Frequently Asked Questions


How long is the PhD program?
The regular time to finish a PhD is typically three to four years.

Does the Max Planck Institute award the doctoral degree?
In Germany, doctoral degrees can only be awarded by universities. If you are admitted in our graduate program, you will have to enrol in one of our partner universities – either the University of Potsdam or the Humboldt University in Berlin. You do not need to apply to a university at the time of applying to the IMPRS. You have to enrol at the university only after you have been accepted in the IMPRS.

How do I apply for a visa, open a bank account, find a flat, etc?
The AEI has an international office to support incoming students with all administrative and organizational matters, such as finding apartments, opening a bank account, getting health insurance, organizing visas, etc.  We will provide more information after you have been accepted into the IMPRS.

Is there a tuition fee?
There are no fees at the Max Planck Institute. For the enrolment at the university you have to pay a fee of about 500-600 Euro per year, which includes free public transport.

Can I do my master's thesis at the IMPRS?
While we do not offer master thesis projects on a regular basis, IMPRS research groups may occasionally offer thesis projects (typically 6-12 months duration) based on open positions in the groups and the qualifications of the applicant. More information can be found here.


Do I need a Master's degree?
Yes, a Master’s degree (or equivalent) in Physics/Astronomy or a related field is required in order to be accepted into the PhD program.

I have not finished my MSc degree yet, is that a problem?
If you are currently enrolled in a Master’s program and expect to receive your official degree later, that is not problem for your application. However, you must hold your Master’s degree by the time you start your PhD with us.

Do I need 3 references?
Yes, you will need three reference letters. Letters from course instructors and research personnel (e.g., Postdoctoral researcher) are acceptable, if you have not yet had three research supervisors.

When are the reference letters due?
Typically, the letters of reference are due one week after the application deadline.

Do I need official transcripts in English?
If your school provides official transcripts in English, please simply provide those. Otherwise, please provide the official transcripts in the original language, as well as an English translation of the transcripts. Transcripts in German are also acceptable, and need not be translated into English.

What should be in my research statement?
Your research statement should include a description of your past research experience. It should also include a description of your research interests, which you would like to pursue during your PhD, and how it relates to research done at the AEI. It should be no longer than two pages.

What should be in my cover letter? What should be in my CV?
In your cover letter should briefly describe yourself and your motivation to apply to the PhD program at the AEI. Your CV must include a section on your academic education, including institutions/universities from which you received academic degrees and the final grades. Your CV must also include a section on your work and research experience, including a brief description for each item. You may also want to include

  1. a section on relevant skills (programming languages, etc),
  2. a list of publications (if applicable), talks, and presentations.

What will be my thesis research topic, and who will be my supervisor? Can I pick my research division and/or research topic?
Research at the IMPRS covers many different topics and research areas. If you would like to work in a particular research area of the IMPRS or with a particular researcher, please state so in your research statement, and include a motivation why you would like to work in that area or in a particular group. If you do not indicate a preference, you will be matched with a research group based on your background and supervision capacity in any of the research groups of the IMPRS.

I do not have research experience in General Relativity, can I still apply?
There are no restrictions on who can apply to the PhD program. However, since much of the research conducted within the partner institutes of the IMPRS require advanced concepts of General Relativity, a solid knowledge of GR may give you a competitive advantage.

Can I contact AEI researchers to discuss my interests?
Please refrain from contacting researchers of the IMPRS regarding your application. In order to keep the recruitment process fair and to provide equal opportunities for all applicants, we will only answer technical questions regarding the application process.

When will the decisions be made? When will I hear from the AEI?
The timeline of the recruitment process can be found here.

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