More than 700 doctoral researchers are pursuing their doctorates on a wide range of topics in the 24 structured doctoral programmes at Leipzig University. The programmes undergo quality assurance procedures and offer doctoral researchers ideal conditions to complete their doctoral studies within a fixed structure.

enlarge the image: A central feature of the structured doctoral programmes are their fixed framework that includes a schedule, supervision, funding and regular interdisciplinary exchange. Photo: Swen Reichhold
A central feature of the structured doctoral programmes are their fixed framework that includes a schedule, supervision, funding and regular interdisciplinary exchange. Photo: Swen Reichhold

Pursue Your Doctorate in a Structured Doctoral Programme

In a structured doctoral programme, you pursue your doctorate within a fixed structure (e.g. in a research group), write your dissertation on a mutually agreed upon schedule that specifies doctoral funding, and are supervised by multiple university professors. From the outset, you are in close contact with other doctoral researchers and supervisors, with whom you work on joint research projects.

At Leipzig University, more than 700 doctoral researchers are pursuing their doctorates in 24 structured doctoral programmes that undergo quality assurance procedures. These programmes are diverse and tailored to meet the needs of the specific subject areas. Alongside the three institutionally funded graduate schools at Leipzig University, there are also externally funded graduate schools as well as a number of structured doctoral programmes. All of the programmes adhere to the highest quality standards for doctoral studies. These include transparent standardised selection processes, guidance from multiple supervisors, supervision agreements and skills development programmes.

Initiatives to establish or propose additional structured doctoral programmes are supported by the vice-rector for talent development, the Graduate Academy Leipzig and the Department of Research Services.

Doctoral Programmes in the Humanities and Social Sciences

The Central-German Doctoral Program Economics (CGDE) is a regional doctoral programme offered in the field of economics. The CGDE includes methods and research courses taught by internationally renowned researchers. These established courses allow doctoral students to obtain the skills they need to be successful in the field. The CGDE is a joint initiative between several economics faculties and research institutions in Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony and Thuringia.

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Since October 2012, Leipzig University and the Institute for Peace and Security Studies at Addis Ababa University (Ethiopia) have offered a three-year joint interdisciplinary doctoral programme in the field of global and area studies. The programme is designed for both early career researchers and experts in globalisation and security research. It prepares them for careers in international organisations; in conflict management, prevention and resolution; and in early warning of conflicts (as well as in other areas of the emerging African Peace and Security Architecture, APSA), and as future lecturers, scientists and researchers for the rapidly developing higher education sector in Ethiopia and its neighbouring countries.

The Graduate School Global and Area Studies (GSGAS) would like to invite early career researchers from all over the world to participate in a project of global reach that has both an interdisciplinary and post-disciplinary approach. The Graduate School is open to excellent candidates with original contributions from regional studies, history, social sciences or international studies who are looking for a comprehensive answer to the general question of how societies across the globe respond to the dialectics of de- and re-territorialisation. Of particular interest is the persistence of long-lasting frameworks and the emergence of new spatial frameworks for social interaction within and between cultures, nations and regional clusters of states.

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This graduate programme was initiated as part of the project Shaping Digital Practice in Saxony (PraxisdigitaliS), which is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). The programme brings together doctoral projects from teacher education and school research that focus on digital transformation.

The graduate programme aims to develop a comprehensive strategy for the digitalisation of teacher training and to strengthen the professional competence of prospective teachers in regard to digital media. In this context, this overarching research question will be addressed: what are the success factors, effects, and impact of digital transformation at both the school and the university level. The members of the graduate programme will develop, pilot and evaluate practical teaching materials for schools. In addition, they will investigate how digital transformation benefits the development of competencies and to what extent it can support the teaching and learning process.

The digital transformation of teacher training and the school context requires taking multiple perspectives and tapping synergies. The graduate programme is therefore interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary at its core. The doctoral projects are strictly empirical in nature and use a variety of methodological approaches.

During the PraxisdigitaliS project (March 2020– December 2023), the graduate programme will open additional places for additional doctoral researchers.

