Core Training

Training and PhD candidate education is very important and plays a major role in our doctoral school.  Here we list the main elements of the core training that are necessary, we also encourage students to organize their own courses and activities to foster interdisciplinary exchange.

To collect the 30 ECTS points required for your graduation, you need to sign up for the main elements of the core training here.

Main Elements

At the beginning of their PhD training, students must participate in the ‘Priming your PhD' introductory course. This three-week course aims to prime skills and competencies that are essential for a successful PhD and to form a strong peer group. The course takes place twice a year: in January for the Summer Class and in June/July for the Winter class. With this course we expect students:

  • To Develop scientific reasoning skills (SR): How to critically evaluate and integrate scientific lectures, literature and data Raise Awareness of different technologies and experimental approaches
  • To improve communication skills (CS): Scientific writing Presenting At the workplace (interpersonal communication) Strengthen the PhD student’s network and resourcefulness on campus (NR)

This module is to prepare the students to successfully completing a PhD and move towards the next career step. Each student is required to create a career development plan early in their PhD. Additionally, students will participate in a half-day workshop that teaches conflict, stress and time management, as well as professional development tools as a follow-up of the Prime your PhD course (1 ECTS).

The interdisciplinary "Monday Seminar" is a 15-min presentation given by every PhD student and postdoc every 1-1.5 years, followed by a feedback session with the faculty.
Every Monday from 12.30 to 13.30 in the IMP lecture hall three speakers present in front of other PhD students, post docs and members of the faculty. 

As soon as you join the campus, a seminar will be scheduled for you here.

The purpose of Monday Seminars

The scientific world demands effective communication. The ability to give a good presentation and convey ideas succinctly is built up through a lot of practice as well as constructive criticism. In summary, the benefits of the Monday seminars are two-fold. One, this is essential in the academic development of a PhD student, and two, it helps to nourish an intellectually stimulating environment at the BioCenter. The Mattias Lauwers award will be presented on an annual basis to the PhD student who delivers the best presentation.

Useful facts

Speakers are responsible for the organization of a chairperson. The role of the chairperson is the same as in any scientific meeting: To lead the discussion, make sure the speaker keeps to time and for asking a question (in moments of silence). In addition, they will briefly introduce the speaker.

The time for each presentation is 15 min (plus 5 minutes for discussion). No overtime will be tolerated. It is the job of the chair to look after this. Also please remember that you have a multidisciplinary audience, i.e. do not save time by shortening the introduction. 

Changes (to the schedule) can only be made under exceptional circumstances – “lack of data” will not be accepted as an excuse. All changes have to be approved by Manuela Steurer at the IMP (ext. 3002). 

Faculty will stay behind after each Monday’s session together with the speakers to give specific feedback on the seminar and to discuss the presentation style.


  • Be selective: pick one project out of the many you may have
  • Techniques should be kept to an absolute minimum
  • Be simple, clear and precise
  • Remember that your target audience comes from a broad scientific background
  • Rough guide: 7min intro, 7min results/conclusions, 1min future plans
  • Remember the 3 Ps: Preparation, Planning and Practice

Journal clubs teach critical reading of relevant literature. They are organized by topic-related labs and facilitate staying on top of the relevant literature in a certain field. They also invite deep discussions on a research topic examining experiments done by collaborators as well as competitors, learning about new techniques, and finding inspiration for future work of their own. Journal clubs and the collaborative reading of the literature also aids to learning about other groups in the field who could be reached out to for future career steps.

Work in progress meetings provide feedback on new data, experimental challenges, as well as guidance on how to drive progress forward - from a group of researchers in the field. These can be within one lab, or overarching multiple labs that can give specific and relevant feedback.

If you need an updated list of journal clubs and work in progress meetings running on campus contact the Scientific Training Unit.

RISE Lectures (Research/Inspiration/Support/Empowerment): Students are supported by the VBC faculty in inviting ten internationally renowned scientists per year to give a talk at the VBC Campus, as part of the established and prestigious VBC lecture series. RISE lectures are preceded by one short talk held by a PhD student whose research falls into the speaker’s field.

Student-organized Activities

During the Annual Retreat, PhD students will form important social and professional interactions. They will bring posters and give flash-talks, preceding discussions at the posters. The retreat also entails team building activities. Attendance is strongly encouraged but is limited to 150 participants/year, on a first-come-first-serve basis. Organization will be in the hands of the students.

How do you do it? – in short HDYDI – is an informal monthly seminar series where PhD students and postdocs teach their peers about something they have become an expert in. The subject could be a specific method, technique or piece of equipment, but also a skill or a life hack that lets them thrive in Science. 

PhD students regularly attending the HDYDI series can collect 1 ECTS per year.

The slides and/or recordings of the past seminars are uploaded in the Expert User Group platform (see below).

The platform collecting all material from HDYDI seminars it's open to all students, postdocs, and group leaders so that everybody can profit from the specific expertise in the program. It can be found in the password protected area "For Internal Use Only".

PhD students presenting in the HDYDI series can collect 2 ECTS per uploaded contribuition.