Frequently Asked Questions about the IMPRS-BAC application

October 19, 2023


Q: When will the next call for application be announced?

A: A new call for application has been announced in October 2023. The deadline to submit written applications is the 5th of January 2024. We do not accept any materials after the application has closed. The deadline for recommendation letters is the 12th of January 2024.


Q: Is there an application fee?

A: No, there is no application fee.


Q: I already have a doctorate. Can I apply to the IMPRS?

A: In Germany, you cannot receive another doctorate in the same field twice. If in doubt, contact the PhD coordinator. However, the majority of our doctoral students come to us for their first doctorate.


Q: I have a bachelor's degree. Can I apply to the IMPRS?

A: While it is common to start a PhD with a bachelor’s degree in the US, this is not possible in most European universities. You need to have master's degree. Nevertheless, exceptional candidates with a bachelor's degree in the computational/mathematical sciences and aiming for a doctorate in those fields can apply to the "preparatory program". You can tick a box to that effect in the application form. In the preparatory program you will be required to take lectures at the Freie Universität Berlin for the first 18 months, and then take an oral qualifying exam. Upon passing this exam, you may start your doctoral project. You may gain a master's degree in the preparatory program. Depending on your background, some knowledge of German may be essential, as some lectures at that level are given in German only.

If your degree is in the biological sciences and you are aiming for a lab-based doctorate, unfortunately we cannot offer you entry into the preparatory program.


Q: I have a 5-year combined bachelor and master degree. Can I apply to the IMPRS?

A: Yes.


Q: My degree will be granted in January/February/March... . Can I apply to the IMPRS?

A: You must have completed your master's degree by the time you start your doctoral project. We would like all new students to attend a Welcome Week in November 2024. This means that in most cases, your degree should be granted by October 2024. Exceptions may be possible.


Q: Do I need to apply for funding separately?

A: No. All accepted candidates will receive an offer of funding.


Q: Do I need to contact a potential supervisor before submitting my application?

A: No. You may contact them, e.g. if you have a scientific question about a proposal you are tailoring to fit their group. However, a lack of response does not mean that this PI is not interested in you - they may simply not have the time to reply to everyone.


Q: What should a letter of motivation include?

A: You should describe in one to two pages why you would like to pursue a PhD within the IMPRS for Biology And Computation. Explain why you want to pursue a career in these fields, what your research interests are, and how this graduate program is best suited to help you achieve your goals. You can also include details of research experience, internships, employment, extracurricular activities and any other information (e.g., publications) that are relevant to your application. Your letter of motivation must be written in English. 


Q: Do I need to use one of the short proposals given on your website?

A: No. You may use them as a starting point for a longer proposal but you can also submit an idea of your own. Please make sure it is within the scope of our research school.


Q: What should a proposal include?

A: It should be about 2-3 pages long and include a title, a brief introduction to the field, the research question you wish to ask, some methods you would use to answer this question, if possible some speculation as to the impact of the potential results, and finally references. Moreover, we encourage you to explain how you plan to include both sides of the experimental-theoretical spectrum in your project. For instance, how could laboratory experiments help support the conclusions of your bioinformatics project? Which bioinformatics tools do you plan to include in your wet laboratory project? Your proposal must be written in English. Please also mention which research group is targeted by your project proposal. 


Q: Do I need to provide several proposals if I am interested in more than one group?

A: No, please submit only one research proposal based on a single project. You can indicate your interests in the other groups in the "Research interests" section. You can also include a note in your motivation letter or at the top of your research proposal, explaining that this is just one of the projects you are applying for, mentioning the others.


Q: Why do I need to provide the names of the PIs I am interested in already now?

A: This way we can ensure that your application will be seen by the most suitable faculty members. If you are invited for an interview and your preferences change in the meantime, this is not a problem and you will have a chance to speak to the PIs whose research is most interesting to you at that point.


Q: Are all faculty members recruiting this year?

A: No. You can assume everyone who has provided short proposals here is interested in hiring a student this year. But there may be other faculty members who are also recruiting. As this may depend on available third-party funding, this information is liable to change up until the interview days.


Q: I may not be able to attend the interview days. Is this a problem?

A: We would prefer it if everyone who is invited to the interview attends them in person. However, in some cases, visa processing times may not permit attendance and we will interview you via video call. During the pandemic, personal interviews may not be possible at all.


Q: Will you pay for my trip to attend the interview days?

A: Yes, up to a reasonable limit, if interviews take place in person (depending on the pandemic). We will also provide accommodation for the duration in Berlin.


Q: I missed the deadline, can I still apply?

A: Not through the application platform. We have one central admission round per year, which is open from October to January, with selection taking place in March/April. Successful candidates can start between April and November (exceptions possible). If you are looking for a PhD position at short notice, you can try to contact participating PIs directly.


Q: How to choose my referees?

A. You should spend enough time choosing suitable referees as they give extra information about your academic and lab performance, skills, character, and conduct and this can decide whether you are offered a PhD position or not. The best reference letters are provided by people who know you well. We recommend you pick persons you worked very closely with, your current/previous supervisor, mentor, boss, teacher, lecturer or tutor. Please provide their institutional email address. Never use a friend or family member as a referee. 


Q: How will my referees be contacted?

A: When completing your application, you need to supply the email addresses of two referees. Your referees will be automatically contacted by email AFTER YOU SUBMIT THE FULL APPLICATION and asked to fill out an online reference form. Any other reference letter format is invalid.

The deadline for referees is one week later than the deadline for applicants, i.e., 12th of January 2024. Letters of recommendation are not accepted after this deadline. Please give your referees enough time to do so by submitting early, notify them that they will receive an email from, so it is not deleted or overlooked, and encourage them to submit their reference letter in a timely manner. If your referees have not received the email, it is suggested to check the spam folder.

You will be able to see whether your letters of reference have been uploaded in "My progress" on the left-hand side of your application page. For this, log in at using the username and password set when you created your DRS account. 


Q: I submitted my application but my referees have still not received an email asking them to submit their reference letter. What can I do?

A: The email sent by may be in their spam folder. Please ask them to check.


Q: Can I submit additional reference letters with my application?

A: No. Only reference letters provided through the application platform by your two referees will be accepted. Faxed, mailed or emailed reference letters will not be considered.


Q: I submitted my application but I have not received any confirmation email.  Did I do everything correctly?

A: Yes, we do not send confirmation emails. You can check the status of your application in "My progress" on the left hand side of your application page. For this, log in at using the usename and password set when you created your DRS account. 


Q: Can I change my application after submission?

A: No. Once your application has been submitted, revisions cannot be made anymore. Please review your application carefully before submitting it.


If you have any additional questions, please contact

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