Spokespersons for the graduate programme are:

This unit combines the two former units of Religious Nonconformism and Cultural Dynamics (Hubert Seiwert and Adam Jones) and Secularities: Configurations and Developmental Paths (Gert Pickel). It thus brings together two central research fields (religion and secularities) at Leipzig University and is aimed at doctoral researchers in the humanities and social sciences whose work addresses the development, differentiation and practice of religious and secular phenomena, both past and present. In doing so, the boundaries of these manifestations are considered as are the cultural dynamics that unfold in the context of the religious processes of negotiation, traditions and appropriations. The focus of the unit is therefore on the reciprocal relationship and processes of transformation found in religion, secularity and cultural dynamics. The starting point is the assumption that religious change always occurs in the context of cultural processes of transformation and in relation to secular societal processes. Empirical and historical examples from various religious traditions and regions are investigated. The goal of the unit is to critically reflect on central theories and concepts as well as to systematically examine questions related to this topic. The unit is also open to other topics and issues in research on religion.

The unit offers doctoral researchers and postdocs the possibility of interdisciplinary exchange through doctoral colloquia, workshops on methodology, and research seminars. We work closely with the Humanities Centre for Advanced Study Multiple Secularities and the Centre for the Study of Religion.

This graduate group explores objects of study in literary and cultural studies within the contexts of how they unite and bridge cultures. The projects in the group aim to gain literary and cultural-historical insight across languages, cultures and epochs. They consider theoretical and methodological problems, are based on transdisciplinary contexts and often arise in the context of international research collaborations. The group’s working methods are characterised by close cooperation between professors and doctoral researchers, and at the same time by a high degree of individual responsibility and initiative. In two joint colloquiums per semester, the participants discuss the methodological foundations and the progress of their doctoral projects. Regular lecture series and colloquiums led by the professors in the graduate group ensure continuity of supervision.

The dual PhD/Dr. Phil. programme Transcultural German Studies between Leipzig University and the University of Arizona, Tucson, is an integral part of the graduate group.

The graduate group is supported by the following professors from the Faculty of Philology:

  • Professor Dieter Burdorf (German studies, spokesperson for the graduate group)
  • Professor Anna Artwińska (Slavonic studies)
  • Professor Uta Felten (Romance studies)
  • Professor Ralf Haekel (British studies)
  • Dr Leonhard Herrmann (German studies)
  • Professor Jobst Welge (Romance studies)

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Doctoral Programmes in the Life Sciences

The international research training group “TreeDì – 林地 – TreeDiversity Interactions: The Role of Tree-Tree Interactions in Local Neighbourhoods in Chinese Subtropical Forests” is a joint undertaking of the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig and the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS). The aim of TreeDì – 林地 is to understand how tree-tree interactions in local neighbourhoods of varying diversity translate into the observed positive effects of tree species richness on key ecosystem functions at the community scale. The international professional training programme involves an intensive Chinese-German cultural exchange during a six-month research stay in the partner country, a joint doctoral advisory committee (PAC) composed of Chinese and German project leaders, and a unique opportunity to work closely with leading experts in the field of biodiversity research.

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yDiv is the graduate school for young biodiversity researchers at the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig. Its aim is to build bridges between the many levels of biodiversity research – from theory to applied aspects of nature conservation. The approaches and methods used are similarly diverse, ranging from model tests to field experiments and from studies of single organisms to manipulated communities and entire ecosystems. yDiv’s transdisciplinary approach presents doctoral researchers and their supervisors with both opportunities and challenges. Early career researchers at yDiv acquire the ability to integrate knowledge and techniques from various disciplines in a meaningful way and to combine various research approaches in their work.

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This research training group is part of the Collaborative Research Centre 1052. It investigates the causal mechanisms of obesity and its sequelae as well as the development of new therapies. The 20 subprojects come under the fields of endocrinology, neurology, paediatrics, cardiology, dermatology, genetics, biochemistry, biophysics, lipidology, anatomy, physiology and structural analysis. In three central areas, researchers investigate factors of obesity and interactions with other causes.

