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Study program IRTG 1525

The iGRAD-Plant program consists of two different studying periods, the qualification and the research period. Students entering the program with a Bachelor's degree will start with the qualification period, whereas students entering with a Master's degree will directly start with the research period. The study program in both periods is further divided in different parts. 

Qualification period

The basic philosophy of our qualification program is that all incoming students with a bachelor's degree will be initially trained in a structured one-year program. During the qualification period, each student will be assigned to a faculty supervisor, who will guide and consult the student in the first year. The qualification period will consist of three 6-week rotation periods in three different laboratories, a structured program of lecture and seminar courses, and is completed by a project proposal for the dissertation phase and a final oral exam. For a more detailed out-line of the structured program see the iGRAD-Plant Handbook (coming soon).

Research period

After successfully passing the qualification period, the students will have up to six months to start their dissertation project and to develop a research proposal, that they will present to their guidance committee. After defending their proposal, the students will move on to the research part of their Ph.D., which is accompanied by mandatory and optional seminars and workshops, and by regular meetings with their guidance committee. Part of the study program will be taken at HHU, other parts can be integrated with a research stay in a host lab at the Michigan State University (MSU). Each graduate student will be required to complete a 6 to 9 months research stay in a lab at MSU. The program is designed to be completed within four years in case of students entering with a bachelor's degree. Students entering the program with a master's or diploma degree will directly enter the research period of the program by doing three 3 week lab rotations, developing and defending their research proposal and will usually complete the program within three years.

Being the basis of the PhD study the research project spans throughout the whole period of the students stay in the program. The research project aims at qualifying the student for independent and professional scientific work. In the beginning of the PhD study the student will choose three different laboratories for the rotation period, according to his/her research interests. During this period the student will learn the fundamentals of scientific methodologies and theories and is getting introduced into the scientific work of the different laboratories. After the rotation period the student will declare preference for a PhD project in one of the laboratories. The student will have to select a graduate guidance committee, consisting of at least three faculty members, with one faculty member serving as the major professor. The guidance committee will have at least one member of the associate faculty of the Michigan State University. Throughout the PhD research project the student will deliver annual reports to the committee members in form of a written report and a presentation/discussion of the project in committee meeting. All students will complete a 6 to 9 months research stay at the Michigan State University. Students will be prepared for the international experience, if necessary, by language classes at HHU. Supervision of graduate students at MSU will be guaranteed by the MSU faculty member being part of the student's guidance committee. In the last semester of the iGRAD-Plant program the student will complete the research project and prepare the PhD thesis report. The student will have to defend the PhD thesis in a public oral exam. The exam has to be taken at least 6 month after handing in the PhD thesis report.

The core research groups of the iGRAD-Plant program offer disciplinary workshops covering topics like Synthetic Biology, Mathematical Modeling, Biostatistics, Quantitative Genetics and more during the qualification period. Furthermore, optional workshops in methods and topics of advanced plant biology will be offered during the dissertation period. During their study the students will be trained in these areas qualifying them to select, apply, and adapt new methods to solve their scientific questions. A particular strength of the iGRAD-Plant program is its strong emphasis on the quantitative aspects of biology, including bioinformatics and computational biology, and biostatistics. Part of the study program will be taken at HHU, whereas other parts can be integrated in the research stay at MSU.

In order to deepen and broaden the theoretical background in plant biology all students need to attend the following lecture series continuously throughout the study program:

  • Plant Biology Seminar (PBS) and Lounge
  • Integrative Topics in Plant Sciences Seminar and Lecture
  • iGRAD-Plant fellow seminar (iFS)

The iGRAD-Plant students will be organizing at least once per semester a lecture unit of the Plant Biology Seminar at HHU. This will allow the students to practice active scientific networking, including selection and invitation of a guest speaker (student invited speaker). The graduate students will also be responsible to host the meeting with the speaker in the PBS Lounge after the seminar. 

During their PhD study the students are obliged to practice communication and presentation skills on several occasions:

  • Progress reports on a regular basis
  • Scientific writing classes
  • Annual project presentations at jointly organized symposiums
  • Attendance of international scientific conferences

The program considers a broad range of national and international demands and suggestions regarding an up to date and forward looking training of PhD students. During one- to two-day workshops the students will be trained by professional experts in the fundamentals of a broad range of transferable skills. They will attend at least three workshops of the program from the fields of:

  • Presentation / Communication / Rhetoric
  • Professional Basics of Teaching and Learning (didactics)
  • Work / Project / Self organization and management
  • Scientific writing / Scientific proposals
  • Information and Time management
  • Good scientific practice
  • Language courses in English and German

Workshops can be chosen from the program of the "Interdisciplinary Graduate and Reseach Academy Düsseldorf (iGRAD). A detailed program of all available workshops can be found at https://www.igrad.hhu.de.

All workshops will be selected from the yearly program on basis of individual learning aims with consulting support by the responsible graduate guidance committee. The Transferable Skills Program in combination with daily practice in the course of the research projects and other areas of the iGRAD-Plant Teaching Program enables the students to build up an individual and sustainable profile of diverse key competences next to an exceptional scientific expertise and professionalism.

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