PhD in Molecular Physiology of the Brain

University of Göttingen

Program Description

PhD in Molecular Physiology of the Brain

University of Göttingen

PhD in Molecular Physiology of the Brain

The doctoral program "Molecular Physiology of the Brain" is a member of the Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences and Molecular Biosciences (GGNB). It is hosted by the DFG Research Center Molecular Physiology of the Brain (CMPB) and is conducted jointly by the University of Göttingen, the Max Planck Institutes for Biophysical Chemistry, for Experimental Medicine, and for Dynamics and Self-Organization, the German Primate Center, and the European Neuroscience Institute. A Steering Committee ensures that the thesis projects by the prospective students fit thematically within the research areas of the CMPB (

The research-oriented program is taught in English and open to students who hold a Master's degree (or equivalent) in the life sciences, medicine, or related fields.

Mainly fueled by the advent of new methodologies such as high-sensitivity protein analytics, molecular biology, or forward and reverse genetics in model organisms, the molecular analysis of nervous system function has developed over the past two decades into one of the most successful and productive research fields in modern biology. This development has led to numerous breakthrough discoveries such as the elucidation of the molecular mechanisms of synaptic transmission between nerve cells or of the basis of complex brain diseases such as Alzheimer's disease or the Rett Syndrome, to name just two.

The research and teaching activities in the program are dedicated to the molecular analysis of brain function. The selection of the faculty - with experts in biochemistry, structural biology, cell biology and imaging, in yeast, fly, worm, and mouse genetics, in electrophysiology, and in morphology - and the teaching and research topics reflect the commitment to a comprehensive training, which is both possible and absolutely necessary in modern molecular neurobiology and which should lead from molecules to cells, from cells to systems, and from systems to complex behavior and dysfunction in animals. Such diversity will allow for a comprehensive theoretical and practical teaching curriculum that will prepare students in an ideal way for the requirements and demands of modern molecular neuroscience research. The program will provide them with all the technical knowledge necessary to tackle molecular, biochemical, and analytical problems, to extent their analysis to the cellular and organism level using genetics, and to analyze even complex systems with state-of-the-art physiological and morphological techniques.


In the neurosciences, Göttingen is known worldwide for research on the molecular mechanisms underlying synaptic function, which are being studied at all levels of complexity including isolated molecules, model synapses, small networks, and entire nervous systems. The scope of research has recently been extended to include disease models. Many of these activities are united under the roof of the DFG-funded Research Center Molecular Physiology of the Brain (CMPB).

Core research activities of the program, hosted by the CMPB, are the molecular and cellular analysis of brain function, in particular the investigation of the mechanisms of (i) synaptic function, (ii) neuron-glia interactions, (iii) neuronal development/synaptogenesis, (iv) synaptic plasticity and network adaptation (v) synaptopathies leading to network dysfunctions (vi) neurodegenerative, neurological, and psychiatric diseases, (vii) nervous system regeneration. Projects employ in parallel biochemical, cell biological, genetic, morphological, physiological, and behavioral approaches and integrate genetic model organisms. The training program includes molecular/cellular neurobiology, biochemistry, molecular biology, cell staining/imaging, electrophysiology, systems physiology, light and electron microscopy, and genetics.


The doctoral program "Molecular Physiology of the Brain" is a member of the Göttingen Graduate School for Neurosciences and Molecular Biosciences (GGNB). The graduate school offers a joint modular training program to which the twelve doctoral programs of GGNB contribute and that is open to all GGNB students. In addition to a lecture and seminar program, training consists of (1) individual counselling by thesis committees, (2) intensive methods courses of 1-3 weeks in special training labs, (3) 2-3-day methods courses in the laboratories of the participating faculty, (4) professional skills courses such as scientific writing, presentation skills, intercultural communication, project management, team-leadership skills, conflict resolution, ethics, and career development, and (5) student-organized scientific meetings, industry excursions, and intercultural events. Students are able to tailor their individual curriculum by choosing from a large number of courses and events.

The program is designed for graduates from all areas of life sciences and medicine and provides them with a comprehensive training in key methods of modern molecular and cellular neurobiology such as biochemistry, molecular biology, cell staining and imaging, electrophysiology, systems physiology, light and electron microscopy, and genetics in at least one classical model organism. This is achieved by combining the expertise of local scientists whose skills cover all relevant technical and conceptual requirements. The ultimate aim is to educate a new generation of young neuroscientists with an open-minded conceptual approach and a methodological repertoire that allows them to tackle the key future problems in molecular, cellular and systems neuroscience.

At the theoretical level, the program contributes to GGNB training with combined lecture and seminar classes on biochemical techniques for protein purification and identification, modern microscopy and imaging techniques, electrophysiological techniques, and genetic model organisms. At the practical level, the program systematically provides short introductory courses on electron microscopy techniques, life imaging, patch-clamp electrophysiology, ES cell techniques and mouse genetics, and C. elegans genetics. Furthermore, the program will be primarily responsible for a state-of-the-art research training lab in electrophysiology (established in 2009).

Experimental research constitutes the major component of the doctoral studies and is conducted in the laboratory of a faculty member of the doctoral program. Doctoral research projects are complemented by a school-wide training program, offered to all GGNB students, who are members of a vibrant international research community. The language of the doctoral program is English.

Last updated May 23, 2016
Duration & Price
This course is Campus based
Start Date
Start date
Oct. 2016
6 semesters
Full time
Start date Oct. 2016
Germany Göttingen, Lower Saxony
Application deadline Request Info
End date Request Info
Duration 6 semesters
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