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Target group

Participants of SMARTSTART 2…

  • … have completed their Master’s degree upon starting the program.
  • are planning their PhD in computational neuroscience and prepare their own collaborative research project.
  • want to acquire methodological and project-relevant skills.

SMARTSTART 2 offers…

  • … 12-month financial funding to prepare your own research project.
  • … advice and support from two mentors of collaborating labs to develop your project.
  • … the opportunity of lab exchanges up to 6 months.
  • … the possibility to visit courses and lectures in all participating institutions.
  • … 1,600€ personal travel budget to support participation in courses and events.


SMARTSTART 2 students are guided by two mentors from collaborating labs. The mentors support their students in carrying out their own research project. The student will spent a significant amount of time in both of their mentors' labs, covering one aspect of their research project there.

Upon application, the students have to submit a project proposal signed by both mentors. It is thus strongly recommended to get in touch with potential mentors in due time before the application! They will help to plan the project and to compose the proposal.

Either the first or second mentor has to be a member of the SMARTSTART faculty.


During the 12-month SMARTSTART 2 funding, students are supported to thoroughly plan their PhD project and acquire the necessary skills. The ideal project is a collaborative work with two laboratories with complementing approaches, e.g. a theoretical and an experimental lab. Students will spend between two and six months in the collaborating lab, covering one aspect of their project and improve project-relevant skills at an early state.

From this project, the students will hand in their PhD proposal towards the end of SMARTSTART 2 program. This proposal 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.

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 year, the students benefit from basic, advanced and individual training opportunities in participating institutions and scientific events. 

They can choose their own curriculum from the SMARTSTART course catalogue, take part in summer schools and methodological workshops, and visit lab groups of participating institutions to get hands-on research experience.

The participation in scientific events such as conferences and symposia is strongly encouraged; this way the students start presenting their own work and establish their own scientific network.

All SMARTSTART students are provided with a personal travel budget which can be used for transportation, accommodation and participation fees in courses and events.


SMARTSTART fosters networking of participants with the SMARTSTART networking events, i.e. the kickoff meeting and a self-organized student’s retreat. It provides an internal communication channel as a special service to facilitate contact among fellow SMARTSTART students.

Starting date

To allow for a smooth transition between completing the Master’s degree and start of the 12-month funding phase, the starting date can be variably set in accordance with the student’s mentors.

Please note, the Master’s degree has to be acquired upon start of the program, including issuance of the Master’s degree certificate.