Research for the Doctoral Thesis forms the major part of the program complemented by course work. Each student follows an individualized curriculum tailored to his or her specific needs. This curriculum comprises the attendance of the lectures series on "Computational Neuroscience" held by the project leaders and is complemented by elective courses (including classes offered by the three major universities within Berlin or by related graduate programs, summer schools, and workshops) and courses for the training of transferable skills.

The program also requires active students' participation in a number of additional activities and training measures: organization of a talk series with invited speakers, a journal club, a PhD meeting where they present their individual projects to ensure interdisciplinary interactions, and a yearly retreat.

Structure of the program

Thesis Research 1st — 3rd
Courses on Advanced Topics
15 CP (20 CP for Charité PhD students)
Soft Skills
10 CP

Courses on Advanced Topics

As courses on advanced topics, doctoral students can take neuroscience-related classes offered at the Berlin Universities (including courses offered at the BCCN Berlin) and by other graduate programs as well as summer schools in Germany and abroad. For a list of available classes, summer schools and conferences, see the web links section. The doctoral students must choose classes and school in agreement with their supervisor. It is mandatory that 1 hard skill ECTS is obtained by attendance and active participation in the BCCN PhD lecture series "Computational Neuroscience".

Soft Skills

Soft skill courses include seminars on scientific writing and presentation, time and conflict management, teaching skills, career planning, project management and the similar. The recognition of ECTS for soft skills must be approved by the supervisor of each doctoral student. The following general rules hold for recognition of such achievements:

All achievements must be proven by a certificate of participation or equivalent including ECTS or workload in hours.


  • 2 ECTS will be granted for attendance and active participation in the BCCN PhD symposia
  • 1.5 ECTS will be granted for attendance of the "Good Scientific Practice Workshop"
  • 0.5 ECTS will be granted for the "Good Scientific Practice" session of the Winter School "Ethics and Neuroscience"


  • at least 4 ECTS must be earned through attendance of specific soft-skill courses such as scientific writing, presentation, grant writing, etc. (One of the workshops must be the Good Scientific Practice Workshop)
  • max of 2 ECTS can be granted for a poster presentation in an international conference (1/poster)
  • max of 2 ECTS can be granted for an oral presentation in an international conference (1/talk)
  • max of 4 ECTS can be granted for teaching (2/course)
  • max of 4 ECTS can be granted for supervising a BSc or MSc student (2/supervision)
  • 3 ECTS can be granted for the participation in the entire Winter School "Ethics and Neuroscience" offered in the framework of the Master's program
  • max of 2 ECTS can be granted for organization of scientific events such as workshops in international conferences (1/event organized)

Soft skill courses are offered by the following programs and institutions:


Reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the program, every student will be supervised by one principal thesis advisor and one/two co-advisor(s) whose areas of expertise cover the topic of the planned thesis research. Together with up to three additional senior scientists advisor, they will form the student's doctoral committee. About three months after acceptance into the program, each doctoral student will be required to present a written project proposal and to defend the proposal in front of his or her doctoral committee. Problems regarding the competence and scientific work of the candidate or the quality of the supervision should become obvious at this point and measures can be taken early enough to resolve these. On an annual basis such a meeting between the doctoral student and their committee will take place in order to monitor the student's progress.

Doctoral degree

Once research for the doctoral project is completed, the student submits a doctoral thesis to their home department (i.e. the department of the principal thesis advisor) and will receive a doctoral degree from this institution according to the respective departmental graduation procedures. The decision will be based on written reports about the thesis from two reviewers and on a defense in front of an examination committee which includes an oral presentation by the candidate about their scientific work.

Depending on their principal supervisor's affiliation, students will enroll and receive their doctoral degree - typically a "Dr. rer. nat." or a "PhD" (at Charité only) - from the supervisor's facility, e.g.:

School IV - Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Technische Universität Berlin,

Faculty of Life Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,

Faculty of Mathematics and Natural Sciences, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,

Department of Biology, Chemistry and Pharmacy, Freie Universität Berlin ,

Department of Education and Psychology, Freie Universität Berlin,

Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin.