the websites of the member and partner universities for more information.
Please be aware that living expenses in Germany might be higher than in other countries. It has been estimated that students will require approx. 880,- € per month to cover the costs of living and study.
Estimated costs include:

  • Accommodation: 380,- € per month on average (deposit: one to two month rent, returned on expiry of the duration of rent if there is no cause for complain)
  • Health insurance: mandatory, but on your own responsibility, ca. 200 €
  • Third party liability insurance: 30,- € per year
  • Other costs: varies from person to person but is unlikely to be less than 250,- € per month (food, books, stationery, travel, clothes, sport/leisure, etc)

If you have any questions concerning your application, please contact:
Helmholtz Space Life Sciences Research School
Email: Christine Hellweg
phone: + 49 2203 601 3243
For more information, please visit official website

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