I am looking for a phd position in stem cell biology and have been trying very hard for the last 6 months in Germany or any European country. I have tried to contact many professors via mail but have nothing by way of a good response. I have a good academic record and score.

Can anyone please help me out how to best proceed or where I may be lacking in my method so far?


As aid before, the process is very different from country to country. I personally have experience in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland.

  • More and more institutions move to PhD programs. Sometimes it is the only way to do a PhD, and Professors are discouraged to hire students without them going through the initial assessment of the PhD program committee. Usually, these programs are easily to find on the web. See e.g. here http://www.vbcphdprogramme.at, or here http://www.biozentrum.unibas.ch/education/phd/overview/

  • Look for job advertisements at dedicated portals like ResearchGate (http://www.researchgate.net) or http://www.eth-gethired.ch in Switzerland.

  • Contacting Professors out of the blue might work in some cases/disciplines. In fields or countries were industry pays much, much more than academia, Professors have problems in recruiting talented PhD students, e.g. computer science or generally in Switzerland. They are glad if they can finally put a qualified person who does the work on the grant they already got month ago.


The process is going to be very different from one country to the next. But from what I have seen so far, the three most common ways to start a PhD in Europe are:

  • Reacting to a job offer. If there is a specific position available and no local student that's been pre-selected for it, it's possible to come to a university to start a PhD.
  • Coming in contact with a professor through a course (possibly while doing some preliminary research work with said professor). This would require (re)doing a master's degree in the same university, with an eye toward the PhD.
  • Coming with your own funding, very often a grand from a foreign government or possibly from a private company.

I don't know anybody who started a PhD by contacting a professor/research group out of the blue.

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