Fellowships for Excellence
“Fellowships for Excellence”
The Biozentrum encourages talented, ambitious and highly motivated young scientists to apply to the „Fellowships for Excellence“ International PhD Program in Molecular Life Sciences. This program offers prestigious PhD fellowships that are awarded on a competitive basis, provide direct entry into the Biozentrum PhD program and a rotation-based selection of the research group.
Aims of the program
The International PhD Program in Molecular Life Sciences “Fellowships for Excellence” invites motivated young scientists from all over the world to apply for a PhD student position at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland. Notably, in contrast to many other PhD student programs that aim at a broad recruitment of many candidates, the “Fellowships for Excellence” are only awarded to a maximum of 10 successful candidates per open call: the program thus strives to recruit and identify only the most outstanding students worldwide. Due to this rigorous selection and a comprehensive evaluation procedure, these “Fellowships for Excellence” are highly prestigious and sought after. Recipients have direct access to the Biozentrum PhD program(http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/education/phd), are offered a rotation-based selection of a research group of choice and a number of other incentives that should foster the scientific excellence and the career prospects of these PhD candidates.
The “Fellowships for Excellence” were established at the Biozentrum in order to offer an alternative pathway for students to enter the International PhD Program for Molecular Life Science exclusively based on the scientific excellence of the applicants. This so-called Track 2 procedure should complement Track 1, the direct application of interested students to individual group leaders of the Biozentrum that will continue to exist. With the generous support of the Werner Siemens-Foundation (http://www.wernersiemens-stiftung.ch/en/home/), who recognized the value of an international excellence program, the “Fellowships for Excellence” program was established in the year 2006. The Werner Siemens-Foundation provided an initial financing of CHF 5 Mio, which based on the success of the program has later been complemented with an additional donation of CHF 1 Mio in the year 2008. The University of Basel has agreed to take over the financing of the salaries of new fellows as of 2010 and thereby assured the continuation of the program. Since the inception, the program has been highly successful by recruiting more than 45 extremely talented students, about 50% of which are women, from over 15 different countries (list of current fellows: http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/education/phd/fellowship-for-excellence/fellows/). In the coming years, a growing number of alumni will facilitate the networking amongst current and former fellows.
Perks and incentives
Acceptance into the “Fellowships for Excellence” program is highly prestigious due to the rigorous selection process. Accordingly, successful completion of a “Fellowship for Excellence” is widely recognized as an outstanding achievement for the future career of fellows. In addition, other incentives have been made available to “Fellowships for Excellence” PhD students to support their scientific and personal growth. For example, the following perks have been awarded, are presently in place or are planned for future implementation (annual changes may apply):
• comprehensive evaluation by the Biozentrum faculty, 1-2 rotations in 2 different labs (2 months each), fellowship provided by the “Fellowships for Excellence” program (for 3 years): fellows are highly sought-after by the group leaders at the Biozentrum
• a personal, annual stipend, e.g. to allow attendance of meetings, acquisition of books or computers (currently CHF 6’000 total for 3 years)
• preferential registration for some courses in the Biozentrum Graduate Teaching program
• yearly study trip to a city with ties to Siemens, e.g. Berlin, Munich, St. Petersburg
• financial support for travel to postdoctoral interviews at the end of the PhD thesis
• support for the preparation of the personal CV and postdoctoral application by Biozentrum faculty members in the “Fellowships for Excellence” committee
• personal certificate of acceptance into the “Fellowships for Excellence” program
• scientific meetings and networking opportunities with current “Fellowships for Excellence” students and alumni
Application to the International PhD Program in Molecular Life Sciences of the Biozentrum:
Conditions and procedure
Track 1: Direct application of prospective PhD students to individual group leaders are always possible. Applicants must either already hold or anticipate to receive before enrollment a university degree that qualifies them for doctoral studies at the University of Basel (MSc, Diploma, etc.).
Track 2: “Fellowships for Excellence” program
Eligibility: Applicants must either already hold or anticipate to receive before enrollment a university degree that qualifies them for a PhD program at the University of Basel (MSc, Diploma, etc.). In exceptional cases, outstanding students with a BSc degree are also eligible to apply to the “Fellowships for Excellence” program; they however will have to pass additional courses at the Biozentrum after acceptance. PhD students who already have enrolled at the Biozentrum or plan to start their PhD thesis before September 1 of the same year as the open call are not eligible to apply to the “Fellowships for Excellence” program.
Registration: Open calls usually start on February 1 and end on June 30. Within that time, candidates can submit an online application (Link to webpage). For the application, electronic copies of the diploma/MSc degree with grades and transcripts as pdf files, a CV or scientific résumé (maximum one page, pdf format), a description of research interests in general and one with a specific focus on a potential PhD thesis at the Biozentrum as well as the names and contact information of 2 referees from the candidate’s previous academic environment (usually faculty members) are required. The referees will be contacted automatically and will be asked for an online evaluation as well as a reference letter. Further information about the application procedure will be made available to the candidates upon registration and submission of their application.
Selection procedure: After the closing date for the open call, complete applications will be evaluated by all of the group leaders of the Biozentrum. The “Fellowships for Excellence” program committee will identify 20-30 candidates for the next round of evaluation based on the applications and the feedback from their peers. Successful candidates will be shortlisted by the end of July and invited to the Biozentrum for an interview week at the end of August (travel and accommodation provided by the “Fellowships for Excellence” program). In preparation for this interview week, candidates are expected to think about different research groups of interest in order to organize individual interviews with specific group leaders and lab visits. In addition to these interviews, candidates present their research in a 20-minutes seminar to the “Fellowships for Excellence” committee and other interested group leaders of the Biozentrum, followed by a 10 minute Q&A session. A dinner with the group leaders of the Biozentrum and a dinner with the PhD student club of the Biozentrum (http://phdstudents.biozentrum.unibas.ch/) provide further opportunities for interactions and exchange of ideas. From the 20-30 candidates invited to the interview week, a maximum of 10 will be offered a “Fellowships for Excellence” award immediately at the end of this week. A formal note of acceptance of a fellowship by the candidates is then required by the end of September. Selected fellows are expected to organize their rotations and start with their PhD within six months after acceptance into the program.
Rotations and thesis: “Fellowships for Excellence” PhD students will perform 1-2 (in rare cases 3) 2-month rotations in different research groups. Only at the end of the rotations, the fellows are expected to decide on the research group for their PhD thesis (pending on approval of the respective group leader). As for the Track 1 PhD students (who directly applied to an individual group leader), the “Fellowships for Excellence” PhD theses underlie the general rules and guidelines of the University of Basel and the Biozentrum (http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/fileadmin/redaktion/Education/documents/phd_program_guidelines.pdf). While the “Fellowships for Excellence” cover the salary of the fellows for 3 years (including rotations), group leaders and fellows are expected to together identify alternative funding in case the PhD thesis exceeds this time.
Important dates for the next open call
Start of online applications: February, 2014
Closing date for applications: June 30, 2014
Notification of shortlisted candidates: end of July 2014
Interview days: last week of August, 2014
Decision of acceptance: end of September 2014
Start of rotations/thesis: before the end of March 2015