If you are aiming for a PhD in biological sciences, Basel and in particular the Biozentrum of the University of Basel are a great choice for your studies! Basel offers a renowned environment for biology research with major academic institutions and industrial research institutes. Apart from that, Basel is rich in culture and, being located in North-Western Switzerland directly bordering to France and Germany, is an excellent starting point to explore Switzerland and the neighbouring countries. The Biozentrum provides an outstanding international research environment for Molecular Biology studies with three focal areas (Infection Biology, Growth and Development, Neurobiology) and two core programs (Structural Biology & Biophysics and Computational and Systems Biology).
How to apply for a PhD position
There are two possibilities to apply for a PhD position at the Biozentrum. First, you can directly contact the group leaders who work at the Biozentrum. For detailed information about research that is performed here, you can check the Biozentrum website:
Alternatively, you can apply for a prestigious PhD scholarship that is offered by the Werner Siemens Foundation. In addition to the financial support (which includes an extra budget for trips, personal equipment, books, etc.) this fellowship offers the advantage of lab rotations during the first year of your PhD, followed by a student-based selection of the research group for your PhD. This allows you to choose your research group more easily if you are uncertain which project to follow. For more information refer to the official website of the Werner Siemens fellowship program:
General PhD guidelines
PhD students at the Biozentrum usually receive their PhD degree from the University of Basel. The University website gives detailed information about the requirements and regulations for PhD studies in Basel:
In order to graduate students have to adhere to certain rules defined by the Faculty of Science…
… as well as to the regulations of the Biozentrum:
According to these guidelines every PhD student must select a PhD Thesis Advisory Committee (PAC) that supports and monitors the progress of his/her research. Moreover, every PhD student has to graduate within 4 years. The guidelines also include the attendance of lectures and courses with which the student has to acquire a minimum of 12 credit points. The detailed graduate teaching program is summarized here:
How to write the annual thesis progress report
The annual progress report summarizes the work you have done over the past year. It should include a short introduction, your results – including unresolved issues, technical problems and open questions -, and a conclusion/summary, plus an outlook of how you are going to continue your work. The length of the report should be about two pages or more, if necessary. If you are in doubt about the format, talk to your PAC members (see above), or to the PhD program administrator Angie Klarer (Angie.Klarer@unibas.ch).
The progress report should be submitted to all committee members at least a few days before the thesis committee meeting, so that they have time to prepare for the meeting. After you have presented and discussed your work with your committee, the chair of the committee writes a short summary protocol, which is signed by all members of the committee. A copy of this protocol needs to be deposited at the office of PhD program administrator.
How to prepare for the annual PhD Committee meeting
The annual PhD Committee Meeting is obligatory for all PhD students. It is an opportunity for you to receive scientific and personal support from an expert committee. To make it efficient and beneficial you should follow the guidelines accepted by the PhD program coordinator the director of the Biozentrum. You can find them here:
How to register for courses and obtain credit points
During the course of your PhD you have to acquire 12 credit points from lectures, courses and other activities which allow the graduation from the University of Basel. At least 6 of these credit points have to be gathered from lectures of the graduate teaching program (see above). Registration for these courses can be done via the online MOnA (My Online Account@unibas) web service which can be found here:
Since at this point MOnA is a service primarily designed for undergraduate students, this system, although scoring your CPs, will not tell you exactly how many credit points you have earned at the Biozentrum so far. In particular, MOnA also lists events that do not give CPs for PhD students (e.g. literature seminars), while some things that DO give CPs (conferences, courses, tutoring, etc.) are not listed on MOnA.
If you would like to calculate how many credit points you have collected, you can use this formula:
1. Log in to your MOnA account and check how many credit points you have earned from courses that are listed in the Graduate Teaching Programme. At the end of your PhD, these must be at least 6.
2. Add the number of credit points you have earned from other activities and for which you have a signed Learning Contract (English version) (The Biozentrum PhD guidelines tell you which activities are awarded with credit points). To secure your CPs, your Learning Contracts need the signature of the PhD programme coordinator. In case you are not certain if you can earn CPs for a specific activity, please contact the programme coordinator. Contrary to what is written on the contract form, you can get CPs for activities in the past, as long as you attended them during your PhD at the Biozentrum and have written proof for a PASS. Meetings that last only one day don’t apply for CPs.
Problems during your PhD?
PhD Students, who are faced with an issue or concerns which they cannot solve with their supervisor or PAC (PhD Advisory Committee), can bring their problem to the Ombuds-Person. This position is filled by the Head of the PhD Program at the Biozentrum, Prof. Urs Jenal, and the Head of the WSF PhD Program “Fellowships for Excellence”, Prof. Christoph Hanschin.
The other Group Leaders of the Biozentrum are also available for students, who want to speak with someone about sensitive issues or concerns, such as gender specific matters, for a confidential talk.
FAQs for newcomers to Basel
Do I need my MSc when I submit my application?
You don’t need your MSc at the time of application. But you must have completed your studies and have received your MSc degree or equivalent at the time, when you start your PhD studies at the University of Basel.
Are the lectures in English or in German?
The medium of all instruction is English. Standard language of communication in laboratories is English, too.
The net stipend for PhD students working at the Biozentrum is around 2800 CHF and will cover living expenses in the Basel area.
There are no tuition fees for doctoral students at the Biozentrum. The only fee required is a registration fee at the University of Basel that amounts to around 200 CHF per year. As student you can benefit from the student discounts that are offered in most public facilities like museums or swimming pools, but a ticket for public transport is not included.
Health insurance coverage for doctoral students is obligatory, for both stipend holders and students that are employed by the Biozentrum. You can compare different insurances on the web: www.comparis.ch.
Accidents that occur at work are covered by the university. Additionally, a liability and a household insurance are recommended. These insurances are generally offered in combination.
Support of monthly costs for health insurance from the City of Basel
People with a low income (we count to these people) can get a little (significant) help from the Stadt Basel for the „Grundversicherung“. You can apply for this „Prämienverbilligung“ by sending them your „Antragsformular für Prämienverbilligung“:
Let a lab member help you to translate and fill out the form.
As Basel is located close to the French and German borders, students at the Biozentrum have the opportunity to live within Basel, but also in France or Germany. These options have several advantages and disadvantages. For example, if you decide to live in Switzerland, administrative matters are easier to handle, the health insurance is cheaper and, obviously, your way to work is shorter. In contrast, if you prefer to live in Germany or France, living costs are reduced, but administrative matters are more difficult to arrange and your way to work takes about half an hour to an hour.
Housing in Basel
Rent for an apartment or a flat for a single person in Basel starts at approx. 600 – 700 CHF per month. Here are some websites that might help you find an apartment or a shared flat:
Living costs in Basel
The estimated costs of living in Basel are approx. 1100-1300 CHF minimum per month for a single person (living expenses and health insurance).
Student representatives: https://phdstudents.biozentrum.unibas.ch/ (for all questions regarding PhD student life at the Biozentrum)
* Biozentrum: http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/
* University of Basel: http://www.unibas.ch/
* Werner Siemens fellowship: http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/education/phd/fellowship-wsf/
* PhD students: https://phdstudents.biozentrum.unibas.ch/
* PostDoc Club: http://postdoc.biozentrum.unibas.ch/