Application for PhD


1. General info about PhD at the faculty

The pre-requisites to be accepted by the faculty of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy at the Freie Universität Berlin are laid down in the official „rules for PhD students“ (Promotionsordnung). The essential pre-requisite is a successful completion of a study at a University or equivalent institution, e.g. Pharmacy, Chemistry, Biology etc. In Pharmacy, it is required to have the final exam at the end of the studies (2. Staatsexamen). It is not required the exam after the pre-registration year (Praktisches Jahr) as a pharmacist (3. Staatsexamen).
The German marks for the final exam range from 1 (best) to 4 (worst). Depending on the study, there is a different number of final exams, for the final mark an average is calculated from the marks achieved in the different examinations. For example, in Pharmacy, four final examinations have to be taken (subjects: Pharmaceutical Biology, Pharmaceutical Chemistry, Pharmaceutical Technology and Biotechnology, Pharmacology and Clinical Pharmacy).
To be accepted, a mark between 1.00 and 2.50 is required. With a mark in this range, one has the right to be registered as a PhD student. In case the minimum mark of 2.50 has not been achieved, the „Committee for PhD registration“ (Promotionsausschuß) can make a case-to-case decision whether to accept the PhD applicant. For example, in case the mark is 2.75 or 3.00, the candidate can still be accepted if he has special qualifications or achievements, e.g. having successfully spent a 6-months research stay during his pre-registration year in a laboratory abroad, providing an excellent reference by his external supervisor and/or his co-author of a publication arising from this time. Another possibility is that the PhD student had continuous very good or excellent results in written examinations throughout his studies, but just had a less well performance in the oral exams at the end of the studies (2. Staatsexamen). Whether to accept such a PhD student not fulfilling the minimum required mark is fully in the discretion of the committee.
PhD students from outside Germany need to prove a University education being equivalent to the German education. To obtain the certificate of equivalence, certified copies of the exams taken in the home country need to be provided to the PhD mentor of the Freie Universität. The mentor will pass on this information to the central office in Bonn being in charge of assessing the equivalence of studies (Zentralstelle für das ausländische Bildungswesen, Postfach 2240, Nasse Str. 8, 53113 Bonn, phone: +49 - (0)228 - 5010 (switch board)). The normal procedure is that the inquiry about equivalence will be passed by the mentor to this central office, not by the PhD applicant. In case the central office in Bonn states that no equivalence is given, there is the possibility to take special courses in our University to achieve this equivalence.
In case you would like to do a PhD in Pharmacy, but working in a different institution, it is also possible. In such a case, you apply for PhD registration specifying your supervisor in this institution as first mentor, at the same time you need an official mentor (Professor, PD) from the Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences who countersigns your application form. This is also possible with Prof. Müller, he already co-supervised such projects and acted as a second mentor.


2. Frame conditions – PhD in the research group Prof. Müller

The typical time required for a PhD in the research group of Prof. Müller is 3 years in case the PhD student is financed by a grant and can devote his full time exclusively to research. This also applies when the PhD student is financed by a company, i.e. he has no teaching duties. In general, it is also possible to finish in a time shorter than 3 years in case sufficient results have been achieved and a decent number of papers published.
There is also the possibility to finance the PhD by working as a laboratory assistant to supervise „practicals“ (Praktika) of the undergraduate students. In this case, the PhD student is employed by the University and receives a salary according to the public tarif with the trade unions (BAT IIA 50%). Of course, the teaching takes a considerable time during a PhD period, approximately 8 months in total. Therefore, the typical time for a PhD is appr. 3.5 to 4 years. When deducting the time required for teaching of about 8 months, a practically identical „net“ PhD time results compared with PhD students financed by grants or companies.
The research team of Prof. Müller attends 1 major conference per year, in general the complete team takes part (i.e. PhD students who are able to make a poster contribution or present an oral contribution). For example, in 2002, the group took part in the World Congress on Pharmaceutics, Biopharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Technology in Florence/Italy. The 2003 conference was the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists (AAPS) in Salt Lake City/USA. It is expected, that each student presents one or two poster contributions per conference, depending on the progress of his research.
During a PhD, a total of a minimum of 3 publications in peer-reviewed journals should have been published, the typical output per PhD student in the research group is somewhere between 3 and 5 publications as first author. All publications need to be either published or at least „in press“ before the PhD thesis can be submitted with the support of the mentor. Publications are also beneficial for the PhD students when applying for a position in industry. It proves that they did valuable research recognized by the reviewers of the journal and that they are able to summarize research data and put together proper scientific reports, essentials required for their work in industry.
It is also appreciated if the PhD student gives an oral presentation at a major conference at the end of his PhD time (however this is not a must!).


3. Financing of a PhD

In previous years, a substantial number of PhD students at the department of Pharmaceutical Sciences could be financed via a teaching position, i.e. employment by the University. Due to financial cuts, the number of these positions has been distinctly reduced. Depending on the age, the salary before tax for such a position is appr. 1400 €. By having such an employment, social security is included (e.g. health insurance, unemployment insurance, contributions to pension system).
Alternatively, the PhD can be financed by applying for a grant, various options are available. Detailed information can be obtained from Prof. Müller when applying for a PhD position. Depending on the kind of grant, it varies between appr. 750 € and 900 € per month tax-free. However, it does not include any social security, that means it is necessary to pay privately for the health insurance. To apply successfully for a grant, an exam very well above average is required, normally one supports only PhD students by grants who belong to the top 10%, i.e. the mark achieved in the final exam should preferentially be somewhere between 1.00 and 1.50. The chances get distinctly less with a mark of 2.00, but it’s still worthwile trying.
There is also the possibility to be financed during the PhD time by a pharmaceutical company. Within such a cooparation, basic research is performed which is of interest for the company. In such a case, the height of the PhD salary depends on the company.


4. External PhD students in hospitals/companies

It is also possible to undertake a PhD working in a hospital, research institute or in a pharmaceutical company or pharma-biotechnology company. In such a case, there will be a direct supervisor in this institution/company, the PhD student will be registered with the University via Prof. Müller and Prof. Müller is the main supervisor by the University. Examples in the research group of Prof. Müller are PhD students doing their PhD at the company Schering AG in Berlin or the Biotechnology company Probiogen in Berlin.

In case you are interested in such a type of PhD, it is recommended that you try to spend 6 months of your pre-registration training in a company. This gives the opportunity to ask directly your supervisor in the company if such a possibility exists, and if they have even internal grants for such a PhD. By working in the company they get to know you, which increases the chances of getting the possibility of doing a PhD with this company, also to get a grant.

It should be pointed out, that registration via Prof. Müller at the FU is only possible in case the research topic of the PhD is within the activities of Prof. Müller´s research (e.g. nanotechnology, nanocarriers, poorly soluble drugs, cytotoxics  etc.)


5. How to apply for a PhD?

First of all, applications should be made very well in advance to the anticipated starting date (typically 6-12 months). Prof. Müller plans his research very well in advance, in addition the general policy is that new PhD students will be introduced to the subject by a senior student who worked in this area before. To ensure such an „overlapping introductory“ period, a planning very well in advance is required.
Please send your application preferentially by Email ( It should contain the standard application material, e.g. CV, copies of exams, specification of the marks achieved in the 4 subjects in the final exam, reference letters from the „Famulatur“ and/or the chemist shop/company where you have worked during your pre-registration year.