The goal of the ZNZ International PhD Program in Neuroscience is to train excellent scholars with a broad knowledge in modern neuroscience disciplines. The program is specifically designed for students interested in pursuing a professional career in neuroscience. Emphasis will be placed on the development and enhancement of essential skills required to prepare students for their future roles as neuroscientists. This will include the planning of research projects, from conceptualization to experimental design, and to final evaluation. A key element of the program will be the development of skills of communication, interaction with other scientists, and scientific writing. Since doctoral students enrolled in the Program will originate from different biomedical branches, they will be encouraged to actively promote and foster interaction between themselves to facilitate the exchange of research ideas and to encourage interdisciplinary research. Training will be provided over the duration of the PhD thesis (3-4 years) to prepare students for neuroscience careers at an advanced level. The training will consist of two major parts: firstly, coursework will provide students with a theoretical background of the existing body of research knowledge in selected neuroscience fields and with research skills to address specific questions. The core elements of this part will be represented by the current skill base of the research groups participating in the Program. Secondly, a closely supervised thesis will provide the experience of conducting a substantial piece of original research.
All PhD students from ZNZ groups with a thesis topic in neuroscience will participate in the Program. The duration of the Program will be determined by the successful completion of the PhD thesis (3-4 years). During this period the student will attend the Introductory Course during the first year (two hours per week) and, for the subsequent years, choose from a palette of advanced lectures and practical courses (the ZNZ course list is assembled from the existing teaching program of the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich as well as new courses). The second, third and possible fourth year of the Program will operate on a credit point system. Credit points are awarded for each course and the student is expected to obtain a minimum of 12 ECTS points by the end of the thesis period.
The first year of the program is designed to provide the students with an overview and theoretical background of the various neuroscience disciplines in the ZNZ, including the most recent knowledge and concepts. This will be presented in a structured series of lectures and tutorials amounting to two hours per week (28 weeks comprising of two semesters of 14 weeks).
During the second, third and possibly fourth year, the student, with the help of the supervisor, selects a program from the list of advanced lectures and practical courses amounting to a minimum of 12 ECTS points. At least one third of the credit points should be collected with courses outside the area of the student's PhD topic but in the area of neuroscience.
Emphasis will also be placed on active participation in research seminar programs and journal clubs of the various neuroscience research groups. The lively discussion promoted by research seminars and journal clubs provides an ideal environment to encourage and enhance the development of communication skills.
Students participate at least once in the annual PhD Retreat, preferably at the beginning of their thesis work. This workshop, held at a venue outside Zurich and lasting for several days, will draw on the expertise of recognized international scientists in the field to act as tutors.
The program will encourage students to promote inter-disciplinary interactions themselves through informal research seminars. Attendance of such seminars by peer group scientists will allow constructive discussions to take place in an informal environment.
Students will be encouraged to invite and host 2-3 guest speakers in the main seminar program of the network.
At the beginning of the PhD thesis the student, together with his/her supervisor, will nominate the thesis steering committee (a minimum of three persons) which will evaluate and supervise the progress of the PhD work at regular intervals. The guidelines of the corresponding UZH faculties and ETH departments have to be respected. In addition, the ZNZ recommends that the PhD thesis steering committee consists of:
At least one member of the thesis committee must be a ZNZ group leader. Members of the committee can also be affiliated with external universities, except the immediate supervisor of the PhD project.
Within the first 12 months after the
beginning of the PhD work the student presents a written thesis proposal (see
template) to the members of the steering committee and hands in a copy to the
ZNZ office. The thesis proposal will also be presented orally to the
The steering committee examines the theory and methodology underlying the research project. Furthermore, the committee will ensure that the proposal is feasible, and the goal attainable within the allocated time.
During the PhD work the steering committee will continuously evaluate
the progress of the student to ensure that milestones are met for completion of
the PhD. The student presents yearly written research progress reports together
with an oral presentation to the committee. The first annual written progress
report is handed in at the latest one year after submission of the thesis
proposal. The reports must also be handed in to the ZNZ office. It is also
expected that during the PhD project the student will have additional regular
meetings with his/her immediate supervisor.
Based on the first annual report and the oral presentation, the steering committee will decide together with the student, whether the project should be continued, redirected or terminated.
After completion of the experimental work the written PhD thesis will be submitted to the faculty. The PhD thesis may be presented in the form of several original articles, with at least one publication as first author in a high impact journal. It should, however, include a general introduction and discussion written by the student. After completion of all requirements a certificate will be awarded to the student by the ZNZ. The PhD degree will be awarded by the University of Zurich or the ETH Zurich.
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