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EMBL International PhD ProgrammeMission

Iain Mattaj, EMBL Director General

Training and inspiring the next scientific generation – EMBL's tradition of excellence

As Europe’s only intergovernmental research organisation in the life sciences and as a leading laboratory in molecular biology, EMBL is dedicated to promoting excellence in the molecular life sciences throughout Europe. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is by inspiring and fostering talented young scientists to turn them into skilled and creative future leaders.

The EMBL International PhD Programme is Europe’s ‘best in class’ PhD programme for the life sciences. 200 students from over 40 countries are carrying out PhD research at EMBL at any time. Every year we admit an average of 50 new students, who belong to the top science graduates in their countries. They are carefully selected from a large multi-national pool of applicants that reached over 1700 applications in 2012.

The EMBL International PhD Programme provides comprehensive training that promotes scientific excellence, independence and creativity. We try to maintain a careful balance between theory and practice, between close mentoring and creative freedom, between collaborative teamwork and independence. A concept that works! More than 95% of our students successfully complete their PhD degree and on average they publish two first author papers based on their PhD work. These successes make the EMBL International PhD Programme a role model, which has inspired many similar programmes at science institutions throughout Europe and the world.

In 1997 EMBL was granted the right to award its own PhD degree, however in order to integrate our students into national academic networks we have chosen to give degrees jointly, together with 24 partner universities in 17 countries. After graduating from EMBL over 80% take up positions in the member states and thereby enrich the national systems with the expertise, skills and networks acquired at EMBL.

The growing need for interdisciplinarity is arguably the biggest challenge that life science researchers are facing today. The complexity of current biological research questions frequently demands a combination of expertise. To prepare our students for this challenge the PhD Programme puts great emphasis on interdisciplinarity both with respect to the contents taught and to the scientific experience of the participants. We actively encourage candidates with backgrounds in chemistry, physics, mathematics, computer science or engineering to apply and to work hand in hand with biologists to tackle the future grand challenges in biomedicine.

Last but not least, studying at EMBL should of course also be fun. The colourful mix of nationalities and disciplines, the friendly, interactive atmosphere and the passion for science is what unites EMBL’s diverse staff and provides an ideal setting to forge long-lasting friendships and to make studying at EMBL an unforgettable experience.