The FMI runs both a PhD program and, since summer 2016, an MD-PhD program. While the PhD program accepts students with a university degree in life sciences, the MD-PhD program is tailored to students of medicine with an interest in fundamental scientific research. Both programs offer students the opportunity to carry out cutting-edge biomedical research in a stimulating, highly international and collaborative atmosphere.

Why choose the FMI?

Science: The FMI is an international leader in biomedical research in the fields of epigenetics, neurobiology and quantitative biology. It provides interdisciplinary training and access to state-of-the-art technology platforms. Our affiliations with the University of Basel and with Novartis, as well as our location at the center of a life science hub, provide numerous opportunities for scientific collaborations.

Training: A wide range of theoretical and practical courses are available at both the FMI and the University of Basel. FMI provides an annual PhD Orientation Afternoon and a Scientific Inquiry Course for first year PhD students. Most students participate in “progress reports” to discuss science and practice their presentation skills. Many labs provide journal clubs. In addition, students participate in the FMI Annual Meeting and are encouraged to attend international conferences to present projects and develop their networks.

Mentoring: Mentoring is taken seriously at the FMI. PhD students are mentored throughout their PhD by their supervisor (group leader) and by their thesis advisory committee members; if appropriate, there will also be initial supervision/collaboration with more senior students or postdocs in their labs.

Support: PhD students are supported by the PhD Program Coordinator (administrative management), the PhD Representatives (promotion of student issues at the institute) and the Dean of Students (liaison with the University of Basel and confidential advice). In addition, PhD students can consult our dedicated Guidance Counsellor for confidential support on any issues concerning projects, mentors, lab environment, work/life balance or career planning.

Career Development: Group leader supervisors, the Head of Human Resources, and the Guidance Counsellor are key people supporting students’ career development. PhD and Postdoc Representatives organize annual career events, as well as professional development workshops with external trainers. In addition, many workshops on career development are offered through the Basel University Graduate Center. FMI PhD students are also able to join an employee program at Novartis, matching them with an industry mentor.

Life at the institute: With staff of 45 different nationalities, the FMI offers a truly international, open and welcoming environment. All FMI students are encouraged to organize and participate in activities outside the lab (e.g. sport groups). Happy Hours are held every other Friday afternoon, sometimes including barbecues on the rooftop terrace. The annual PhD retreat provides a relaxed opportunity to connect with fellow students in a beautiful setting.

Life in Basel: Basel – the third largest city in Switzerland, with a rich cultural heritage – is a great place to live. It has a lot to offer in terms of culture, entertainment, dining, etc., while being easy to navigate thanks to its relatively small size. Located right on the border with France and Germany, and home to several multinational companies, Basel is highly international. As well as providing easy access to neighboring countries, it is close to the many beautiful places in Switzerland. Switzerland is an expensive country, but the FMI offers a generous stipend for living expenses.

Learn more about our PhD and MD-PhD programs in the various sub-sections (tabs at the top of the page).

Important Dates

We have two application rounds per year, with an application period of 2.5 months.

  • Opening applications: Feb 15 / Sept 1
  • Application deadlines: May 1 / Nov 15
  • Next interviews: Jan 22-23, 2020 / Jun 24-25, 2020

Key Contacts

For questions, visit our Frequently Asked Questions page or – in case you cannot find the info you need – contact us by email:

Resources

Online Application Form
(PhD Program)
Online Application Form
(MD-PhD Program)

Read interviews with FMI PhD students and postdocs

Admission

Applicants must hold, or anticipate receiving before enrollment, a university degree that would formally qualify them to enter a PhD or equivalent program in their home country (MSc., Diploma, DEA etc.)
Admission is competitive, involving a selection procedure that takes place twice a year (in January and June). The deadline for applications is 1.5-2 months prior to the selection procedure (November 15 and May 1).

Duration

A course of study at the FMI leading to a PhD degree of the University of Basel typically lasts four to five years. Thesis defenses take place at the FMI and are public.

Mentoring & support

The main supervisor and mentor of the PhD student is the leader of the research group. Students are also supported by their thesis advisory committee composed of internal and external experts whom the students choose together with their supervisor. The FMI put in place mentoring guidelines and conducts lab surveys on a regular basis to maintain excellence in mentoring.

