Graduate School for Cellular and Biomedical Sciences (GCB)

MD-PhD Program & MD-PhD Scholarships

MD-PhD Program

The MD-PhD Program enables medical students with an interest in research to prepare them for a career in medical research. Medical research encompasses all forms of research into the causes of diseases, the development of diseases, as well as the scientific debate of their prevention, detection and treatment, and includes patient-oriented clinical research.

The MD-PhD program includes teaching and research modules. Successful graduates can obtain the doctoral title «Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy (MD,PhD)» or «PhD in Health Sciences (Clinical Sciences)», depending on the subject of the research project, and according to the regulations of the Graduate Schools GCB or GHS.

Successful completion of studies in human medicine, veterinary medicine or dentistry is mandatory to sign up for the MD-PhD Program. The goal is to equip MD-PhD graduates with the required scientific competence, which enables them to contribute to disease- and patient-oriented research. Preferentially, they should not lose contact with the clinic and complete their clinical training, or pursue a career in a medical research institute after completion of the MD-PhD training.

For MD-PhD graduates who are pursuing a clinical activity, specialist training FMH is still essential. In some disciplines, it is possible to take into account one to two years of the MD-PhD Program for the specialist training. Candidates are advised to seek information about this possibility within the relevant medical specialization.

Becoming a Researcher: The MD-PhD Program

At the beginning of the third year of medical studies, the lecture «Karriereplanung» also includes information on the MD-PhD Program, and interested medical students can contact the coordinator of the Graduate School for personal assistance in putting together an individual training program.

The MD-PhD Program consists of a basic training and of the PhD thesis.

During the basic training, comprising 25 ECTS credit points, the students complete additional course work in subjects which are suitable for preparing them for their particular research project (e.g. cell biology/biochemistry, molecular biology, immunology, neurobiology, tumor biology, etc.). A maximum of 10 ECTS can be acquired with experimental work during an internship of three to six months in a research laboratory (1 ECTS per week of laboratory work & written report), or by conducting an experimental MD thesis. The research part of the medical dissertation is, as far as possible, also completed during the medical studies, and will lead to the title of «Dr. med.», according to the doctoral regulations of the Faculty of Medicine. On request, the experimental work can also be conducted outside the University of Bern.
The basic training can be carried out either in parallel to the medical studies during the fourth to sixth year (Track I), or during the research work for the PhD thesis (Track II). Track I Students receive personal mentoring by experienced researchers.

The place of work for the PhD thesis should be chosen as early as possible, and a master thesis based on experimental research is recommended in order to gain insight into research methods. The rules for conducting the PhD thesis are based on the guidelines of the PhD Programs of the Graduate Schools ( & In the course of the PhD studies, clinical activity with a maximum of 20% of the working time is possible and also recommended.
Candidates are advised to start the PhD thesis immediately after the state exam; as a rule, it takes three to four years. It is possible and makes sense that the PhD thesis is a (non-overlapping) continuation and deepening of the MD (Dr. med.) thesis. In exceptional cases, the MD-PhD Program can be joined even after initial clinical training. In such cases, the PhD Committee of the Graduate School decides on a case-by-case basis on the admission to Track II. Track II Students should already have completed a medical doctorate (Dr. med.) and should aim at acquiring the required ECTS at the beginning of their MD-PhD studies (i.e., in the first year).
The institute or laboratory where MD-PhD studies are carried out must document a high-quality research activity and ensure comprehensive supervision and guidance for doctoral candidates. The head of the dissertation must be involved in research in the field of the planned dissertation, during at least 30% of the working hours, and as a rule, be a recipient of SNSF funding as main applicant.

Application for the MD-PhD Program Track I

Interested candidates should contact PD Dr. Monica Schaller, Coordinator, for an appointment.

MD-PhD consulting on Wednesday mornings, by telephone 9:00 – 10:00 only, after appointment

Please send an email to the GCB Coordinator, PD Dr. Monica Schaller to make an appointment if you seek advice to organize your MD-PhD. Consultation hour will be once a week (Wednesday morning) from 9:00-10:00 by telephone only due to the COVID-19 pandemic regulations of the University of Bern. Thank you for your cooperation and understanding.


Applications should subsequently be sent to the GCB, using the MD-PhD Program Application Form.