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"Fast-track" route to a PhD degree

The newly established "Chemical Biology" graduate school jointly run by the biology, chemistry and computer science faculties at Constance University was officially opened on 7th May 2008. The new school was created as part of Germany’s excellence initiative and has been training doctoral students since the beginning of April 2008. The well-known chemist, Prof. Horst Kunz, from the University of Mainz was invited to give the keynote lecture, which provided exciting insights into the medical relevance of his research at the interface between biology and chemistry.

On 7th May 2008, the new Chemical Biology graduate school was officially opened at the University of Constance - the new school receives funding through Germany’s excellence initiative. The coordinators of the school, Prof. Andreas Marx and Prof. Martin Scheffner, are pleased that the school has now officially opened and they can look back on the busy months of project planning. However, there will also be a lot of work in the future. As many as 23 doctoral students have already registered with the school and are looking forward to working on the different research areas and preparing their doctoral theses. The doctoral students come from all over Germany and the school has already attracted the attention of international students. This is not surprising since the graduate school is actively working together with international partners, including the Universities of Stanford, Kanpur, Toronto and Nanyang, the ETH and the University of Zurich. Well-established and innovative companies are also working with the new graduate school.

Important for cancer research

In his keynote lecture entitled “Fully synthetic vaccines from tumour-associated mucin glycopeptide antigens”, Prof. Horst Kunz introduced the audience to the world of chemistry and to important fields of research in medicine. Kunz is an expert in peptide and carbohydrate chemistry. The methods developed by Kunz are for example used to examine viral shells and tumour-associated antigens. Prof. Andreas Marx explains what these antigens are: “Our research is also of great importance for medical research, for example for cancer research. Cancer cells differ enormously from normal body cells despite originating from the same tissue. Cancer cells generally carry certain tumour-associated antigens (TAA) on their surface that tell the immune system that a particular cell is defective. This induces a specific immune response and the defective cell is eradicated. If the immune system fails, then a tumour might develop.”

Strong commitment required

Students applying to the graduate school need to have high marks and excellent references. “There are a lot of applicants and we select suitable candidates very carefully. Students in the graduate school must be prepared to work hard. In exchange, students receive intense training and close supervision. Apart from the direct supervisor, there are two additional scientists from other disciplines, which clearly highlights the interdisciplinary character of the graduate school,” said Marx.

Research into important physiological processes

The graduate school mainly focuses on the scientific interface between biology and chemistry. The members of the school are investigating important physiological processes on the molecular level. The macromolecular constituents of cells, in particular proteins, are characterised in terms of their functional and structural interactions. Research priorities focus on synthetic chemistry, biochemistry, biophysics, biomedicine and bioinformatics. The training given by the graduate school comprises scientific courses and modules aimed at reinforcing key qualifications such as project and personnel management. This new and so far unique approach will guarantee a high quality education. Particularly motivated and hard-working students also have the option of obtaining a PhD within four years, where the master's degree is an accomplishment along the way (‘fast track’ route).

Source: University of Constance - 7th May 2008 (P)
Website address: https://www.gesundheitsindustrie-bw.de/en/article/press-release/fast-track-route-to-a-phd-degree