Additional academic advice, professional development support and advocacy on behalf of the students is also available through the FMI Dean of Students and the Guidance Counsellor.

As a Dean of Students, Marc Bühler acts as an academic liaison with the University of Basel. He offers confidential, impartial advice, and can help resolve problems by acting as a neutral intermediary between students and the academic or administrative areas of the University and the FMI.

As a Guidance Counsellor, Piera Cicchetti offers individual counselling to promote the academic and professional development of students and resolve difficulties. She attends thesis committee meetings to support best practices, develops the training curriculum, and organizes professional development activities with students and postdocs.

Graduate courses

Together with the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, the Department of Biomedicine of the University of Basel, the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of the ETH, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (TPH), the FMI participates in an international and interdisciplinary graduate teaching program in the areas of

  • neurobiology
  • cell biology
  • developmental biology
  • biophysical chemistry
  • structural biology
  • systems biology
  • bioinformatics
  • infection biology
PhD students are required to complete 12 semester-hours of coursework during their PhD thesis.

» Graduate Teaching Program (on the Biozentrum website)

Compensation

The FMI provides financial support to graduate students in accordance with the scale of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Salary is generous relative to international standards for PhD students.

The FMI MD-PhD Program was launched in summer 2016 to provide the opportunity to research-oriented medical students and physicians to carry out cutting-edge biomedical research and do a PhD thesis. Students can benefit from the excellence of the well-established PhD program, the reputation of the Basel Medical School and a privileged relationship with the researchers of the major pharmaceutical company Novartis.

Admission

The FMI MD-PhD program is intended for individuals who have studied medicine and who wish to gain a deep knowledge in fundamental biological research by performing a PhD thesis. Students applying to the program must hold, or anticipate to receive before their enrollment, a university degree that would qualify them to enter formal clinical training / residency (e.g., a diploma in medicine or an approbation). They also should have some laboratory research experience and have done an experimental Master/Diploma thesis, which must be approved by the University of Basel.
Admission is competitive, involving a selection procedure that takes place twice a year (in January and June). The deadline for applications is 1.5-2 months prior to the selection procedure (November 15 and May 1).

Duration

A course of study at the FMI leading to a PhD degree of the University of Basel typically lasts four years. It is the responsibility of the thesis advisory committee, together with the student and supervisor, to assess the project status and recommend when the thesis should be written/submitted. Thesis defenses take place at the FMI and are public.

Mentoring & support

The main supervisor and mentor of the MD-PhD student is the leader of the research group. Students are also supported by their thesis advisory committee composed of internal and external experts whom the students choose together with their supervisor. The FMI put in place mentoring guidelines and conducts lab surveys on a regular basis to maintain excellence in mentoring.

Additional academic advice, professional development support and advocacy on behalf of the students is also available through the FMI Dean of Students and the Guidance Counsellor.

As a Dean of Students, Marc Bühler acts as an academic liaison with the University of Basel. He offers confidential, impartial advice, and can help resolve problems by acting as a neutral intermediary between students and the academic or administrative areas of the University and the FMI.

As a Guidance Counsellor, Piera Cicchetti offers individual counselling to promote the academic and professional development of students and resolve difficulties. She attends thesis committee meetings to support best practices, develops the training curriculum, and organizes professional development activities with students and postdocs.

Graduate courses

Together with the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, the Department of Biomedicine of the University of Basel, the Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering (D-BSSE) of the ETH, and the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (TPH), the FMI participates in an international and interdisciplinary graduate teaching program in the areas of

  • neurobiology
  • cell biology
  • developmental biology
  • biophysical chemistry
  • structural biology
  • systems biology
  • bioinformatics
  • infection biology
PhD students are required to complete 12 semester-hours of coursework during their PhD thesis.

» Graduate Teaching Program (on the Biozentrum website)

Clinical work

Interested students can devote up to 20% of their PhD study time to clinical work - in agreement with their PhD supervisor at the FMI. The clinical work is done in conjunction with a Professor at the Medical Faculty of the University of Basel and will often be part of a collaboration between the FMI Group Leader and the Medical Faculty Professor.

