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Support for your PhD

HGS MathComp offers a framework for PhD students to get a solid grip on their own research project and to make sure that research and documentation follow a clear path dowards the PhD thesis. To this end, two central measures are installed for every PhD student.

1. Thesis Advisor Committee (TAC)

Every PhD students selects from the members of HGS MathComp a team of four advisors who form the individual thesis advisory committee. The first supervisor is supported by a second supervisor who usually is a professor from a different field of research. In interdisciplinary research projects, the second supervisor usually represents the application field of the thesis, while in strongly disciplinary settings the graduate school advises the student to select a second supervisor from a complementary field of research. The two supervisors are the central counterparts for the PhD candidate to discuss research questions and plan next steps in the PhD project. HGS MathComp strongly encourages all PhD students to spent a significant amount of time (3-6 months) of the first PhD year in the work group of the second supervisor. Such a change of perspective helps to understand different research groups and alternative ways to conduct PhD projects.

Supporting the supervisors are two mentors, who are usually senior PhD students or postdocs from teh groups of the two sueprvisors. The mentors help the PhD students (especially in the first year of the research project) and advise them regarding day-to-day duties and tasks. The act as guides for young PhD students to help them get accustomned to the work group and organisational procedures:

  • How do I apply for computing accounts?
  • What to do when I plan my first conference visit?
  • Where do I find material for my research project?

The supervisors and the mentors form the thesis advisory committee. This committee exists irrespectively of the regulations of the relevant faculty where the PhD project is registered.

2. Annual Report

Twice during the PhD project each PhD candidate at HGS MathComp reports the status of the PhD research project to the thesis advisory committee. In amny workgroups in the natural sciences, such reporting sessions are commonplace. The obligation to conduct such a PhD report after one and two years of the project, respectively, ensures that all members of the thesis advisory committee get regular updates of the project status and are able to give their input and advice as part of a scientific discussion on the project.

To organize the annual report the PhD candidate arranges an appointment for a reseach presentation and invites the TAC to this event. The annual report usually takes place in the group semina of the candiate's work group -- to scheudle a specific event for the annual report is not necessary. During the annual report the PhD candidate presents in a suitable way the current status of the research project, followed by a scientifc and organisational discussion of the project plan. Updates on topics, methodology, experiments and documentation will be noted in a report minutes document. After the meeting, the PhD candidate sends the document of the persentation and the minutes to all members of the TAC.

Annual reports are a great way to make sure that the own PhD project is still on a good track. All scientists involved in the project get an update of the stauts and an understanding of the project plans. The advise of the TAC members helps the PhD candidate to readjust the project and make sure that the thesis will be a complete investigation of the PhD topic. We also experience shorter PhD projects through the guidance and focus of the annual report. A third annual report after three project years (usually close to the end of the PhD) is optional. 

Benefits for PhD members

The graduate school HGS MathComp aims at providing an optimal framework for PhD projects. We strongly believe that giving our fellows dedicated conditions to conduct the PhD project helps to raise the level of quality in PhD research and allows the PhD candidates to fully focus on their project. To this end HGS MathComp offers various measures that any member can draw from.

  • Travel grants to attend one conference during the time of the PhD, irrespective of the own research project and funded by the graduate school. Travel grants can be used to visit a networking conference (1st year) to learn more about the own field or to present own research results through a contirbuton to the conference (talk, short presentation, poster ...).
  • Student assistants to support the research work and experiments conducted during the PhD project. The graduate school funds HiWi contracts to support PhD projects with up to 40h/month for the duration of 6 months.
  • Our large guest program allows fellows already in their PhD phase to network with international partners and invite lecturers, researchers and other PhD students to visit Heidelberg University and the graduate school.
  • The Training program that offers compact courses, workshops and training sessions for methodological training, software application and key competence knowledge. The participation in the training program is free and the amount and selection fo courses is up to each member.
  • Parent support allows PhD candidates who became parents during their research project to extend the funding of their position for 12 months (scholarship or 50% position TVL-E13; fully funded by the graduate school).
  • Women in Science networking is realized in the Upstream project of HGS MathComp. Women are still underrepresented in PhD projects in some fo the natural and technical sciences (physics, chemistry, computer science). Through Upstream we aim to close the gender gap by providing networks of female scientists and thus support informed decisions on career options for women. 

All fellows of HGS MathComp can apply to any measure at any time. We aim to make the application for all measures as easy as possible and to support as many proposalas as our funding permits. Each proposal is evaluated by the HGS MathComp main office and decided by the chairwo:men of the school in their bi-monthly meeting. Evaluation and decision usually take between 3 and 5 weeks, making these funding lines as responsive as possible.

Obligations during the membership

HGS MathComp runs like a support club for all its members. The various support measures are linked to obligations that each fellow has to fulfill. The obligations for members fall into three categories: report on training activities, list of cenferences and mandatory events.

1. Report of training activities

The PhD phase is the crucial period for developing own skills and an area of expertise that will shape a large part of future interests for many of our fellows. By becoming a member, all PhD candidates agree to report their training efforts by conducting a list of activities undertaken as part of the own PhD project. This includes courses, summer schools, workshops with own participation, membership in scientific groups, leading roles in student societies and research visits.

We encourage our members to take the opportunity during their PhD project to engage in various activities. To this end HGS MathComp offers an own course program that members can take part in free of charge. We also support our members by reimbursing trainign fees for specific courses that fellows take to enhance their own training (language courses, key competence trainings, software courses etc.).

Note that the training program of HGS MathComp is not mandatory. Every member reports their own training activities and freely chooses from all available courses at HGS MathComp, Heidelberg University in general and courses abroad. 

2. List of Conferences

Equally important for the development of PhD candidates is to enhance their visibility by participating in scientific conferences. While HGS MathComp supports this through our mobility proram, we also oblige our PhD fellows to report on their scientific networking by listing all conferences they attend. This list is compiled by each candidate on the blue sheet, the single administrative record that each PhD member maintains.

By providing a list of their conference appearances, PhD fellows support the graduate school in its visiblity and at the same time engage themselves in the ever-important dialog between scientists regarding latest research results.

3. Annual retreat and Fellows' Assembly

These two events are mandatory for all PhD fellows of the graduate school:

The annual retreat formerly known as annual colloquium) takes place in autumn and is a two-days scientific workshop organized by the fellows and for the fellows. All PhD members of the graduate school meet to discuss their research projects, engage in workshops and trainings and socialize during this retreat event. Costs for participating are funded by the graduate school. The annual retreat is usually organized in a youth hostel or conference center within 100km of Heidelberg University.

The fellows' assembly is an organisational meeting f all members once per year. During the assembly he graduate school presents plans and  events of the next school year. The fellows also get together to elect fellow representatives who realize the interest of all fellows in the boards of the graduate school (executive board, admission committee). The fellows' assembly is a 2-hour meeting that takes place in spring.