CEPLAS Graduate School

The CEPLAS Graduate School offers a structured four-to-five-year doctoral program covering the fields of molecular plant sciences, plant genetics, plant-microbe interactions, synthetic biology as well as quantitative and computational biology.  The program is jointly organised by the Universities of Düsseldorf and Cologne, the Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research and the Forschungszentrum Jülich and it leads students with a Bachelor’s degree through a unique qualification phase to the PhD. PhD students work in one (or sometimes two) of the CEPLAS member laboratories on a topic related to the CEPLAS research program. CEPLAS Graduate School members benefit from comprehensive training programs that address their academic as well as career development aspirations and needs. 

What we offer – at a glimpse

  • A stimulating research environment focussing on plant science
  • PhD projects cover topics including molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, developmental biology, plant-microbe interactions, synthetic biology and computational biology, all using state-of-the-art technology and computational analyses
  • A comprehensive training program in scientific and transferable skills, starting with a 1-year qualification phase that includes lectures, exercises and lab rotations
  • A comprehensive career development support and employer networking
  • Funding for up to five years
  • Additional funding to attend conferences and workshops
  • Funding for a research period in a laboratory abroad (Mobility Fund).
  • Help with organisational issues (e.g. visa, health insurance etc.)
  • No tuition fees are charged


During the one-year qualification phase, CEPLAS Graduate School students receive a stipend of 800 €/month to cover their expenses for cost of living.  During their dissertation research phase, CEPLAS PhD students receive a contract according to German pay scale (E12/E13) for up to four years. This contract includes benefits according to German law (health insurance, unemployment insurance, etc.).  Funding is dependent on successful performance.  PhD students who fail during the qualification period (e.g. do not pass the subject modules with the necessary performance) can continue by pursuing a Master´s degree outside the CEPLAS Graduate School.
There are no tuition fees associated with this program, except for an approx. 300 € fee per semester for enrolment at the University. This grants you student’s rights including free local public transportation in North Rhine-Westphalia.

Kumari Billakurthi (Former member of the CEPLAS Graduate School):
"I feel privileged to take part in CEPLAS. The graduate school is very well structured and organized. A close collaboration between the institutions and regular meetings among multidisciplinary research groups offers a perfect platform for young researchers to exchange their ideas and to interact with scientific experts. CEPLAS also creates equal opportunity to women and international students as well." 

Elia Stahl (Former member of CEPLAS Graduate School):
"CEPLAS gave me the opportunity to work focused on a three years Ph.D project with the benefit from the combined expertise of the whole cluster and the scientific training program." 

Anna Matuszyńska (Former member of CEPLAS Graduate School):
"PhD is a hot period at the beginning of your scientific career. Big challenges, huge expectations, steep learning curve, staring of building your scientific network. CEPLAS gives me the opportunity to meet top scientists in the field and at the same time exchange ideas and reflections on my work with other students, providing everything a PhD student needs during the first years of the scientific career."

Speaker of the CEPLAS Graduate School

Prof. Dr. Bart Thomma


0221 470 89261

Institute for Plant Sciences, Cologne Biocenter
University of Cologne

Zülpicher Str. 47b

50674 Cologne


Deputy Speaker of the CEPLAS Graduate School

Prof. Dr. Benjamin Stich
CEPLAS Benjamin Stich


+49 2118113395

Institute for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics of Plants
Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Carl-von-Linné-Weg 10

22.07, Level 01  46, Postbox 009

50829 Cologne



Dr. Nadine Rademacher


+49 211 81 11389

Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

Universitätsstraße 1

22.07, Level 01  29, Postbox 007

40225 Düsseldorf

Heinrich Heine University
University of Cologne
Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research
Forschungszentrum Jülich