Compensation

The FMI provides financial support to graduate students in accordance with the scale of the Swiss National Science Foundation. Salary is generous relative to international standards for PhD students.

General requirements

The application procedure is the same for the PhD and the MD-PhD Program. For the PhD Program, applicants must hold a university degree that would formally qualify them to enter a PhD or equivalent program in their home country (MSc., Diploma, DEA, etc.) Please note that a Bachelor's degree does not qualify for entry into our PhD Program.

For the MD-PhD Program, applicants must have studied medicine and must hold a university degree that would formally qualify them to enter clinical training in their home country (Medical Diploma, Approbation, etc.) Having documented research laboratory experience is strongly recommended.

There are two rounds of applications per year, with application deadlines May 1 and November 15. All applications are reviewed by group leaders who have openings within their teams. A group of shortlisted candidates will be invited for interviews in June and January, respectively.

The application

Please fill in the online application form. Note that this information and relevant documents will be shared among various people within the FMI for assessment.

» Online application form (PhD Program)
» Online application form (MD-PhD Program)

You should provide contact details of at least one referee familiar with your training and research experience. Multiple letters (up to three) are preferred. Referees will receive an individualized link to upload their letter (not visible to you) once you have submitted their contact information. We suggest to submit a first version of your application, containing contact information of referees early, in order to give referees sufficient time to provide their letters. You will be able to revise your application up to the deadline. Please ask your referee(s) to use this reference letter template:

» Reference letter template

Key dates

  • Promotion of the next round of application and "opening" of the registration form starts two and a half months prior to deadlines: February 15 and September 1.
  • Application deadlines are: May 1 and November 15, respectively.
  • The interviews take place in Basel approximately 7 to 8 weeks after each deadline.

Contact

For more information about the application process, please check out our Q&A section (FAQ tab above)

If you still have questions about the PhD Program, please contact Elida Keller at the FMI PhD Program office: fmiphdprogram@fmi.ch.

If you still have questions about the MD-PhD Program, please contact Marilyn Vaccaro at the FMI MD-PhD Program office: info.mdphd@fmi.ch

The FMI has an active student body of about 80 PhD students (and a few Master’s students) – coming from all over the world. Our students are supported by a PhD student representative committee that is elected every year. The main reason why students join the FMI is to conduct a successful PhD in an environment of scientific excellence. However, there are plenty of other reasons that make student life at the FMI appealing.

Our students have many training opportunities, and they organize and participate in various seminars and career events.

We have many sports fans at the FMI; newcomers can join several sports team, including a running team.

Our FMI football team is generally quite successful in our annual tournament against the Biozentrum and the ETH!

The yearly PhD retreat is a great opportunity to learn, and connect to fellow students in a relaxed setting in a beautiful location.

We have monthly Happy Hours at the FMI. Cheers!

And life in Basel is great… especially in the summer!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Please refer to the frequently asked questions and answers below if you have any concerns regarding your application to the FMI International PhD Program or the FMI International MD-PhD Program (open to all countries).

Q: What are the required degrees / pre-requisites to be eligible to the FMI PhD Program and the FMI MD-PhD Programs, respectively?
A: For the PhD Program, applicants must hold a university degree that would formally qualify them to enter a PhD or equivalent program in their home country (MSc., Diploma, DEA, etc.).
For the MD-PhD Program, applicants must have studied medicine and must hold a university degree that would formally qualify them to enter clinical training in their home country (Medical Diploma, Approbation, etc.). Having documented research laboratory experience is strongly recommended.

Q: Is there an age limit to apply to the programs?
A: No, there is no age limit to apply. The only formal requirement for application is a university degree as detailed above.

Q: Do I need an English certificate to apply to the program?
A: No this is not required. Even though English is the business language used at FMI there is no requirement for you to have an English certificate.

Q: When should I submit my application?
A: The PhD Program and the MD-PhD Program both offer two rounds of selection every year, with application deadlines usually in May and November and interviews in June and January respectively. The application portal is open approximately three months before each deadline and you can submit your application during this time when ever your feel is appropriate. You will be able to edit it up to the deadline.