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The International Max Planck Research School "The Leipzig School of Human Origins" (IMPRS LSHO) is an internal doctoral programme that focuses on the interdisciplinary study of the evolutionary history and origins of humans and other primates. Through this project organised by Leipzig University and the IMPRS LSHO at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, graduates from various disciplines work together on a number of research projects.

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The doctoral programme at the Max Planck School of Cognition offers talented students the opportunity to acquire a broad understanding of the various methods and research approaches in the rapidly developing field of cognitive science.

The School includes a number of internationally renowned researchers who come from diverse scientific backgrounds but have overlapping research interests. The researchers come from Max Planck Institutes, universities, the Helmholtz Association and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft.

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The Brain Dynamics Graduate School is a collaborative research network with an interdisciplinary approach to studying brain function and dysfunction, from single synapses to cognitive mechanisms The graduate school brings together basic and applied researchers with complementary interests and expertise in all modern specialisations of neuroscience such as neurophysiology, neuroanatomy, computational neuroscience and cognitive science.

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The MD/PhD programme gives outstanding researchers in the fields of biochemistry, chemistry, biology and pharmacy as well as physicians and dentists the opportunity to independently pursue academic work and gain additional professional qualifications for other tasks in teaching and research. The programme leads to double doctorates as Dr. rer. nat. and Dr. med. or as Dr. rer. nat. and Dr. rer. med.

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(Website in German)

The research training group Interaction of Grammatical Building Blocks (IGRA) employs a number of theoretical perspectives to investigate the nature and interaction of grammatical building blocks (rules, operations, constraints, schemata and extralinguistic factors) in phonology, morphology and syntax. Based on detailed empirical studies from typologically diverse languages, the research group uses all available research methods (e.g. introspective, experimental and corpus-based).

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The integrated research training group “Structural Dynamics of GPCR Activation and Signaling” is part of Collaborative Research Centre 1423, which focuses on how cells communicate via important receptors. The spokesperson of the research training group is Professor Daniel Huster.

Cells communicate with each other and their environment via receptors. These are located in the cell wall and recognise a specific signal, which they transmit inside the cell and thus cause the cell to react. G protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the largest group of these membrane receptors and found in almost all living organisms. GPCRs have a pivotal role in medicine: Approximately 30 per cent of all prescription drugs act via these receptors, but so far the potential of only a small group of receptors has been exploited.

The research training group has a special focus on the career development of its doctoral researchers. The doctoral programme includes scientific modules, laboratory rotations at Vanderbilt University in the United States and an annual summer school, as well as courses on professional skills such as leadership, communication and research data management.

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The International Max Planck Research School on Neuroscience of Communication: Function, Structure, and Plasticity (IMPRS NeuroCom) is a graduate school based at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig. Within the structured doctoral programme, doctoral researchers are trained in the multidisciplinary field of cognitive neuroscience. The focus is on the behavioural and neural basis of communication. Clinical and developmental aspects and the corresponding brain plasticity play a major role in research.

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Development, application and evaluation of methods and interactive devices to analyse the movement of humans and animals

This graduate group was established as a result of the interdisciplinary collaboration between the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Faculty of Sport Science at Leipzig University with the Centre for Mathematics and Natural Sciences at Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK). The members – doctoral researchers, postdocs and professors – are united by their shared use and further development of the existing and established broad spectrum of modern and effective methods to analyse and optimise movement in humans and animals.

The partners work on overarching issues in the context of health, performance and lifestyle / animal welfare. Biomechanical methods are used across disciplines in order to develop and evaluate interventions that demonstrate dose-response relationships. These include both active interventions for neuromuscular optimisation as well as passive interventions (i.e. devices and implants). The graduate group creates cross-faculty and cross-disciplinary structures and promotes networking among early career researchers. This provides access to comparative bioengineering of humans and animals, for example, to use animals as models for human athletes and vice versa. In terms of future prospects, the graduate group aims to develop an interdisciplinary research centre to analyse the movement of living beings.

Spokespersons for the group are as follows: 
Professor Christoph Mülling (Institute of Anatomy, Histology and Embryology at Leipzig University)
Professor Maren Witt (Faculty of Sport Science at Leipzig University) and Professor Hans-Jürgen Dobner (Centre for Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Leipzig University of Applied Sciences (HTWK)).

