Master Program - 1st Phase of Direct Track

Exploring interdisciplinary boundaries

In the 2-year Master's phase, the courses and modules are curated to give you a comprehensive understanding of the topic of Matter to Life (MtL). Apart from a solid foundation in the key scientific disciplines of physics, chemistry and biology, you will also learn a common scientific language through the joint courses, a key skill indispensable for interdisciplinary research. The Matter to Life program brings together students with different study backgrounds from all around the world, thus encouraging peer to peer learning and input.

General structure of study 

The 1st phase in Matter to Life can be carried out at one of our teaching universities offering different foci. In the first term you share all lectures with your batch mates from both universities. The course work covers topics including Quantitative Analysis of Chemistry of Life, Synthetic Biology, Physics of Complex Systems, Biophysics and Physical Chemistry of Life, and Ethics in Synthetic Biology taught by MtL faculty members who are experts in the respective fields. You will learn to appreciate that tackling a problem from different perspectives can give you invaluable information and help you devise novel approaches to solve complex issues situated at the interface of chemistry, biology and physics. In the 2nd term you will specialize depending on your study focus. Find more information below to decide which focus would suit you best.

The 3rd and the 4th term are devoted to gaining practical experience in the form of lab rotations and the Master thesis. This will give you enough time to get familiar with the research of the MtL faculty. Overall, the program is heavily research-oriented and encourages students to think and learn autonomously.

Welcome Course 

To give you a smooth start, you will have access to optional preparatory courses before the start of your study. This gives you the opportunity to assess your own competency, and a chance to address and rectify any knowledge gaps you might have. The program will commence with a 4-week welcome course in September, wherein you will be introduced to your cohort and fellow students. You will participate in a range of courses, talks, and workshops designed to enhance both your scientific and soft skills. These activities are carefully crafted to give you a comprehensive understanding and equip you with the tools to excel in your Master's course studies.

Who are we looking for? 

We are looking for highly motivated students with a Bachelor or a comparable undergraduate degree in chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biophysics, biotechnology, materials science, engineering or related subjects, and who are interested in an interdisciplinary curriculum. The program is entirely taught in English and we welcome international students. Small cohort sizes enable strong scientific and cultural exchange and will give you the chance to not only interrogate scientific questions from the perspectives of various disciplines, but also from different cultural contexts. The application phase is usually from September – December, one year prior to the start of winter study semester. Find all detailed information about your application on our application page.

Matter to Life PhD candidate Jan-Niklas Haug

"With many leading scientists throughout Germany, the course is strongly connected to current research in the field of Matter to Life and I get the chance to work on interdisciplinary research projects in many areas that I could otherwise not pursue."

Jan-Niklas Haug, MtL PhD Candidate

Degree foci

The first year of the two-year Master’s program is dedicated to courses that establish a common core knowledge for all students. This is followed by a roster of broad range of specialized courses from which student can chose according to their interests and aptitude.

Shared core courses

  • Introduction to Physics of Complex Systems
  • Quantitative Analysis of the Chemistry of Life
  • Bioengineering/Synthetic Biology
  • Biophysics and Physical Chemistry of Life
  • Ethics in Synthetic Biology
  • Professional Skills in Science

Degree focus at University of Göttingen

Master in Matter to Life: Complex Systems and Biological Physics

The MtL program at University of Göttingen focuses on the field of Complex Systems and Biological Physics. Students will learn theoretical concepts and experimental tools that can be used to quantitatively study biological systems. They will also investigate the physical and chemical principles that can either modulate the emergence of life or life-like behaviors from inanimate matter.

Specialized courses

Including but not restricted to:

  • Soft Matter Physics
  • Active Matter
  • Statistical Biophysics
  • Theoretical Biophysics
  • Biomolecular Physics and Simulations
  • Micro- and Nanofluidics
  • Theoretical and Computational Biophysics

Degree focus at Heidelberg University

Master in Matter to Life: Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering

The MtL program at Heidelberg University focuses on the field of Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering and aims to overcome the traditional boundaries that exist between disciplines. It addresses the roots of biological processes in the context of chemistry and physics, thus forming the basis for the understanding of life, as well as providing the means to engineer life-like processes.

Specialized courses

Including but not restricted to:

  • Macromolecular Structures and Functions
  • Chemical Biology
  • Bioconjugation & Imaging Chemistry
  • Genome Engineering
  • Synthetic Cells & Virology
  • GlycoSciences
  • Biofabrication and Tissue Engineering
  • Data Science and Simulations

Apart from the course work and lectures, students are expected to participate in biannual MtL Days of the Max Planck School, Max Planck School days (with students from other Max Planck Schools). These are excellent platforms for them to connect with faculty and fellow students, and thus establish and expand their scientific network.

After successful completion of a Master’s degree, students move onto the 2nd phase, wherein PhD candidates will continue the last three years of the program conducting their doctoral studies with any of the MtL faculty members within the network (see faculty page).

Exemplary Study Plan

1 st Semester
2 nd Semester
3 rd Semester
4 th Semester
Introduction to Physics of Complex Systems
Quantitative Analysis of the Chemistry of Life
Bioengineering/Synthetic Biology
Biophysics and Physical Chemistry of Life
Specialization in Matter to Life:
Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering
Lab Rotations:
2 projects in different groups/labs
Master Thesis
Ethics in Synthetic Biology
Professional Skills in Science
Choice of advanced subject related courses  
31 Credit Points
29 Credit Points
30 Credit Points
30 Credit Points
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