The following is a list of frequently asked questions about how to apply to IST Austria.

  • How do I apply?

    The application deadline to start the PhD program in September 2017 has already passed. The next call will open in the fall of 2017 for a start date in September 2018.

    Apply for our PhD program by submitting your application using our online application form. This form will go live in the fall of 2017.


  • What is ISTScholar?

    The PhD program at IST Austria, also known as the ISTScholar program, is partially funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 665385). Top-ranked students who fulfill the mobility criteria will also be Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellows.

    For more information about our PhD program, click here.

  • What is the mobility criterion?

    To meet the mobility criterion, a candidate should not have resided in Austria for more than 12 months within the past three calendar years prior to application. In other words, a candidate submitting their application for the January 8, 2018 deadline should not have resided in Austria for more than 12 months between January 8, 2015 and January 8, 2018.

  • Who is eligible to apply?

    If you want to do a PhD program at IST Austria, you need to have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in science. You will be asked to submit proof of your previous degree(s) when you apply.

    Students who have a bachelor’s or a master’s degree in the following (or interdisciplinary) areas are eligible to apply:

    • Biology
    • Computer Science
    • Neuroscience
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • and interdisciplinary or related areas

    You also need to be proficient in English oral and written communication.

    For more information about eligibility, please refer to “Who is eligible” in this FAQ section.

  • Can I still apply if I do not fulfill the mobility criterion?

    Yes, absolutely. We review all incoming applications and select our students regardless of whether they fulfill the mobility criterion or not.

    If your application is successful, AND if you are among the top-ranked candidates who fulfill the mobility criterion in addition, you will obtain the title of “Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow” in addition.

    See our funding page for more information.

  • Is there funding for the PhD?

    All our PhD students are fully funded, at internationally competitive salary levels, and receive full social security coverage.

    There is also financial support for students to cover travel expenses for attending scientific conferences and workshops.

  • How long is the PhD program?

    The PhD program is typically 4 to 5 years in length, depending on whether the student has been admitted with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, as well as on the student’s individual progress.

  • How is the IST Austria PhD program different from other European PhD programs?

    The IST Austria PhD program is unique in Europe, in that it is modeled after US-style PhD programs. At IST Austria, students spend the first year exploring different research topics in rotations, before they decide on a supervisor and a research topic to offer a PhD thesis on.

    There is also a strong focus on interdisciplinary education and our courses, seminars, and colloquia are designed to foster communication beyond the confines of disciplines.

  • Where is IST Austria?

    IST Austria is located just outside of Vienna. It is a short 25-minute bus ride from Heiligenstadt (U4). See this page for directions to the institute.

    Vienna is consistently voted one of the best cities in the world to live in, and students have the choice of living in Klosterneuburg, a quiet area with beautiful woods and close to the world-famous monastery (Stift Klosterneuburg), or right in the hustle and bustle of Vienna.

  • Why should I study at IST Austria?

    At IST Austria, we are devoted to doing excellent basic science.

    English is the language of instruction and used for institute-wide communication. We are committed to equality and diversity. At the moment we have scientists and staff of over 50 different nationalities.

    We offer a unique shared graduate school experience, with rotations in the first phase of the PhD, allowing students to work closely with at least three different faculty members, before they need to commit to research group(s) to join for their thesis research. Our faculty are highly ranked for scientific excellence, and provide close mentorship to our students.

    Follow these links to find out more about our mission statement, and the range of scientific research being conducted at IST Austria.

  • What subject areas can I do a PhD in?

    The subject areas which you can do a PhD in is closely related to the research topics which our faculty members specialize in.

    A good starting point would be to browse through the scientific research topics being conducted at IST Austria, and see which area suits your background and interests best, as well as whether you have the relevant experience.

  • Can I start my PhD earlier than September?

    The start date for the PhD program is September 15. However, some students choose to do a research internship with a group of their choice before this date.

    For more information, have a look at the internship possibilities we offer.

  • What is a rotation?

    A rotation is a period in which students spend time in a research group (a different one for each rotation period) performing a research project.

    It is on the basis of this experience that students can choose to affiliate with a research group. It is also an excellent opportunity for students to learn to think across disciplines and build up cross-disciplinary skillsets.

    Students are required to do at least three rotations with three different research groups. For more information, have a look at our PhD program requirements page.

  • How do I find a supervisor?

    A supervisor guides a student throughout Phase II of the PhD studies, when the student performs research towards their thesis.

    Since it is quite a commitment to do a PhD and work towards a thesis, it is important that the student’s research interests and skills match those of the PhD supervisor.

    At IST Austria, the PhD program is set up in such way that students can do rotations with at least three different research groups, before they decide who their supervisor is going to be. This way, students experience what it is like to perform research in the respective research groups, and can make a more informed decision, while learning useful cross-disciplinary skills along the way.

