Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General information

Please feel free to contact our coordination team ()!

You will start the program with the 1st phase, a 2-year joint Master program, at Göttingen and Heidelberg universities. If you decide to leave the program after that phase, you will have a Master of Science. If you decide to continue with the 3-year 2nd phase, the research PhD phase, you will graduate with the German equivalent of a PhD, a Dr. rer nat, which is recognized worldwide as the equivalent of a PhD.

The online application portal opens again in fall of 2024 for admission in 2025. The link to the portal is available on the application page. See the program page for more details about the specific programs offered at each university.

Our research areas are as diverse as our Faculty which are distributed among the premier institutes and universities in Germany. A common theme that binds different groups within the MtL family is their focus on unravelling the physical and chemical fundamentals of cellular and biological processes to arrive at a greater understanding of the complexities of life. Visit the websites of the faculty members to learn more about their research.

If you are interested to do interdisciplinary research, this is your chance to enter an excellent network of top scientists in different disciplines contributing to solve questions related to the fundamentals of life.

English proficiency

Yes, the official language of the school is English and so all courses, workshops and other events are in English.

Yes, solid knowledge of the English language is necessary for your success in the program, which will be conducted entirely in English. An internationally-accepted language test will be required for non-native English speakers. Test scores cannot be older than four years prior to the date of application. Please note: The English language test is required for admission to the program, but not for the application submission. If you cannot complete the test before applying, please indicate that it will be taken at a later date. Your test must be submitted by July 15th of the year you start the program.
The accepted tests are:

  • TOEFL Paper based 570 out of 677 points
  • TOEFL internetbased (IBT) - minimum 90 out of 120 points
  • IELTS - minimum band score of 6.5
  • UNIcert® - minimum UNIcert® II with a minimum grade of 2.3
  • NULTE - minimum B2+
  • Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)
  • At least two years of relevant study or professional stay in an English speaking country or successful completion of an English-language study program within the three years prior to the application submission

  • No! The program will be conducted entirely in English.

    Prerequisites for admission

    Applicants should come from a discipline eligible for the program. Whether your previous study is relevant will be decided on a case-by-case basis and depends on your transcript and the specific modules you have completed.

    For admission, you have to submit copies of your official transcripts (either in German or English). You must have completed one of the following:
  • Bachelor of Science degree (e.g. in Chemistry, Physics, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Materials Science, Biotechnology)
  • Bachelor of Engineering (e.g. in the subjects Molecular Systems Engineering, Bioengineering)
  • or have completed a course of study in a related natural science or engineering discipline in at least six semesters.
  • We require proof of 96 ECTS credits in the study-relevant natural science and/or engineering subjects and/or mathematics. If your certificates have been awarded by a foreign educational institution you need to provide certified copies. Additionally, if the certificates are neither in German nor English, official translations must be attached.

    Further your application needs to contain a motivation letter. Please find the template with defined questions on our application page. Please download the document, complete it by answering the questions, and upload the completed form as a .pdf file to the applicant portal at the appropriate location. For more details, please check the section below "Documents necessary for application".

    You will need to meet the minimum score requirements on an approved English language exam. The English proficiency test can be submitted after the selection process is completed (latest until 15 July, 2024 for the current selection phase). Exceptions are, if your native language is English or your previous program was taught in English. In this case you do not need to present the language test, but please provide proof of it. For further details, please refer to the section above on English proficiency.

    We invite undergraduate students with a background in Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Biotechnology, Materials Science or Engineering (or a related sub-field) to apply to our program. Your previous study (Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Engineering, Bachelor of Technology, Bachelor of Arts, Staatsexamen etc.) needs to have the equivalent of 96 ECTS.

    Yes, you can apply with a current transcript and proof that you will complete your academic degree by the start of the program. You must provide the final transcript and graduation certificate by the time of enrolling in the program.

    Yes, but only if you wish to carry out another Master's degree program. You will be required to participate in the full 5-year program in which the first 2 years will consist of university coursework. The qualifying degree is the Bachelor’s degree, but modules taken during a Master degree can be taken into account when calculating the qualifying modules for application.

    There are no limitations on the time passed after your last degree. You should be able to explain why you have decided to apply for university studies again (especially after a longer gap) and why you seek to do a Master/ PhD in Matter to Life in your motivation letter.

