The CEPLAS Graduate School programme is comprised of a one-year qualification phase followed by a dissertation phase of three to four years.
The qualification phase includes lectures, exercises, courses in transferable skills and lab rotations. It aims to provide the theoretical knowledge as well as practical skills that are necessary to successfully conduct a research project. The qualification phase starts with an on-boarding workshop followed by two seven-week subject modules jointly taught at the universities of Düsseldorf and Cologne. The subject modules cover the research topics within CEPLAS as well as advanced genetics, plant biochemistry and physiology, plant development, plant-microbe interactions, synthetic biology and modelling, methodology (genomics, transcriptomics, proteomics, metabolomics) and biostatistics/computational biology. The modules consist of lectures, exercises and seminars. The subject modules are followed by training in Good Scientific Practice and scientific writing. The final part of the qualification phase consists of three lab rotations, six weeks each, in CEPLAS research groups where students will conduct small research projects. One of the rotation labs will subsequently serve as the host for the dissertation phase.
The doctoral research project is the foundation of the dissertation phase. It aims to qualify CEPLAS doctoral researchers for independent and professional scientific work. All CEPLAS doctoral researchers are supported by a Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC), which includes the main adviser and at least one or two additional, experienced scientists (internal/external) from whom they receive scientific feedback about their research progress. The written thesis (dissertation) and an oral defence (disputation) complete the PhD. Apart from their dissertation research, CEPLAS doctoral students benefit from comprehensive scientific and career training programmes that address their academic development as well as career development aspirations and needs.
During the subject modules, CEPLAS Graduate School students conduct seminar presentations and have written exams. Lab rotations include written lab reports and oral presentations of the research results. Students have to qualify for the dissertation phase during the qualification phase. Those who fail during the qualification period can continue by pursuing a Master's degree outside the CEPLAS Graduate School.
During the dissertation phase, CEPLAS Graduate School students write annual reports on their research progress and have regular meetings with their Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC) to discuss progress and the further course of the research project. It is obligatory to provide documentation of these meetings to the Graduate School coordinator. At the end of the PhD studies, doctoral researchers write a thesis and defend it, pursuant to the respective university’s examination regulations.
During the qualification phase, three lab rotations in CEPLAS research groups are mandatory. Other internships are not mandatory, but they are encouraged in cooperation with CEPLAS collaboration partners. Special funding is provided upon application (CEPLAS Mobility Fund).