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Graduate Program in Translational Neuroscience

Translational neuroscience aims at the integration of molecular and cellular approaches, behavioral analysis and clinical applications in the study of the central nervous system. In the newly founded translational neuroscience graduate program we focus on alterations of learning, memory, emotional and motivational processing in various disorders of the nervous system, following a mechanistic approach rather than the current classification of mental disorders. This translational approach is interdisciplinary and includes a highly diverse set of methods, reaching from molecular and cellular methods up to the level of psychometric measures and treatment applications in humans. Therefore, a more general part of the graduate program consists of a mandatory compact course (~60 hours) in translational neurosciences which covers a large variety of relevant topics and methods (molecular and cellular neuroscience, basic neuroanatomy, systems neurophysiology, behavioral neuroscience and behavioral genetics, computational neuroscience, behavioral pharmacology, neuroimaging, clinical and experimental psychology and clinical neurosciences). A short abstract of the individual research areas can be found on this homepage; for more detailed information on distinct projects of interest students may directly contact the respective project leaders or look up their publications).

This common core curriculum will be offered in the first 6 months (4 hours/week) and will end with a written exam, ensuring a common knowledge base for all students. The individual part of the curriculum will be supported by regular meetings with the members of the student advisory board, by the possibility to visit German and foreign laboratories, including those in industry, in order to acquire specific techniques, by invitations of guest scientists and, most importantly, by choosing two special topics (a major and a minor) for extended studies throughout the PhD, MD or MD/PhD course. Students with projects rooted in basic sciences will chose a clinical minor and will have to visit a clinical unit for an elective. Conversely, students with a clinical focus will perform some basic research in a laboratory. In the major topic, in-depth education will continue with courses of 2 hours/week throughout the whole period of the PhD or MD thesis. The students will thus choose one main laboratory and advisor with whom they are affiliated at the very beginning of the program. Therefore, when applying, students are encouraged to select up to 3 projects within the collaborative research grant and rank them according to their preferences.

In addition, we offer yearly summer or winter schools which provide in-depth teaching and discussion of selected topics like „psychobiology of learning and memory“, „molecular basis of neural plasticity“, „clinical methods in psychiatry and psychology“, „advanced imaging methods“, or „computational models of brain function“. Students will also receive training in “soft skills” such as presentation techniques or group work. These courses will be offered in cooperation with the newly formed Graduate Academy of Heidelberg University.

All principal investigators of the SFB cover a wide variety of subjects and have a good overview of the needs within this interdisciplinary research project. They are also involved in teaching within different clinical and basic programs and are members of different faculties (Medical Faculties at Mannheim and Heidelberg, faculty of psychology, and faculty of biology). Therefore, we can make use of existing teaching programs wherever appropriate (for example, students can join courses of the newly established Major Neuroscience within the Master course of the Faculty of Biosciences at the University of Heidelberg). Special attention will be given to medical students. Both Medical Faculties have created programs for an in-depth scientific education of highly talented medical students. In Mannheim, such students receive special training within the Junior Scientific Master Program of the newly established medical course MaReCum. Heidelberg has established an MD/PhD program for selected medical students. The integrated graduate program will support medical students who join projects within the SFB and will enable them to do an advanced MD thesis or a combined MD/PhD thesis in cooperation with the above-mentioned initiatives.

The graduate program started in April 2008. Applicants must hold a master’s, diploma or equivalent degree in biology, chemistry, engineering, physics, biochemistry, mathematics, psychology, or other related fields. Medical students can either start to work within the SFB towards the end of their MD program and aim at an extended version of the conventional MD or enter into an MD/PhD program.

Funding period for MD students is 12 months. For PhD students an initial funding of 12 months of the 36-month program is provided. Additional funding for two more years must be sought. It is also possible to join the program for one year at a later stage in exchange from another PhD program. In addition, this program also allows international exchange of PhD students from other universities.


At the moment no scholarships are available.


Projects and mentors

SFB 636

Project Group A: Molecular and neurobiological mechanisms
A02 P. Schloss 
A03 G. Schütz 
A04 R. Sprengel 
A06 H. Bading 
A07 Ch. Schuster / H. Bading 

Project Group B: Behavioral and physiological mechanisms
B01 R. Spanagel
B03 P. Gass 
B06 M. Both / A. Draguhn 
B07 A. Meyer-Lindenberg / M. Rietschel / J. Utikal
B08 D. Durstewitz / W. Kelsch
B09 R. Kuner /Th. Kuner

Project Group C: Experimental psychopathology
C01 H. Flor 
C05 M. Bohus / Ch. Schmahl
C06 M. Wessa
C07 K. Szabo / F. Nees

Project Group D: Intervention-related plasticity
D04 C. Diener / Ch. Kühner
D06 F. Kiefer / P. Kirsch
D07 K. Mann / G. Ende / W. Sommer

L. Frölich 
M. Schmelz 
M. V. Singer
R.-D. Treede
T. Banaschewski
D. Brandeis