Qualification Program - Training Program


The training program consists of the thesis research project and additional training activities designed to give the participating doctoral students the possibility to get an insight into the different research areas covered by the GRK.


Thesis Research Project


Each student joins one of the participating groups for his thesis research project, which should be finished in about three years. During this period, the student is assisted and supported by a “Thesis Advisory Committee” consisting of the thesis supervisor and two other group leaders of the program. In regular meetings the committee monitors the progress of the project and provides advice on future directions and decisions. At the end of their Ph.D. students have to submit a written Ph.D. Thesis (English or German) and have to pass an exam (English or German). (Further information: Projects)


Program Curriculum


In addition to carrying out experiments for their thesis at the bench all students should complete a curriculum that should take a maximum of 15% of their time. The curriculum includes the following mandatory elements:

  • 1. GRK seminar (1 hr, weekly throughout the Ph.D.)
  • 2. Lecture series in field of Developmental Biology selected from the program specific offers (1-2 hrs/week, 1 semester)
  • 3. Additional lecture series in field of Developmental Biology selected from the program specific offers, or another advanced lecture course or seminar (1-2 hrs/week, 1 semester)
  • 4. Methods workshops and/or lab exchanges, or other types of practical training (3-5 days/module, 2 modules during the Ph.D.)
  • 5. Joint invited speaker seminar series of the SFB 592, GRK 1104 and GRK 1305 (1hr, weekly throughout the Ph.D.)
  • 6. Soft skill training (1-3 days, once during Ph.D.)
  • 7. Workshop on rules of good scientific practice (half a day, at least once during the first year of the Ph.D.)
  • 8. Program retreats (2-3 days, twice during the Ph.D.)
  • 9. Students are expected to participate in the laboratory/department seminars and journal clubs of the institutes they are working at (1-2 hrs, weekly throughout the Ph.D.). If no journal club is offered they are expected to participate in the Developmental Biology journal club at the Institute of Biology 1 or in an appropriate alternative during 2 semesters.


Program Specific Activities


The study program currently has the following core components:



Frequency& Duration


“Work in progress” GRK 1104 seminar

weekly, (1 hr)

Obligatory for all

Lecture series: “Molecular mechanisms of vertebrate development“ (PIs of GRK 1104 and SFB 592)

weekly, (2 hrs), 1 semester

One of the three obligatory for all

Lecture series: “From genome to organisms: Molecular genetic and cell biological approaches to embryology“ (PIs of GRK 1104 and SFB 592)

weekly, (1 hr), 1 semester


Lecture course “Organogenesis“ (Neubüser)

weekly, (1 hr), 1 semester


Scientific methods and logic course lectures (PIs of IMPRS, MPI Immunobiology)

weekly, (2 hrs), 1 semester


Lecture Course “Animal developmental biology and developmental genetics“ (Driever, Neubüser)

weekly, (2 hrs), 1 semester


Developmental biology journal club (Driever Neubüser, Pyrowolakis)

weekly, (1 hr)


Methods workshops, practical courses and/or lab exchanges (PIs of GRK 1104 and others)

3-5 days

two obligatory for all

Joint invited speaker seminar series of the SFB 592, GRK 1104, and GRK 1305

weekly, (1 hr)

Obligatory for all

Soft skill training

1-3 days

Obligatory for all

Workshop on good scientific practice (PIs of the GRK 1104 and external speaker)

annual, 3-4 hrs

Obligatory for all

Annual Retreat

2-3 days

Obligatory for all

Laboratory and/or department seminars, journal clubs within each institution

weekly, (1-2 hrs)

Obligatory for all


Detailed Description of the Training Program


Lecture course (2 hr, weekly, winter term and 1hr, weekly, summer term)

There are two intermediate level lecture courses, one in the winter and second in summer term. These lecture courses provide a systematic introduction into animal development (Animal developmental biology and developmental genetics, 2hrs, weekly, winter term) and give a systematic overview of the development of all major vertebrate organs (Organogenesis, 1hr, weekly, summer term). Both are ideal to acquire a solid background knowledge in Developmental Biology. (Further information: Lectures)


Lecture series (2hrs, weekly, winter term and 1hr, weekly, summer term)

There are two advanced level lecture series, one in the summer and second in the winter term, each consisting of weekly lectures held by the group leaders of the GRK 1104 and SFB 592. These lectures give an overview of the current knowledge of the molecular regulation of vertebrate development and organogenesis (Molecular Mechanisms of Vertebrate Development, winter term) as well of techniques and approaches used to study developmental mechanisms (From genome to organism: molecular, genetic and cell biological approaches in embryology, summer term). (Further information: Lectures)


Research group seminars and journal club (1hr, weekly)

All participating investigators have weekly progress report seminars, journal clubs or related activities within their institutions. All group leaders, postdocs, Ph.D. students and diploma students of this institutions present on average 1-2 times per year.


Methods Workshops, Practical Courses and Lab Exchanges

These 3-5 day practical training modules for small groups of students provide training in experimental techniques and the use of animal models relevant for modern biomedical research.

Currently the following courses are offered at regular interval:

Annual introductory courses to using Zebrafish, Xenopus, chick and mouse as model organisms; workshops on “Cell culture and biochemistry“; courses on “Advanced imaging techniques in microscopy“ (several courses per year, organized through the Life Imaging Center), annual courses on “Laboratory animal experiments” with a focus on mouse experiments, (FELASA type B certified, organized in cooperation with the BioMed center of the University Hospital), 5 day courses in genomics, proteomics and metabolomics that organized at least once per year by the core facilities of the newly opened ZBSA (Zentrum fuer Biosystemanalyse).
In addition all participating laboratories also offer ad hoc training of individual students or small groups (2-3 students) in specific techniques used routinely in that lab (e.g. real time PCR, FACS analysis, histology methods, in situ hybridization).

Seminars by invited External Speakers (weekly or bi-weekly)

Leading scientists in the various fields relevant to the Research Training Program are invited to present and discuss their latest results and ideas in a series of weekly seminars. All students have the opportunity to suggest speakers and host them. The speakers are always exclusively available for the doctoral students in a beer-and-brezel hour immediately after the talk, and individual meetings with the guest scientist are arranged on demand.  (Further information: Seminars)


Soft-Skill Courses

The presentation of scientific data in a written form (thesis, paper, poster) or as an oral presentation is an important and often underrepresented aspect of scientific training. In order to improve these skills two-day workshops covering oral presentation, scientific writing and poster presentations are offered several times per year. Additional courses cover project management, intellectual property rights or didactics. These courses are organized through the International Graduate Academy (IGA) and the Center for Soft Skills (ZFS) of the University in close cooperation with the Spemann School of Biology and Medicine (SGBM).  In addition to this the Research Training Program offers a half-day workshop on good scientific practice once a year to make students aware of the rules of good scientific practice and to give them criteria to recognize and avoid scientific misconduct. (Further information: Practical Courses)


Retreats, Scientific Meetings and Conferences:

To foster discussions and exchange students of the Research Training Program organize 2-3 day retreats and 1-2 day mini-symposia with invited speakers at regular intervals. Students are encouraged to present their data at these meetings, but also at other international conferences outside Freiburg. Travel funds are available for the attendance of meetings and scientific courses. (Further information: Other Events

Working abroad

If required by the project the Ph.D.-Students can join workgroups abroad for a certain period of time. Funds to cover the expenses are available. In addition we encourage and support student exchange within Finnish German Doctoral Training Network (FinGerDevNet).