Q: How many openings are offered in each round of selection?
A: The number of openings varies and is only known at the application deadlines. All candidates who are invited to the interviews will be informed of groups with openings when receiving the invitation letter. This number is not communicated to the candidates who are not invited for an interview.

Q: Why is there no list of groups that will have positions available?
A: Positions frequently become available only after the application deadlines. You may consider contacting a group leader directly if you wish to enquire about the availability of a position in a particular group. However, because we have observed in the past that students become excited about groups and research topics they had not initially considered, we encourage you to apply for and join the interviews with an open mind.

Q: In the application form, I am asked to indicate research groups at FMI that are of particularly interest to me and to write an essay on my specific research interests. Does this have an influence on the group I may join?
A: No. Although we use this information to channel the application review, it is the quality, not the topic of the essay that matters most. Candidates that are invited to the interviews can freely explore all available openings, irrespective of previously expressed interests.

Q: Can I apply more than once?
A: Although there is no formal limit on the number of times you can apply, we discourage re-applications because of their low success rates. Hence, you should only consider reapplying if you can update and revise your original application to strengthen it substantially. Please note that due to the volume of applications we are not able to provide feedback on the reasons that specific applicants were not invited.

Q: Can I submit my CV for review before I apply, so you can check that I fulfill all the requirements?
A: Due to the very high number of applications we receive every session, this is unfortunately not possible. Please note that if you have the required degrees then you are allowed to apply.

Q: Do you offer PhD positions in Bioinformatics?
A: Many group leaders at the FMI are involved in bioinformatics projects and FMI has a dedicated Bioinformatics platform composed of five permanent members. Thus, we encourage you to apply if you are interested in this field of study.

Q: Can I update my application once it has been submitted?
A: Yes. Once you have submitted your application you will receive a confirmation email with a personalized link to update the content of the application. You will be able to modify your application until the submission deadline.

Q: Can I add/remove referees once I have submitted my application?
A: Before the submission deadline, you may add referee(s) to the originally submitted list, but not remove them. Contact details for a total of up to three referees can be provided, and we prefer to receive more than one letter for a balanced assessment.

Q: Where is the link for my referee to upload the reference letter?
A: Once your application has been submitted, an automated email will be sent to the referee(s) you have entered in the form. The email contains a personalized link for the referee to submit the reference letter.

Q: Once the reference letter has been uploaded by my referee, do I get informed?
A: Yes. Once the referee has submitted the reference letter through our online tool, an automated email is sent to the referee and you to confirm that the upload has been successful.
However, you will not see the content of the letter submitted. If you have not received a confirmation email close to the application deadline, we highly recommend that you contact your referee to ask for a status.

Q: I made a mistake in the email address of my referee, how can I correct it?
A: If you realize that there is a typo in the email address of your referee we ask you to contact your referee and ask him/her to send an email to fmiphdprogram@fmi.ch for the PhD program, info.mdphd@fmi.ch for the MD-PhD program, in order to change the email address. You are not allowed to modify the email address yourself.

Q: Is the deadline for the referees to upload the reference letters the same as the deadline for the candidates to submit their applications?
A: No, referees have one more week after the application deadline to submit the reference letters. However, we strongly encourage you to contact your referees few days before the application deadline to ensure that they send the reference letters on time.

Q: If I am accepted for an interview, will I be reimbursed for the trip and stay in Basel?
A: Yes, the FMI will reimburse you for your travel expenses. You are required to book and pay your travel tickets (plane, train, etc.) ahead of your interview and the FMI will reimburse you based on the invoices provided. Your stay in the hotel will also be covered.
The invitation letter you receive after having been selected contains more information and guidelines about the travel expenses. Please do not book your travel until you have confirmed your visit to the FMI.

Q: If I am accepted for a PhD position, will I receive compensation during my time at the FMI?
A: Yes. The FMI provides financial support to graduate students in accordance with the scale of the Swiss National Science Foundation. . Income is generous relative to international standards for PhD students (see document in German - English).

If your question is not listed above, please contact fmiphdprogram@fmi.ch (PhD Program) or info.mdphd@fmi.ch (MD-PhD Program) for information.