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Agreement with your doctoral supervisor

Once you have made a successful application to become a doctoral researcher at Forschungszentrum Jülich, you have to obtain formal approval for the subject of your thesis from your doctoral supervisor at university and the relevant supervisor at Jülich. The subject of your thesis is included in the so-called doctoral agreement. This agreement is a supplementary part of your contract of employment and contains a summary of the doctoral project (topic, funding period, university involved, responsible specialist). It is signed by the doctoral researcher and by the head of institute.

In addition, a project plan is agreed on which includes the following information:

  • Timetable
  • List of the relevant work packages for the entire period, including at least three months to write the doctoral thesis, or specific periods of time to write publications in the case of a cumulative doctoral thesis
  • Risk assessment (e.g. statements on what is needed to ensure the timetable can be adhered to)

You will draft and update the documentation for the doctoral project at specific points in time and in consultation with your doctoral supervisor, the head of institute, and the scientific supervisor.

Framework conditions for doctoral researchers

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Monitoring by the Doctoral Committee

The doctoral agreement and the project documentation are checked by the Doctoral Committee. Members of the Committee are heads of institutes, scientists, and the head of the Human Resources department. The Committee verifies that all formal criteria have been fulfilled for the planned doctoral degree and that the necessary documents have been submitted. Particular attention is paid to the project plan and the timetable as well as confirmation of scientific supervision.

Doctoral Committee

The process of obtaining a PhD

When preparing the project plan together with your supervisor, you should include everything necessary to meet the requirements of the university conferring the doctoral degree. The requirements vary from university to university. You are advised to find out at an early stage from your university which courses and exams you must take, the formal requirements the thesis has to meet, and how to publish your thesis, etc.

Your doctoral thesis is the written culmination of your research project. In Germany, your thesis will usually be reviewed by two academics. If your thesis has been accepted by the university, you may have to defend your thesis in an oral exam known as rigorosum or disputation depending on the university you have chosen. This usually takes the form of an interview-style question-and-answer session in a semi-public forum. The committee will sometimes ask additional questions about scientific issues. Once this has been successfully completed, the university can confer the title. Doctoral degree regulations (Promotionsordnung) occasionally specify that the right to bear the doctoral title is only granted after publication of the thesis.

Good scientific practice

All employees must adhere to the Rules for Upholding Good Scientific Practice at Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH. These rules have been in force since 1 January 2002. The head of each organizational unit is responsible for ensuring that those affected are familiar with the contents of the set of regulations and responsibilities derived from them. Good scientific practice is based on the principles of scientific honesty, conscientiousness, integrity and open discourse. The Science and Ethics Working Group, composed of thinkers from the natural sciences and humanities, offers ethical guidance on research projects at Forschungszentrum Jülich.

Rules for Upholding Good Scientific Practice

Assistance in case of queries

Should you have any queries or differences of opinion during the doctoral process, you can contact Personnel Management (P-B). The team at P-B may be able to offer the necessary assistance. In addition, the Doctoral Committee takes on the role of an ombudsman. You can contact a member of the Doctoral Committee and all of its members will treat your case confidentially.

Ombudsman function for doctoral supervision

Transferable-skills courses

All doctoral researchers have to complete the basic curriculum in order to promote their doctoral research project independent of their field of research. They can participate in additional courses with the approval of their supervisor if the courses are considered useful for their project or their personal development. The structured programme will be available for all doctoral researchers from 2019.

Learn from successful doctoral researchers

You have many tasks to cope while completing your PhD: pursuing your research work, integrating into the research team, publishing research results, attending training courses. It is also useful to network with fellow researchers and scientists. Jülich offers many opportunities to help support you in becoming a successful scientist. Dr. Catalin Voiniciuc, for example, who was awarded the Jülich Excellence Prize, advises doctoral researchers on how to aim high and persevere with their work: “If you really work hard and don’t give up, then you can accomplish anything. Forschungszentrum Jülich provides all the opportunities you could wish for.”

The Jülich Excellence Prize is awarded to internationally successful early-career scientists whose ideas have provided decisive stimulus in their respective areas of research. The distinction is awarded on the basis of an outstanding PhD thesis, the main parts of which were written at Jülich, combined with excellent achievements during the subsequent one to two years of the postdoc. In 2017, three researchers received this prize for their ideas on how to make an outstanding contribution to science. Dr. Christoph Bäumer, Dr. Félix Urbain, and Dr. Catalin Voiniciuc worked on the grand challenges of the future: memory elements for computer technology, solar cells and plants providing sustainable biomass fuel. The outstanding researchers explain their research in videos linked below.

Another prize awarded to doctoral researchers is the Helmholtz Doctoral Prize. This programme is aimed at early-career scientists who received their doctoral degree within the previous year at a Helmholtz Centre with outstanding results and who have distinguished themselves through their scientific excellence and personal commitment during their doctorates. Their research must also be related to the Helmholtz mission and they must wish to pursue a career in research.

Funding programmes and awards for doctoral researchers and early-career scientists

Careers made in Jülich, Dr. Catalin Voiniciuc wins the Jülich Excellence (scroll down to the video in English)

Helmholtz Doctoral Prize