Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience (PTCN)

Training program, courses, credits, facilities

Short methods courses are taught in 2-3 day units in the participating laboratories. These methods are selected from current research projects. Group size is typically limited to five participants. In 2007, approximately 30 short methods courses were offered, covering a broad range of techniques. This catalogue is continuously extended and forms one of the main pillars of the advanced research training.


Extended methods courses with lectures will last several weeks, provide intense training for 5-15 students. They will be offered once per year, with repeated sessions possible on demand. Courses planned at present include advanced training in (1) electrophysiology, (2) light microscopy and imaging techniques, (3) protein analysis, proteomics, and physical biochemistry, and (4) mathematical biosciences. Specific training labs are planned to be installed in 2008. The training lab in advanced light microscopy is already established.

  • Outline of research training laboratories (pdf)


Colloquia and research lectures with both invited and internal speakers have a long tradition at all of the participating institutions. Examples include the three colloquia of the Göttingen Center for Molecular Biosciences – GZMB (Biochemistry, Developmental Biology, Microbiology/Molecular Biology), the lecture series of the DFG Research Center Molecular Physiology of the Brain (CMPB), several lecture and seminar series of the Max Planck Institute for Biophysical Chemistry (Karl Friedrich Bonhoeffer Lecture, MPI-bpc Seminar, PhD Student Seminar), the colloquia of the Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience and the Center for Systems Neuroscience, and the lecture series of the German Primate Center (DPZ).

A progress seminar is offered by the program to its students as a 1-2 day meeting twice per year, once in the GZMB building, once as a retreat outside Göttingen. During this seminar, doctoral candidates report on their latest results and future planning of their thesis project. Special research lectures by prominent faculty members on the latest achievements in the scientific fields of their interest are integrated in the progress seminar, with speaker selection and invitation being organized by the doctoral candidates.

Journal clubs are offered, in which papers are selected and presented by the doctoral candidates under the supervision of a faculty member.

International meetings. The doctoral candidates are encouraged to present their results on international meetings and can apply at GGNB for travel grants. In addition, several regular international meetings are held in Göttingen, including the annual, student-organized Horizons in Molecular Biology and biennial Neurizons PhD student symposia. Complementing these thematically broad meetings, the doctoral candidates of this program are encouraged to organize scientific meetings which are thematically more focused and related to the research topics the programs. GGNB provides financial and logistical assistance and will offer seminars on professional event management to further support the doctoral candidates in the organization of such meetings. The doctoral candidates receive credits for their organizational efforts.

Professional skills courses. GGNB will provide training in the following: Academic teaching (in conjunction with teaching assistantships), project management, time management, scientific writing and presentation skills, good scientific practice, ethics in sciences, grant writing and application for funding, preparation for job interviews, writing of job applications, business start-up, and intercultural communication. As many doctoral students are expected to assume leading positions in international teams, training will also be offered in leadership skills, team management and conflict resolution. Many of these courses have already been established and new courses will be added continuously.

Language courses. While the language of all GGNB doctoral programs is English, students from abroad are offered German language courses at different levels. The courses are offered by “Lektorat Deutsch als Fremdsprache” of the University of Göttingen and are intended to facilitate integration of students from abroad. Language courses in English and other languages are offered by the language center (“Sprachlehrzentrum”) of the university.

Industry excursions provide first-hand impressions of career perspectives outside academia. These excursions typically include a tour through the companies’ facilities, meetings with leaders of the R & D departments, and discussions with representatives of the human resources sections. Many of the institutes participating in GGNB have connections to biotechnological, pharmaceutical and optical companies, resulting in a tradition of regular student visits.

Career forum. As a new initiative, GGNB is planning a career forum starting in 2008, which is a lecture series with company representatives, science editors, science administrators such as those from funding organizations, consulting firms and business personalities. This lecture series will make use of existing contacts with companies and science editors, and will involve alumni of the University of Göttingen. The organization of the career forum will be carried out by the GGNB office in close collaboration with GGNB students, faculty with established industry contacts, the University’s career service and alumni office.

Science day. Every second year, GGNB will organize a school-wide science day. This will consist of an extended poster session with all GGNB students beyond the 1st year presenting their results. Furthermore, one or two prominent scientists will be invited to give plenary lectures. The sessions will be accompanied by panel discussions covering themes of interest (e.g. discussion with editors of scientific journals, discussions with representatives from funding agencies) and opportunities for informal networking during organized lunch/dinner reception. The scientific advisory board of the graduate school will convene on the science day as part of the biennial external evaluation of all GGNB doctoral programs.

20 Credits (ECTS) have to be obtained by a student of this program during his/her doctoral studies from (1) scientific colloquia, lectures and seminars, (2) international research conferences, (3) methods courses, (4) professional skills training, (5) teaching, and (6) electives (e.g. language course, courses from other disciplines).

Facilities. In their host labs, all GGNB students are provided with appropriate bench space, computers, and modern laboratory infrastructure. As they are enrolled at the university and participate in a graduate school with significant contribution of non-university institutions, GGNB students have free access to all major university and institutional libraries, and a wide variety of online databases and electronic journals. They have further access to various computing centers and CIP pools, and the social infrastructure (e.g. sports facilities, Mensa, cafeterias etc.) of the participating institutions. A variety of lecture halls and seminar rooms is available for courses, workshops and scientific meetings. Through the advanced methods courses, the interdisciplinary nature of many doctoral research projects, and the many collaborative research alliances, GGNB students have access to all major research facilities.