Master Program - 1st Phase of Direct Track

In the 2-year Master's phase of Matter to Life (MtL), you will get an insight into interdisciplinary research. Not only will you get a good foundation of knowledge in the separate scientific disciplines, but you will also learn a common scientific language, a key skill indispensable for interdisciplinary research in joint courses across the various locations. The Matter to Life program brings together students with different Bachelor topics from all around the world.

We are looking for interdisciplinary interested, highly motivated students with a Bachelor or a comparable degree in chemistry, physics, biochemistry, biophysics, biotechnology, materials science, engineering or related subjects. The program is entirely taught in English and we welcome especially international students. Small cohort sizes enable strong scientific and cultural exchange and will give you the chance to not only understand scientific questions from different angles of various disciplines, but also from different cultural backgrounds.

The 1st phase in Matter to Life can be conducted at one of our teaching universities offering different foci. In the first term you share almost all lectures with your nine other class mates and the 10 Matter to Life students at the other University. You will get an insight into Synthetic Chemistry, Synthetic Biology, Physics of Complex Systems and Ethics in Synthetic Biology taught by the experts of the MtL Faculty members in the respective fields. This gives you the opportunity to get to know different scientific disciplines compared to your Bachelor study. You will learn to understand that different perspectives on the same problem can give you valuable information and new approaches to solve long lasting riddles in the interface of chemistry, biology and physics. In the 2nd term you will specialize respectively depending on the study site you have chosen. The 3rd and the 4th term will give you enough time to get familiar with the research of the MtL Faculty during the lab rotations and the Master thesis.

To give you a smooth start, you will have access to voluntary preparation courses before the study start. This gives you the possibility to decide by yourself if you need to catch up on content or if you are already good to go. Additionally, the program will start with a 3-week welcome course in September introducing you to your cohort and giving you a suite of tools and techniques to handle interdisciplinary science and research. Find more information below to decide which focus would suit you best.

The application phase is usually from October – December, one year before study starts in the winter semester. In 2022, the application portal opens a little delayed in November, but still closes on the 31st December. If you would like to be notified as soon as the portal opens this year, just sign up here!
Find all detailed information about your application on our application page.

"After studying Chemistry, I wanted to expand my knowledge in new areas to work in the interdisciplinary field of the Life Sciences. The Matter to Life program in Heidelberg allows me to combine my interests in Chemistry with a variety of topics in Physics and Biology.
Working together with international students with different backgrounds offers me many perspectives on scientific subjects and because of the small group size I receive individual mentoring to achieve my scientific goals.
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.
After the Master phase I can directly transition into the PhD phase of the program and apply the theoretical and practical knowledge I gained beforehand. Because of this system, I will be well prepared for the PhD and can still benefit from the Matter to Life network."


Jan-Niklas Haug
MtL Master student

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. In the second year, the program is research based. The first year of the program is dedicated to a combination of core courses that establish a common ground for all MtL students plus a broad range of specialized courses which can be chosen by individual students according to their interests.

Shared core courses

  • Introduction to Physics of Complex Systems
  • Synthetic Biology
  • Synthetic Chemistry
  • Ethics in Synthetic Biology
  • Advanced Complex Systems and Biological Physics

Degree focus at University of Göttingen

Master’s in Matter to Life: Complex Systems and Biological Physics

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

Specialized courses

  • Advanced Statistical Physics
  • Soft Matter Physics
  • Biophysics of the Cell
  • Statistical Biophysics
  • Biomolecular Physics and Simulations
  • Micro- and Nanofluidics
  • Computational Neuroscience

Degree focus at Heidelberg University

Master in Matter to Life: Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering

The Matter to Life (MtL) program at Heidelberg University focuses on the field of Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering and longs to overcome the traditional boundaries that exist between disciplines. It addresses the roots of biological processes in chemistry and physics, forming the basis for the understanding of life, as well as providing the means to engineer life-like processes. Thus, the program is heavily research-oriented and encourages students to think and learn autonomously. It expands upon the student’s foundations from their Bachelor’s studies into interdisciplinary scientific issues.

Specialized courses

  • Macromolecular Structures and Functions
  • Chemical Biology
  • Bioconjugation & Imaging Chemistry
  • Genome Engineering
  • Synthetic Cells & Virology

In addition to the classes, students will participate in biannual MtL Days of the Max Planck School MtL alongside older student cohorts.

After successful completion of a Master’s degree, PhD candidates will continue the last three years of the program performing research with any of the MtL Faculty members within the network (see Faculty page).

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