Max Planck Schools

Max Planck Schools

Concentrating scientific excellence, thereby offering a doctoral training programme that is competitive with the international elite: this is what the new Max Planck Schools stand for. Under the programme, which will start in 2019, students will be able to obtain their PhDs. The first students will be able to apply from autumn 2018 onwards.

Many different parts come together to create a larger whole: that is the idea behind the Max Planck Schools. Whereas in countries like Britain and the USA, research excellence is concentrated in such strongholds as Oxford and Harvard, the best researchers in Germany are often widely dispersed. They work at various universities and non-university research institutions throughout Germany. The Max Planck Schools aim to concentrate Germany’s decentralized research excellence and thus to increase the attractiveness of the German science landscape for top international students and graduates. At the same time, the schools are also open to German applicants.

The calls for applications are designed to match the international application cycles of the elite universities. The first students will be able to apply from autumn 2018 onwards. The offer is also open to Bachelor graduates in a direct track scheme (two years Master, three years PhD). The Max Planck Schools will have their own website from April onwards.

The following Max Planck Schools will start operating in 2018 as part of the pilot phase:

Max Planck School of Cognition
Cognition research covers topics from disciplines as diverse as psychology, physics, computer science, philosophy, biology and medicine. In addition, as this is a rapidly developing research field, scientists with access to the methods and approaches of the various disciplines are in high demand. Among others, research focuses on the following questions: Which cognitive processes are tied to language and which allow better understanding of other people? What are the genetic mechanisms that contribute to individual differences in cognition? How are different forms of learning and decision-making organized in living beings, and how could they be realized in artificial intelligent systems? more
Max Planck School Matter to Life*
What, exactly, is life? Can processes, functions and objects related to life be simulated and recreated in the laboratory? The aim of the Max Planck School is to discover how these operations can be quantitatively described and how their processes can be predicted. Research into the fundamental principles of life will not only greatly influence fields of research such as biophysics, synthetic biology, systems chemistry or bioinformatics, but also demands ethical, social and philosophical reflection on our basic definitions of life. Questions of responsibility, autonomy and law, as well as addressing definitions of life-related systems, will therefore also form part of the curriculum. more
Max Planck School of Photonics
Photonics is a key scientific discipline with the purpose of controlling light even better than is now the case, while exploiting its properties to develop non-contact sensors, energy and information carriers. Accordingly, photonics includes a number of sub-disciplines that investigate numerous key questions: Can innovative imaging techniques, non-invasively and in real-time, help diagnose and treat diseases and infections? How can optical and electronic nanosystems be coupled to make computer systems more powerful and energy efficient? Can laser-assisted 3D printing be developed to such an extent that products in different industries can be produced using fewer resources and tailored to individual needs? Can optical processes help to make Internet communications more secure against eavesdropping? more


The Max Planck Schools are a joint initiative of the Max Planck Society, German universities and the German research organizations. As national networks of graduate education, the Max Planck Schools complement the highly successful regional cooperation formats, such as the graduate schools of the Excellence Initiative of the federal and state governments or the International Max Planck Research Schools (IMPRS). The three pilot Schools will receive a total of nine million euros in funding from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) each year over an initial period of five years. Each of the Schools will be subjected to ongoing evaluation by the BMBF right from the start.

*formerly: Max Planck School on Physics, Chemistry and Construction of Life

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