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Course Information

Course Structure & Info


The program's objective is to investigate the complex interactions between host and pathogen as well as basic research with the combined tools of immunology, cell biology and molecular biology. In order to reach this goal, the program consists of a three-year research project as well as taught seminars and the attendance of congresses and practical courses. Not only does the student have the opportunity to work on a long-term research project but also to become familiar with the wide spectrum of pertinent issues in infection biology and develop a wide range of transferable practical skills. Seminars and courses are offered by all four institutions affiliated to the Center for Infection Biology (ZIB).


You can find an overview of the Course Structure by clicking here.


1st Semester

As the PhD program is open to candidates from diverse backgrounds, the first semester, as well as part of the second, concentrates on the fundamental principles of Immunology, Microbiology, Virology, and Cell Biology. These concepts are taught in weekly seminars and provide a uniform basis on which to build during the following three semesters. Work commences simultaneously on the student's research project.


2nd Semester

After finishing the series of introductory seminars, each student is given a valuable opportunity to present the fledgling developments of his/her research project. This enables the student not only to develop his/her presentation skills but to critically analyse their own findings and those of others - central objectives of the program. Further opportunities throughout the course will be on offer to improve these skills.


Alongside the presentations, additional lectures are held which explore specially selected topics in greater depth. The aim of these lectures is to enable students to apply the detailed knowledge gained to aspects of their own projects and beyond.


During the first year, students are also required to regularly attend departmental Journal Clubs and additional scientific lectures and seminars out with ZIB-taught components. Students are also encouraged to start attending relevant practical courses and participate in congresses. In addition to this, at least one poster presentation/talk at a congress is required (over the three year period).


3rd Semester

In the third semester (and at the beginning of the fourth) additional presentations are held by students. These concentrate on the critical presentation of a wide range of papers and reviews from the most relevant journals in the field of infection biology. The presentations are held in a weekly tutorial which all students attend. Each student is required to present an original paper and a research topic based on a review. The topic of the original paper is always related to the general field of the student's research project, requiring the student to research and subsequently present the topic in a succinct and critical way. The subject of the research topic is however not that closely related to the student's general research field and thus provides the student with an opportunity to employ his/her research skills and tackle unknown subjects in a critical manner. Active participation of all students is required for the subsequent discussion.


A retreat is held in the third semester, providing the student with the opportunity to present his/her project to a wider audience, including ZIB supervisors and students from other years/courses.


At the end of the third semester, students also take an intermediate exam. This consists of the presentation of a pre-selected paper and subsequent discussion. The exam aims again to test how well the student can understand and present complex data and in addition to that determine the level of knowledge the student has gained from the taught syllabus so far.


4th Semester

Students are once again given the opportunity to present the current findings of their research projects in front of the class and tutor, giving the student valuable feedback on how they are progressing.



Students continue to take part in practical courses and attend congresses.


5th and 6th Semester

In this part of the course, students concentrate on completing their doctoral thesis. There are no compulsory lectures to attend, however time can be used wisely to attend missed lectures and collect any credit points that are still required e.g. practical courses and congresses.


A retreat also takes place in the final year, providing students with a helpful opportunity to make any necessary final adjustments to their project.


At the end of the 6th Semester, the final exam is taken and doctoral thesis is handed in.

Students are to attain a minimum number of 180 credit points. Credit points are to be earned from a wide range of components. Here, you can find an overview of the Credit Point System.