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Doctorate at ZALF

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Successful defence by Cheng Chen


By obtaining a doctorate at ZALF, many young researchers have already laid the foundation for a successful career within and beyond academia. A structured doctoral programme, a good supervision relationship based on agreed standards and central support are characteristics of a doctorate supervised at ZALF.


Becoming a ZALF doctoral researcher

There are several ways to pursue a dissertation with ZALF. Jointly appointed professors and private lecturers at ZALF can act as university supervisors. It is also possible to choose a ZALF external professor as main supervisor while being (co-) supervised by ZALF researchers in a joint supervision committee. PhD positions at ZALF are usually funded via third-party funded research projects, less frequently, institutionally funded research projects. Please have a look at our vacancies site for current opportunities. PhD candidates with individual scholarships are also supervised at ZALF. If you consider applying for an individual scholarship and seek for a supervision at ZALF, please visit our website first and contact respective ZALF researchers directly.


Quality standards for the promotion phase

We strive to ensure good quality standards for conducting doctoral research while taking into account and making the best use of the diversity of conditions faced by doctoral researchers at ZALF, due to different scientific disciplines, the financial basis of their work, the doctoral regulations of supervising universities, and also the cultural-linguistic background and family commitments. With this in mind, rules have been agreed upon and laid down in an internal "Guideline for conducting doctoral research projects at ZALF". They aim to promote high quality doctoral theses that can be completed in a reasonable time, to provide support to pursue further goals for career development and to continuously improve a culture of Good Scientific Practice both in the conduct and supervision of doctoral research.


ZALF Supervision Committee

An essential part of the quality standard for supervision at ZALF is a Supervision Committee for all doctoral researchers, which, depending on the individual case, directly includes the university supervisor but as a minimum is coordinated with him or her in all essential points. In addition to two scientific supervisors, an independent mentor is part of the committee. Regular progress meetings and a career orientation talk are mandatory elements. Workshops for exchange and further training are regularly offered for supervisors.


Structured doctoral programme and further funding

A structured programme provides orientation along key milestones, ZALF-internal networking and feedback via PhD Colloquia, participation in interdisciplinary in-house trainings to develop key competencies for a successful doctorate (project planning and management for the PhD; scientific writing and publishing; presentation at international conferences), and financial support for further individual training courses or summer schools, for example at the Potsdam Graduate Schoolnew tab icon and other partners. Provided certain prerequisites are met, advanced doctoral researchers can apply for follow-up funding for up to 6 months after the end of their third-party funded project, in order to complete their doctorate (for details see documents).



ZALF's PhD-Day is an annual event that offers alternative, creative presentation and exchange formats with and for early career researchers. It is mainly organized by the doctoral representatives. The event generally focusses on a specific topic of interest for PhDs and takes place under broad participation of ZALF. Last but not least, this day is very suitable for those interested in a doctorate to get an impression of ZALF and connect.

Get an impresstion of a past PhD-Day.


Doctoral Representation and internal network at ZALF

The representatives act as the interface between the doctoral students on the one hand and the management and internal committees of ZALF on the other hand. They are elected each year from the group of doctoral students. They represent the interests of the doctoral students in internal committees and also try to be supportive in the daily scientific work. They promote the exchange among doctoral students, for example through PhD cafés on current topics, the organization of the annual PhD Day and the organization of communication, also via social media.


Contact persons

For general questions regarding a doctorate with a connection to ZALF, please contact the coordinator for early career researchers (Contact Young Researchers' Coordination Office).

Further information can be found under contact persons.

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