    If you’re thinking about applying for a PhD at IST, a good starting point would be to explore the different research topics that our faculty specialize in and think of whether you’d like to join any of the research groups to do a PhD in.

  • What if I already know who I want as my supervisor?

    At IST Austria, students apply to the PhD program, rather than to individual research groups, and only decide on the thesis supervisor at the end of the first year.

    Our experience is that even those students who already have a clear idea of whom they want to work with greatly benefit from the rotation process. In some cases rotations confirm a student’s original choice, and in other cases rotations open up new horizons or help catalyze collaborations. In all cases, rotations help ensure a good fit between the student and their thesis supervisor—one of the key requirements for a successful PhD experience.

  • What is a qualifying exam?

    A qualifying exam is an exam which students need to pass in order to transition from Phase I to Phase II of the PhD studies.

    In preparation, students need to appoint a thesis committee, prepare a research proposal, and a reading list. The qualifying exam trains students to establish a road map for their own independent research project, a first step to becoming an independent scientist.

  • What is a thesis defense?

    A thesis defense is the final examination that decides whether a PhD student can successfully obtain a PhD degree. The thesis committee is the same as that for the qualifying exam.

    After a student passes the thesis defense and submits the final copy of their PhD thesis, they will be awarded a PhD.

  • Why does the PhD consist of two phases?

    At IST Austria, our mission is to equip students with the technical know-how and skills to communicate and perform research across disciplines. This interdisciplinary spirit is fundamental to the excellence of scientific research conducted at IST Austria. The PhD program at IST Austria is therefore designed with both breadth and depth of scope in mind.

    In Phase I, students perform rotations, which allow them to gain research experience in three different labs. On the basis of this experience, students can choose a PhD supervisor and join the respective research lab, as well as prepare a research proposal and reading list for the qualifying exam. Students also attend interdisciplinary courses, in addition to more specialized courses. This breadth of exposure helps students to gain a wide variety of skills and to identify their strengths and research interests.

    In Phase II, students focus on their chosen specialization and perform research towards their PhD thesis.

    It is through the combination of these two phases that our PhD students obtain a well-rounded scientific education, which forms a solid foundation for a future career in science, but also equips them with transferable skills beyond academia.

  • Do I need to speak German?

    No. English is the language used for communication in the Institute.

    On the other hand, being able to speak German makes a lot of things in daily live much easier in Austria. For this reason, IST Austria provides free German courses for students enrolled in the PhD program.

  • Where can I live?

    Housing is available on IST campus, and international students are prioritized if they choose to live on campus.

    There is a guest house with 38 guesthouse rooms (24 single rooms, 6 single rooms equipped to be suitable for persons with disabilities, 4 double rooms, 4 junior suites), for short stays of up to 3 months. For long stays of between 4 and 12 months, there are 31 apartments (between 33m² and 90m²) available, with plans already in place to expand the number of apartments in the future.

    A room or apartment can be rented for a period of up to one year after arrival, giving incoming international students time to find suitable accommodation for the subsequent years. Note that housing on campus is subject to availability.

  • What is student life like at IST Austria?

    Our PhD students are an integral part of the scientific community, and apart from scientific research activities, they are also actively involved in various sports and other leisure activities.

    There is the annual IST Institute Retreat, which scientists and staff of the whole Institute are invited to attend, and at which students are a significant presence.

    Some of our students also live on campus, and are actively involved in all the activities that the Institute has to offer.

    Have a look at Campus Life, to get a sense of what life on campus is like at IST Austria.

  • Where do IST Austria students come from?

    At the moment, we have scientists from over 50 different countries and a very diverse and international student population. About a quarter of our students are Austrian.

    IST Austria is committed to promoting diversity and equality, and we encourage applicants from all over the world to apply to the PhD program at IST Austria.

  • How do I find out more about IST Austria?

    The best way is to browse our website, the most up-to-date source for events and institute-related announcements.

    “Like” our Facebook page, to stay in the loop about IST Austria and the whereabouts of our scientists!

    We also have a quarterly newsletter, which is a summary of the highlights of our institute, in a compact quarterly format. You can also choose to have it delivered straight into your (virtual) mailbox, by filling out this form.

    Or, better even, visit us during the Student Open Day, or Open Campus Day, to experience first-hand IST Austria’s excellent infrastructure, warm sense of community and the excitement we all share for science!

  • Do I need a visa?

    If you are not from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland, you will need to apply for a visa in order to legally take up employment and register as a PhD student at IST Austria.

    When you get an offer from IST Austria, you will be sent information on how to apply for your visa abroad.

  • Who do I contact if I have questions?

    If you have any questions about our PhD program, feel free to contact the Graduate School Office team.

    We would be more than happy to tell you about our PhD program.

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