PhD Program

The PhD program usually lasts three years and offers structured post-graduate training in experimental research. Applications to the Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences must be submitted to the coordinator no later than four months after the start of the research project. The University regulations require enrollment until the successful completion of studies. If the thesis is submitted before January 31 or July 31 and the defense takes place before the start of the new semester, i.e. by week 7 or 37 respectively, enrollment in the following semester is no longer required.


Each student is supervised by a thesis committee consisting of a supervisor, a co-advisor and a mentor.

The supervisor is responsible for the research project, the laboratory infrastructure, adequate supervision and the salary of the student according to SNSF guidelines.

The co-advisor must not be from the same institute as the supervisor, but should be an expert in the research area of the thesis project. The co-advisor is obliged to meet with the student at least twice a year to discuss and assess progress of the thesis work and advise and support the student. It lies in the students' responsibility to organize these meetings.

The mentor is assigned by the GCB; he/she decides with the student and the supervisor upon the training program (see below, «Training»).

Details of the doctoral work and individual training are agreed upon at the start of the PhD in a meeting between the student, the supervisor, and the mentor, and are specified in the doctoral agreement form. Please refer to the doctoral agreement module on the ILIAS GCB101 site for the tutorial video, checklist, and appropriate forms.

Doctoral Agreement
Doctoral Agreements (DA) are "living documents". This means your DA is a type of document that is created with a defined mechanism and process to edit, manage, control, review, revise, update, share and communicate each updated version of the document accurately and efficiently. Any changes in your doctoral studies during your program require an updated version of your DA. The courses listed as mandatory on your Doctoral Agreement must be the same courses you have listed in your CTS/KSL planning when you are ready to submit your final PhD thesis. It is advisable to download the latest form from the GCB website. Forms change from time-to-time and you will need to use the most current form which can be found on the ILIAS GCB101 site.


The research project is carried out in a laboratory affiliated to one of the participating Faculties or at a research institution recognized by the GCB. In addition to the research work, the training program requires a minimal number of 6.0 ECTS which can be obtained by participating in approved, scientifically oriented, project related courses, workshops, seminars and lectures during the first 18 months of the doctoral training period. The individual training program assigned to each student takes into account the student's previous training and relevance to the research work. MD-PhD and DDS-PhD students require 25 ECTS in addtion to the aforementioned 6.0 ECTS, totaling 31 ECTS required to complete their doctoral studies. Students from applied science institutions (Fachhochschule) require minimum 6.0 ECTS and 30-60 ECTS total.

Mandatory Curriculum Requirements

  1. Minimum 6.0 ECTS (for PhD students) of scientifically oriented courses, of which at least 3.0 ECTS must be lecture courses or book clubs which include a graded examination.
    MD-PhD, DDS-PhD, DVM-PhD Students require 25 ECTS in addtion to the aforementioned 6.0 ECTS, totaling 31 ECTS required to complete their doctoral studies. Students from applied science institutions (Fachhochschule) require minimum 6.0 ECTS and 30-60 ECTS total.
  2. Participating in the course “Scientific Integrity
  3. Attendance and participation in the GCB Symposium starting the 2nd year of the PhD studies

Passing the exams of the «Mandatory requirements» (max. 2 attempts) is an obligatory prerequisite to continue with the PhD program (see «Promotionsreglement», Art. 92 and Art. 191).

Progress in the PhD program and the research project is documented in the annual Progress Report. The GCB application date is taken as reference date for the submission of progress reports; i.e., the first progress report is due one year after application to the GCB. In good time before each deadline, PhD candidates are invited by e-mail to submit their progress reports.

Using the Evaluation Form Progress Report the mentors assess the Progress Reports and submit the evaluation forms to the coordinator of the GCB.

Within the time frame of 18 to max. 24 months after the start of the project, in-depth knowledge of the research field and progress of the project must be documented in a scientific presentation. Please refer to the ILIAS GCB101 site for the mid-term evaluation tutorial video, checklist and forms.