The Biozentrum International Fellowship Program in Molecular Life Sciences 2017, Basel, Switzerland

Publish Date: Feb 03, 2017

Deadline: Jun 21, 2017

Prestigious and sought after fellowships

The International PhD Program in Molecular Life Sciences invites motivated young scientists from all over the world to apply for a PhD student position at the Biozentrum of the University of 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, 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.

Prestigious and sought after fellowships

“Fellowships for Excellence” PhD students perform one to two (in rare cases three) two-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). The “Fellowships for Excellence” PhD theses underlie the general rules and guidelines of the University of Basel and the Biozentrum. The “Fellowships for Excellence” cover the salary of the fellows for three years (including rotations). Should the PhD thesis exceed this time, group leaders and fellows are expected to together identify alternative funding. 

In addition, other incentives are offered to “Fellowships for Excellence” PhD students to support their scientific and personal growth. Currently the following perks are in place (annual changes may apply): 

  • 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 
  • scientific meetings and networking opportunities with current “Fellowships for Excellence” students and alumni
  • personal certificate of acceptance into the “Fellowships for Excellence” program
  • support for the preparation of the personal CV and postdoctoral application by Biozentrum faculty members in the “Fellowships for Excellence” committee
  • financial support for travel to postdoctoral interviews at the end of the PhD thesis

Conditions and application

Before enrollment, applicants must either already hold or anticipate to receive 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.

Open calls usually start on February 1 and end on June 20. Within that time, candidates can submit an online application. 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.

Important dates for the next open call
Start of online applications: February, 2017
Closing date for applications: June 20, 2017
Notification of shortlisted candidates: end of June 2017
Interview days: 21. - 25. August, 2017
Decision of acceptance: mid of September 2017
Start of rotations/thesis: before the end of March 2018

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 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.


Basel is an international center for biology research, with major academic institutions and research departments of leading Life Science and Biotech companies. 

Basel is a small metropolis inhabited by 200’000 people from 160 countries. It offers a high standard of living and with its nearly 40 museums, its theaters and music festivals it is very rich in culture. Being located in north-western Switzerland directly bordering to France and Germany, Basel is also an excellent starting point to explore Switzerland and the neighboring countries.


With the generous support of the Werner Siemens-Foundation 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). In the coming years, a growing number of alumni will facilitate the networking amongst current and former fellows.


The committee is made up of one representative from each Focal Area. The term of office is five years. The program lead rotates within the committee. 
Christoph Handschin (Head of Program) 
Prof. Dr. Marek Basler
Prof. Dr. T. Mrsic-Flogel 
Prof. Dr. T. Maier 
Prof. Dr. E. van Nimwegen

For more information click "Further official information" below.

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