    We look for applicants with an excellent education and high passion for interdisciplinary science.

    Not necessarily. You can refer to your publication in the interviews during the selection process and use them to show why you are suitable for the program.

    Research experience is not required, but may be an advantage. If you already have experience in research, please indicate this accordingly in your letter of motivation.

    That depends on your nationality. If you are from the Schengen area or the United States, you don’t need a visa. Please check the respective pages from the Auswärtige Amt.

    Application process

    Please apply during the application time (September – December 1st) via our application portal to Matter to Life Heidelberg University and/or University of Göttingen. The link to the application portal and further information on the application process can be found here .

    Applying to the Max Planck School Matter to Life is done through an online application portal on the Application page. If you are accessing the portal for the first time, you need to first create an account. After this, you will be taken to the general Max Planck Schools portal, where you will need to choose the Matter to Life program (click on the respective logo). Please see the Application page for more details as well as the link to the portal.

    1) Your application will be reviewed by the admission committee who will consider your grades and your suitability for the program based on your transcript and motivation letter.

    2) Suitable candidates will be invited for a video conference interview to further assess your motivation and suitability for the program.

    3) Candidates who progress to this round will be invited for a second round of interviews where you will discuss 1 to 2 publications from the Matter to Life Faculty. This will be sent to you beforehand.

    Based on the evaluation of all three stages, the final top twenty candidates will be selected.

    Your interviews will be conducted by Matter to Life Fellows .

    The interviews are about 15 min for the first round and 30 min for the second round.

    The selection processes are very similar. The assessment of your performance in the interviews is based on the same questionnaires.

    We don’t have quotas for the Matter to Life study. All applicants will be treated equally and independent of age, gender, nationality, etc.

    No, this is a joint degree program, you only need to submit one application.

    Unfortunately not. The application and selection phase of each year are treated independently and you have to reapply if you cannot enter the program at the time you are accepted.

    We are aiming for a small cohort size. Therefore, we only accept 20 students per year.

    The coordination office will support you with your process to settle in Germany and inform you about all the steps you need to take in advance.

    Yes. The schools have independent application processes. Make sure to also apply to the other schools separately. Applications will be treated independently.

    Application Files

  • Certificates/Diplomas of all higher education degrees obtained (e.g. B.Sc., etc.) - if already obtained, at latest for your enrollment at the university, either in English or German. Official translations into English or German should accompany any diplomas that are in a different language
  • Proof of current enrollment if B.Sc. degree is still ongoing (official statement and/or transcript)
  • Official transcripts of completed and/or ongoing degrees, either in English or German
  • Letter of motivation – to be filled out directly within the application portal
  • For non-native English speakers, English language proficiency must be demonstrated by one of the following English language tests or applicable study: TOEFL iBT, IELTS, UNIcert®, NULTE, Cambridge Certificate of Advanced English; proof of completion of an English language bachelor program or proof of at least two years relevant study/stay in an English language program within the last three years prior to the application deadline. Tests are valid for four years prior to the date of application submission.*

  • * Please note that the English language test is not required for application submission, but is required for acceptance into the program. Thus, you can submit your application without having taken an English language test. If you are accepted into the program, test scores must be submitted by July 15th, 2024.

    Matter to Life is a quantitative study program so some mathematical background is necessary for you to be able to successfully participate. We offer a voluntary mathematical preparation course for those who like to refresh their mathematical background.

    Contacting us or the professors will not alter your chance of acceptance. However, if you have any questions or uncertainties regarding the program or the application process, you are welcome to always contact the coordination office. We are happy to help.

    We expect all our students to have completed their Bachelor’s degree prior to the start of the program. You need to submit proof of a completed Bachelor’s degree to fully enroll at the universities.

    Yes, definitely! If not available, please attach a file showing how many “study hours” a course had and state the highest grade and the lowest passing grade.

    All your grades are taken into account since your final grade will be used for the conversion into the German grading scheme.

    No, there is no age limitation for applicants. Age is not relevant for the selection process.

    No, unfortunately not. You have to either submit a preliminary transcript (a PDF version of your transcript is sufficient) or the final transcript.

    Your grades will be converted to the German grading system based on the modified Bavarian formula. Therefore, you have to submit the grading scheme of your university.

    No. Please do not submit recommendation letters. They will not be taken into account.

