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The second component of the SMARTSTART Joint Training Program aims at students intending to start a PhD in Computational Neuroscience. During the one-year SMARTSTART 2 program, they will be financially supported to thoroughly plan their PhD project and to acquire the necessary skills. In particular, this component aims at supporting collaborative projects between two laboratories (e.g. between an experimental and a theoretical lab) allowing and requiring the student to spend a significant amount of time in the other laboratory. The students can attend lectures and courses offered by the participating institutions to complete their training in Computational Neuroscience. The student of SMARTSTART 2 should find one of their two mentors among the SMARTSTART Faculty. The goal of SMARTSTART 2 is a smooth transition to a three-year PhD phase that will be funded by the supervisor of the PhD project.


During the SMARTSTART 2 phase, students will pursue one or several exchange visits in a different lab at a participating institution with complementary methodological approaches to the PhD project (total duration up to 6 months, minimum duration two months). The exchange is intended to cover an aspect of the PhD project that is carried out in close collaborations between the two labs. This format allows the student to closely interact with a second PI and to further improve the project-relevant skills at an early stage.

PhD proposal

The PhD proposal - to be handed in towards the end of SMARTSTART 2 program - will contain a scientific hypothesis on which the work will be based, the state of the research field, the scientific aims, a short description of the methodology and techniques to be applied, and a brief motivation for the lab where the project is supposed to be carried out. A course in scientific writing focusing on grant and stipend applications will be offered to assist students in the generation of their proposal.

Kick-off Meeting

The annual kick-off meeting is held in association with the Bernstein Conference, giving SMARTSTART students the opportunity to attend the largest annual Computational Neuroscience conference in Europe.

During the kick-off meeting you will meet fellow students, program coordinators and faculty  members. The program is complemented by a scientific writing workshop to prepare the participants for publishing their research.

At the subsequent Bernstein Conference participants have the opportunity to meet members of the SMARTSTART Faculty and the Bernstein Network as well as alumni of the SMARTSTART program. There will be ample space for informal discussions facilitating the establishment of a professional network.

Student Retreat

Towards the end of the one-year SMARTSTART program, the students come together for a weekend to present and discuss the results of their projects, as well as to engage in informal discussion and joint extra-curricular activities. This event is organized by the SMARTSTART students themselves with support from the coordination office.


Find out more on the application process and how to prepare your application here.

Smart Start 2 Students 2018/2019

Paul Cristofari Aix-Marseille University
Kayson Fakhar University of Oldenburg
Aaron Gutknecht University of Osnabrück
Jan Lause University of Tübingen
Marita Metzler University of Tübingen
Nicolas Roth University of Heidelberg
Lucas Rudelt University of Göttingen
Jens-Steffen Scherer University of Oldenburg
Roxana Zeraati University of Tübingen

Smart Start 2 Students 2017/2018

Mahraz Behbood Humboldt University Berlin
Abib Duut University of Bremen
Barbara Feulner University of Göttingen
Conor Heins University of Göttingen
Maksims Ivanovs University of Osnabrück
Markus Lohmeyer University of Oldenburg
Lukas Sonnenberg University of Tübingen
Wenqing Wei University of Freiburg


Smart Start 2 Students 2016/2017

Yannik Bauer

Bernstein Center for Computational Neuroscience, Tübingen

Johanna Bayer

LMU Munich

Santiago Andres Cadena Ceron

University of Tübingen

Paulina Dabrowska

Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH

Marina Hader

Bernstein Center Freiburg

Dennis Huben

University of Tübingen

Madhura Ketkar

University of Göttingen

Paul Pfeiffer

Humboldt University Berlin

Alina Schiffer

University of Bremen

Kauê Werner

Technical University of Munich