LEAD Graduate School & Research Network

Doctoral Program

PhD candidates within LEAD profit from a structured PhD training program featuring a broad variety of training elements. With systematic support structures and tailor-made course programs, PhD candidates are optimally guided throughout the 3-year training program to become highly qualified scientists integrated in the international academic community.

The program focuses on five core elements (see below). All courses and trainings take place in English.

Research Elements


PhD candidates complete two obligatory seminars to enhance professional competencies. In year one of the program, PhD candidates complete a workshop on “Good Scientific Practice”. By the end of year, two/the beginning of year three, PhD candidates complete a workshop on “Research and Practice / Third Mission”. Both seminars equip the PhD candidates with tools required for doctoral research projects. PhD candidates within the structured IWM training program receive credit for courses they have attended as part of the program. Therefore, the mentioned seminars are not obligatory to IWM PhD candidates if they have attended a similar seminar within the IWM program. This must be clarified on an individual-case-by-case-decision.

LEAD Colloquium

Weekly organized interdisciplinary research colloquium provides a venue for scientific discussion and networking. Topics regarding (1) the LEAD vision and research essentials; (2) LEAD basics and support; (3) PhD candidates’ exposés and progress reports as well as dress rehearsal presentations; (4) tips and tricks, open questions and discussion are included.

As part of the LEAD Colloquium, journal clubs as well as workshops (e.g., on the topics of Reproducible Science, IMRF, research ethics or “on getting-published”) are continuously integrated.

LEAD Retreat

The LEAD retreat is a three-day event, taking place in April and October each year, which all LEAD members are asked to attend. The main features of the retreats are presentations by PhD candidates and keynote lectures by LEAD faculty and external experts from the fields that are related to LEAD as well as small group discussions on specific topics. They key goal of the retreats is to allow PhD candidates to receive valuable feedback from colleagues, faculty and external experts on their research as well as facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration. The LEAD retreat was and will remain the most important and eagerly anticipated event of the semester.

PhD Retreat

As part of the training program and in addition to the retreats, PhD candidates have the great opportunity to organize an (informal) annual retreat. This PhD retreat is oriented in such a way that PhD candidates invite postdocs, experts as well as alumni to enhance scientific networking and collaboration.

Optional Seminars

As part of the Research Elements, each PhD candidate has the opportunity to participate in further (research-) seminars, depending on his or her individual needs. Seminars on writing (“Writing Workshop I&II”), as well as “Methods on Demand Workshops” are be offered on a regularly basis.

Personal Elements


The personal elements are designed to equip PhD candidates with skills required for personal development as well as future career planning. Depending on skills and competencies needed, tailor-made courses are recommended to each PhD candidate. These courses range from methods and methodology classes to language courses to very specific PhD topic-related courses, depending on the individual fit. On a regular basis, the Graduate Academy and the Didactics of Higher Education offer a variety of courses, which all PhD candidates have access to and are advised to take depending on skill level and future career goals.


Throughout the doctoral training program, PhD candidates have many opportunities to receive guidance from their supervising team, scientific coordination and/or their peers.

Buddy Program

In year one of the training program, PhD candidates get in touch with their PhD buddy. The LEAD Buddy-Program is set up to support new PhD candidates with getting started as a doctoral candidate and to promote interdisciplinary exchange. It allows the new PhD candidates to get a glimpse of doctoral life at LEAD and be acquainted with fellow LEAD members.

Events / Fireside Chats

In year two and three of the training program, PhD candidates are invited to visit events, talks or seminars depending on their personal situation and goals (e.g., events on the compatibility of family and job, career-talks, applying for international jobs, as well as peer-to-peer and alumni meetings). This type of guidance allows PhD candidates to deal with questions regarding their future careers.


As part of the training program, a structured supervision program is integrated in order to ensure continuous supervision, progress and personal development.

Scientific Coordination

Throughout the training program, PhD candidates have regularly fixed meetings with the scientific coordination team to discuss any questions regarding the training program. At the beginning of the membership at LEAD, each PhD candidate is invited to a welcome meeting to receive information about his or her rights and duties (including the management of milestones) as well as to get to know the structures within the training program. Throughout the training program, PhD candidates have opportunities to organize meetings on demand with scientific coordination and the supervising team in case of speaking needs. In year three, each PhD candidate together with their supervising team is invited to a transition / progress meeting in order to discuss the progress of the PhD candidates’ projects and identify areas where support might be needed.


Each PhD candidate has a team of at least two supervisors with whom he or she sets appropriate goals and sub-goals as well as planned steps and measures to achieve them. PhD candidates and their supervisors agree in written form on their respective rights and duties (Supervision Agreement).

In addition, regular informal meetings with the supervisors are essential for the progress of the PhD candidates’ projects and highly recommended.

Transition Meeting

The transition meeting aims at providing support with navigating the passage from doctoral phase to post-doctoral phase or positions outside of academia. Approximately 6 to 9 months before the submission of the dissertation, PhD candidates are invited to a formal meeting with their supervisors and scientific coordination to discuss possible career paths as well as the working plan for the last months of the doctoral phase.

Exposé & Progress Reports

During the training program, PhD candidates are required to submit reports to the LEAD steering board. The exposé needs to be handed in 6 months and the progress reports 12 and 24 months after the entry date. These reports are discussed and commented on by the steering board members, and (written) feedback is given to the PhD candidates, the supervisors, and the scientific coordination team in order to identify areas to support the dissertation progress.

International Orientation

Throughout the training program, LEAD focuses on international orientation to prepare PhD candidates for later work with international collaboration partners and in international research institutions. Both, LEAD’s German PhD candidates and LEAD’s foreign PhD candidates will be optimally prepared for conducting research internationally and nationally. For this purpose, LEAD finances German and English courses, supports lab visits, and offers an introduction to the German research system. Furthermore, international faculty members and cooperation partners are involved in the supervision and examination of PhD dissertations.

LEAD Lecture Series

The LEAD Lecture Series are used as a tool to promote internationalization. LEAD members, especially PhD candidates, are asked to invite national and international experts from every LEAD discipline to visit and hold a lecture. Additionally, PhD candidates are asked to use this opportunity to discuss research and career questions with the experts in a meet-the-expert session.