Doctoral Programmes in Mathematics, Computer Science and Natural Sciences

The aim of Research Training Group 2522 “Strong Dynamics and Criticality in Quantum and Gravitational Systems” is to investigate and calculate the emergence of complexity in gravitational and quantum field theories starting from the basic building blocks. The working groups concentrate on topics that are current or conceptually relevant such as gravitational wave phenomena and black holes on the gravitational side as well as dynamics and criticality near phase transitions on the quantum side. The Research Training Group is carried out in cooperation with the Friedrich Schiller University Jena.

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The Graduate School Leipzig School of Natural Sciences – Building with Molecules and Nano-Objects (BuildMoNa) focuses on interdisciplinary graduate education through top-level, synergistic research. Their strategy for developing new materials is based on a “bottom-up” approach. Progressive building blocks such as nanoparticles, smart molecules, polymeric scaffolds, peptides and proteins are combined – preferably via mechanisms of self-organisation – to create new materials that are intelligent, adaptable, environmentally friendly and cost-effective and that resemble living matter. The paradigm shift from uniform bulk materials towards nanostructured multifunctional materials based on intelligent combinations of the above building blocks is essential for the future knowledge transfer from fundamental to applied sciences. BuildMoNa is active in interdisciplinary research, the application and development of novel methods, and interdisciplinary education.

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The understanding and further development of the latest trends in the field of polymer science require a solid foundation and understanding of the broad field of polymer synthesis, its physical characterisation and theoretical description. Thanks to the interdisciplinary nature of the Collaborative Research Centre, it offers exciting postgraduate opportunities in many areas of polymer science and improves the communication between doctoral researchers as well as their readiness for challenging careers in industry and academia. The Research Training Group brings together the teaching experience of the partner universities Halle and Leipzig in the field of soft matter and also regularly hosts visiting researchers.

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The International Max Planck Research School Mathematics in the Sciences (IMPRS MIS) is a joint project between the Max Planck Institute for Mathematics in the Sciences and the Institutes for Mathematics, Computer Science and Physics at Leipzig University. The IMPRS MiS aims to provide doctoral researchers with a common view of the mathematical sciences. This approach views mathematics as a tool for understanding and describing scientific problems and conversely sees that scientific applications can lead to new and challenging mathematics. The scientific program offered by IMPRS MiS focuses on interdisciplinary research and training doctoral researchers. The training includes a wide range of mathematical research areas such as geometry, partial differential equations and functional analysis, stochastics, and discrete mathematics.

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Tropospheric particles play an important role in many scientific areas of inquiry, from assessing air quality and describing chemical processing of atmospheric gases and aerosols to analysing the formation of clouds and precipitation and predicting climate change. The associated processes are highly complex and require expertise in the fields of solid-state physics, fluid dynamics, electromagnetic field theory, meteorology, organic chemistry and heterogeneous chemistry. The aim of the Leipzig Graduate School Clouds, Aerosols and Radiation: Mineral Dust is to harness this expertise through a partnership between the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research and Leipzig University in order to be able to offer doctoral researchers an interdisciplinary training and research environment. The research in the consortium focuses on achieving a better understanding of physical and chemical processes in the area of clouds, aerosols and their radiation properties.

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The statistical physics of complex systems is a broad field that ranges from the study of quantum phenomena to the conformational behaviour of biomolecules. Such an extensive field can only be successfully comprehended by employing a variety of theoretical methods. The Research Training Group, which is jointly supervised by the Université Nancy and Leipzig University, brings together the expertise in analytical theory available in Nancy and the many years of experience in sophisticated computer-oriented simulation studies in Leipzig. Thanks to this cutting-edge research, the partnership offers a unique opportunity for early career researchers in these fields. The German and French scientists involved work closely together and as such contribute to strengthening international networks in the field. On the French side, there are binational fellowships with Ukraine and Russia that are funded by the CNRS, and on the German side the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation has an institutional partnership with Kraków (Poland) and with the EU RTN network ENRAGE, which consists of 13 European research groups.

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