Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

General information

Please feel free to contact our coordination team anytime ()!

You will start the program with the 1st phase, a 2-year Master program, at one of the teaching 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 closes every year on December 1st (24:00 CET). The link to the application portal is available on the application page. See the program page for more details about the specific programs offered at each university. Please be aware that the application for Heidelberg University has to be submitted in printed form by the deadline.

There are five main foci of the MPS Matter to Life: Complex Systems and Biological Physics (University of Göttingen) and Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering (Heidelberg University).The first two years of the five-year program (Master's phase) will be carried out at one of the two Universities according to your interest with teaching contributions by the whole faculty. Please see the Program page for more information.

If you are interested in doing interdisciplinary research, this is your chance to join an excellent network of the top scientists within different disciplines contributing to solving the same questions.

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 unless your previous program was taught in English. Test scores cannot be older than two years for the application at University of Göttingen and four years at Heidelberg University. 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 not later than July 30th of the year you start the program in.
The accepted tests are university-specific and summarized below:

  • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL iBT) – min score 90
  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – min score 6.0
  • C1 Advanced/Cambridge Certificate in Advanced English (CAE)/Cambridge English Scale – min score 173 points
  • UNIcert® Certificate - accepted at Göttingen
  • NULTE Certificate - accepted at Göttingen
  • Global Scale of English (Pearson Academic) - accepted at Göttingen
  • At least two years of relevant study or professional stay/successful completion of an English-language study program within the three years prior to the application submission - accepted at Göttingen

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


    Applicants should come from a discipline eligible for the program. Whether your previous study is relevant will be decided on a case-to-case basis and depends on your transcript and specific modules you have completed. For admission you have to submit copies of your official transcripts (either in German or English), a motivation letter of 5 pages max for Heidelberg University, 8500 characters for the University of Göttingen, and you 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. Exceptions are your native language being English or your previous program being taught in English, in which case you do not need to provide the language test. For Matter to Life University of Göttingen you need to have a minimum amount of credits (ECTS) in mathematics, physics and natural sciences, which are 96 ECTS in Natural Sciences, including 19 ECTS of physics and mathematics. This will also be decided on a case-to-case basis.
    For detailed admission criteria, please also check the Zulassungsordnung for Heidelberg University or the University of Göttingen.

    We invite top undergraduate students with backgrounds in physics, chemistry, biology, materials science or engineering (or a related sub-field) to apply to our program. Your previous study (Bachelor of Science, Bachelor of Tech, Bachelor of Art, Staatsexamen etc.) needs to have had at least 6 terms.

    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 the start of 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, i.e. you will entered the program as if you only held a Bachelor's degree. Nevertheless, please indicate your further studies as well and submit the respective documents.

    There are no limitations for the time that has passed since your last degree. You should be able to explain why you have decided to apply for a university study again (especially after a longer gap) and why you seek to do a PhD in Matter to Life.

    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.

    Lab experience is not required. However, laboratory work will be one of the main parts of the 1st phase of Matter to Life and experience is therefore beneficial.

    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 to the application process can be found here. If you apply to both sites, your applications will be treated independently.

    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 logo), then choose the University of your choice (Heidelberg University or University of Göttingen) by clicking on the respective logo. Important to take into account: Applicants to Heidelberg University are also required to mail in a hard copy of their application before the deadline. Please see the Application page for more details and the link to the portal.

    1) Your paper/written application will be reviewed by the admissions committee who will consider your grades and your suitability for the program based on your CV 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 a publication from one of the Matter to Life Faculty. This will be sent to you beforehand.

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

    Your interviews will be conducted by Matter to Life Fellows who are members of the admission committee at the respective sites.

    The interviews are about 15 min each.

    You will be notified by email when your hard copy application has arrived at the Matter to Life office in Heidelberg.

    Application via the application portal is sufficient.

    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. But be aware that your hard copy application of Matter to Life Heidelberg University needs to arrive at the Matter to Life Office before the end of the deadline. The sending process might take a couple of weeks, so submit your application early enough. Applications arriving after the application deadline cannot be taken into account.

    Unfortunately, this is not possible. 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 small cohort size and thereby excellent networking. Therefore, we only accept 10 students per year and site.

    Yes. Your applications will be treated independently.

    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 at the sites you would like to participate separately.

    Application Files

    Please check the application page for further information.

    That depends on the teaching university you apply to. For Matter to Life University of Göttingen, which focuses on Complex System and Biological Physics, a good grasp of mathematics will allow you to get the most out of the program. You have to have at least 19 CP of mathematical and physical modules in your qualifying degree in order to be admitted to the program at University of Göttingen. We offer a voluntary mathematical preparation course for those who need 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. For Heidelberg University, you must have finished your degree by September. For the University of Göttingen, you must submit proof of a completed BSc degree by 15 November 2022.

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

    No, there is no age limitation for applicants. Age as well as gender is not taken into account during 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 equation. Therefore, you have to submit the grading scheme of your university as well.

    Please show your passion for science, explain your scientific education and point out why you are especially interested in our program in comparison to others.

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

    The transcript of your degree your application is based on is sufficient. However, additional transcript can just show your additional qualification.

    Study phase


    The Max Planck School Matter to Life offers competitive, full financial support in form of a generous scholarship that covers costs of living (including tuition and fees).

    The scholarship is valid for 2 years and amounts to about € 1300. However, this slightly depends on your individual circumstances (married vs. single etc.).


    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 either have a room in the Max Planck Guest House or in the student housing of the University Heidelberg. Unfortunately, we cannot guarantee that your flats/room are close to each other. Of course, you have always 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 the study site you will start at. 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 you have to write. For more details, please check the module handbooks of your teaching site of choice.

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


    For more detailed information, please check the 1st phase page and find all information in the module handbooks of the respective University you are interested in.

    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, 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) in order to obtain their PhD, 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 TVÖD-13 position or equivalent.

    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 and will help to strengthen further 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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