Helmholtz Institute


Students – PhD Students

Selection of candidates

The school is open to candidates having a doctoral education in biology, medicine, physics, informatics and psychology. The group in which the candidate will do his or her research carries out the selection of the candidate. Criteria for acceptation are field and quality of the prior training, motivation, personality, and capabilities to express oneself in writing and speech in the Dutch as well as the English language.

Selection of projects

The students work on projects that have to fit in with the research program of the school. The initiative for new projects will generally come from staff members. Occasionally, PhD students and post-docs will also propose new projects. The board has to judge the quality of the project in all cases. This judgement is binding for approval of projects.

Minimally, projects have to meet the following criteria

  • Projects have to fit in with the research program of the school
  • Projects must be feasible within the allotted period of time
  • Projects must be scientifically well timed and urgent
  • PhD projects should culminate in an academic promotion

Training capacity must be sufficiently available for PhD projects.

Flow of PhD students

The Helmholtz School is a research school of small but stable size. The school is successful in acquiring external funding for programmes and projects, especially from organisations as HFSP and the national NWO foundations ALW and MaGW. At the moment, the school employs five VENI, five VIDI, three VICI and two High Potential grants recipients.

In the past 5 years, more than 30 PhD students, working in research groups that stayed in the school, successfully defended their thesis. Most of the students remained active in or near their research field: 6 students became post-docs in foreign countries (Berkeley, Davis, Oxford, Paris and Tübingen), 6 became post-docs in the Netherlands, 1 started the training to become a clinical physicist, 7 students proceeded their training to become medical specialists, 5 acquired positions in applied research (2 Visio Huizen, 3 TNO/TM Soesterberg). Two students pursued scientific careers in different disciplines and 4 preferred careers in the software and IT branches. The careers of 3 students are unknown.

In the last few years, 11 former post-docs were appointed to permanent positions in the school. Two of them were appointed as full professors and 4 as assistant professors. TNO/TM Soesterberg appointed 5 staff scientists indicating that the Helmholtz Institute is the major supplier of scientific inflow in this institute. In addition, 2 former post-docs received a KNAW fellowship.

Considering the significant number of senior scientists who will reach the end of their official scientific career in the next ten years, we expect that the inflow of young scientists in the school will continue and even increase in this period.


The role of the Post-doc

Post-docs are of eminent importance for the success of the school. They are the scientists that will run the school in a few years from now and are primarily the researchers that are involved in collaborations and exchanges. Post-docs bring in new expertise, they stimulate PhD students to communicate in foreign languages, they are able to implement novel research techniques quickly, in this way creating opportunities for PhD students. In fact, post-docs often act as role-models for PhD students.

Exchanges of post-docs is stimulated in two ways

  • Bright PhD students who are seeking a scientific career are advised and stimulated to get in touch with first-class institutes abroad. Several financial sources (NWO-Talent, Niels Stensen Stichting, Fulbright) are used for this purpose. Foreign laboratories respond positively without exception, often leading to a post-doc position for two or three years. Applications for KNAW fellowships are used to stimulate these post-docs to return to the Helmholtz Institute.
  • Postdoc vacancies are intensively advertised in order to attract very talented researchers who are trained in other laboratories. Post-docs are primarily involved in research and not in education. If desired, post-docs are asked to give specialised courses in the training program of the school.

Selection of Post-docs

The group, which has a vacancy, carries out the selection of candidates. The main investigator of the group is the head of the selection team. A representative of the school, for instance the director, may be asked as an adviser.

Post-doc positions are usually advertised in national and preferably also in international journals. Occasionally, a project is assigned to a particular investigator. In such a case the position will not be advertised.