    Please include the transcript from your undergraduate qualifying degree (e.g. Bachelor of Science). If you have further relevant qualifications, please also include these.

    Study phase


    The Max Planck School Matter to Life offers full funding in form of a generous scholarship that covers costs of living (including tuition and fees) as well as, if applicable, a subsidy for health insurance and material costs in the Master phase and a contract according to the local Wage Agreement for Public Service in the PhD phase.

    The students receive an attractive scholarship which is valid for 2 years.


    In Göttingen, you will have the possibility to live in the “Wissenschaftliches Begegnungszentrum” together for the first 6 months, if you wish. In Heidelberg, you can have a room in the student housing of the University Heidelberg. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that your flats/rooms are close to each other. Of course, you always have the possibility to look for a room or shared flat on your own.

    We will help you to arrange the accommodation for the first 6 months, if required.

    Study load

    That depends on your focus. In general, the curriculum includes roughly 50 % lab work if you decide on it. During the first two terms, you will focus more on lectures, followed by a term of lab rotations and the Master thesis. You will have some computational courses in the lecture phase. However, it depends on you what you choose for your lab rotation (of course you could also choose to do computational work) and your Master thesis.

    Depending on the courses you will mostly have one written exam at the end of each lecture or module. Less often you will have an oral exam or an essay.

    The Master thesis is generally planned for the 4th semester.


    Please check the 1st phase page and find all information in the module handbook.

    Yes. The Matter to Life program at each University has a specific focus. For Matter to Life at the University of Göttingen this is Complex Systems and Biological Physics, for Matter to Life at Heidelberg University this is Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering. However, both sites also share the same courses in the 1st semester to ensure an insight into all disciplines.

    For the lab rotations, the Faculty members offer cooperative project proposals, from which you can choose. If you have your own research idea, you can also define a project based on this idea together with two Faculty members working on related topics. For the Master thesis and the 2nd research phase in Matter to Life you will have to approach the Faculty members yourself upon finishing the Master, if you have interest in their supervision. Please do not contact the Faculty members before you are admitted to the program. There will be a timeframe for initiating your lab rotation projects, about which you will be informed beforehand.

    Most of the focus lectures are held in-person, the shared lectures will be broadcasted from the respective lecture site to the other study sites. This is a hybrid in-person/online format. Almost all lectures are additionally recorded so that students have the possibility to re-watch the lecture content and study particular aspects of their interest in greater depth. Our Virtual Campus allows you to access both the lecture content and to connect and work together with your peers at both teaching sites.

    The MtL Days take place twice a year and are two-day Mini-symposia giving you an insight into Matter to Life research and more defined focus talks on cutting-edge scientific questions. Moreover, we offer discussion opportunities with your peers and the Faculty members .

    Transition to research phase

    No. We are offering a 5-year MSc to PhD direct track. The Master phase will give you the foundation for a successful research phase in interdisciplinary research and can therefore not be skipped.

    Yes, while we encourage promising scientists to advance into the research phase (years 3-5) after obtaining their Master's degree (years 1-2), we understand that 5 years is a big commitment to early career scientists; thus, candidates have the option to exit the program after completion of the Master's degree. The program automatically enrolls you in the full 5-year program, so if you choose to continue to the PhD research phase after completion of the MSc, you will not have to re-apply.

    Research phase

    Yes. We have mild prerequisites you still have to fulfill - like you need to find a supervisor within the Matter to Life faculty and obtain a GPA of at least 2.0 in the Master. But besides this, we are looking forward to having you for 3 more years with us!

    During your 3-year research phase you will receive a contract according to the local Wage Agreement for Public Service.

    We are aiming to train PhD students especially for an academic scientific career, but also advanced industrial careers.

    The scientific network you will have access to gives you excellent opportunities to establish yourself as a scientist. Furthermore, the PhD will prepare you to develop your own research ideas and hone your project management skills. If you decide against a career in academic research, your training to work at a high level in an interdisciplinary field will be an advantage in industrial R & D positions.

    We expect that employers will recognize the knowledge and skills you have acquired during the first phase, especially your strengths in working in an interdisciplinary environment. Employers will recognize a PhD as a high-level qualification, which prepares candidates for a scientific career in academia or industry.


    For FAQ regarding the MtL Undergraduate Research Opportunities (URO) program, please check the URO page.

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