Physical Processes in the Solar System and Beyond, Ph.D.

  • Application Deadline
  • 36 months
  • Tuition
    Tuition (Year)
    Tuition (Year)
  • English (take IELTS)
University rank #112 ,
The Solar System School recruits and supports excellent junior researchers, offering them training towards a PhD degree in physics at an international graduate school in a vibrant geo- and astrophysics research environment.


The "International Max Planck Research School for Solar System Science at the University of Göttingen" (IMPRS, Solar System School) is a collaboration of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research and the University of Göttingen offering an international PhD programme in physics.

The Solar System School is a research-oriented graduate programme hosted by the Max Planck Institute (MPS) on the Göttingen Campus in the centre of Germany. In this unique environment, the IMPRS School is run jointly with the Institute for Astrophysics and the Institute of Geophysics. Junior researchers joining the doctoral programme will find that these institutes offer excellent facilities, internationally renowned researchers and experienced teachers, and provide excellent conditions to specialise in the field of Solar System science.

Detailed Programme Facts

  • Full-time duration 36 months
  • Study intensity Full-time
  • Languages
    • English
  • Delivery mode
    On Campus

Programme Structure

The school offers a research-oriented 3-years graduate program. A prerequisite is a diploma or a masters degree in physics.

Most of their time, the students perform research on their doctoral thesis project under the supervision of experienced scientists and teachers. Besides, the curriculum consists of course work and practical training, supplemented by seminars and journal clubs. Emphasis is put on establishing an international atmosphere with ample contact opportunities for the students and an interactive and dynamic working environment. This is achieved by conducting yearly retreats, weekly seminars, journal clubs, and by providing the students with the opportunity to present their work at international conferences.

Intensive courses in astrophysics, solar and heliospheric physics, and planets and small bodies provide a deep insight into the research topics of the school. The compulsory program also includes courses in methods of computational physics and data analysis, instrumental methods, and basic scientific techniques with practical exercises and tutorials. These courses are intended to introduce all students to the various aspects of solar system research and to bring them to a comparable level of knowledge. Courses are repeated on a two-year interval.

The further activities of the research school consist of a general seminar, specialised journal clubs, a yearly retreat of the whole school with courses of general relevance, and specialised courses. The continuation of interdisciplinary education and research throughout the three years ensures cross-fertilisation between the research fields and aims at a broad and scientifically open-minded education.

The main curricular elements of the research school are

  • three to four weeks per year of intensive block courses on all aspects of solar system physics and scientific techniques,
  • a fortnightly half-day seminar, in which the students regularly report on the progress of their work and scientists give tutorial talks,
  • a yearly one-week retreat (summer school) of the whole school with courses and lectures of general relevance.

It is foreseen that external experts are invited for lectures, workshops, and block courses on a case-to-case basis. Participation in specialised block courses and the summer school may be offered to a limited number of students and scientists from outside the school in order to promote national and international contacts. Furthermore, the students will be encouraged and given the opportunity to present their work at international conferences.

Basic Courses and Introductory Lectures

(3 to 4 weeks of compact courses per year, 2 courses a 15 h per week, repeated on a 3-year basis)

Planets and Small BodiesInterior and SurfacesAtmospheres and MagnetospheresSmall Bodies Solar and Heliospheric PhysicsInterior, Helioseismology, Convection, Magnetic FieldsPhotosphere and Chromosphere, Radiative TransferCorona and Heliosphere AstrophysicsStellar Structure and EvolutionGalaxies and Cosmology Plasma PhysicsConcepts: Kinetic Theory and MagnetohydrodynamicsDynamo TheorySpace Plasma Physics Computational Physics and Data Analysis Instruments

Seminar, Retreat and Special Courses

IMPRS Solar System Seminar S3 (fortnightly half-day seminar, 3 talks by students plus 1 tutorial talk, 1 to 2 reports per year per student)
Yearly Retreat
(1-week summer school with courses and external lecturers)
Special Courses

Thesis Preparation

Topics for Special Courses / Summer Schools

Basic Scientific Techniques
Project Management
Extra-Solar Planetary Systems
Active Stars

PhD Projects and Thesis

PhD projects are offered and supported by any one of the institutes in the Research School. Supervising scientists not affiliated with one of the partner universities share the supervision with a faculty member. The thesis will be written in English; students are expected to publish at least two papers in refereed journals during their PhD period.

A Thesis Advisory Committee (TAC), to be named at the beginning of the thesis work, guides the student through the preparation period and monitors her/his work. The TAC consists of the thesis supervisor and one or two other senior staff members of the institutes involved in the research school. At least one of the members must be a regular professor at the university at which the student is inscribed.

English Language Requirements

You only need to take one of these language tests:

  • Minimum required score: 6

    The IELTS – or the International English Language Test System – tests your English-language abilities (writing, listening, speaking, and reading) on a scale of 1.00–9.00. The minimum IELTS score requirement refers to which Overall Band Score you received, which is your combined average score. Read more about IELTS.

    Take IELTS test
  • Minimum required score: 80

    The TOEFL – or Test Of English as a Foreign Language – offers an internet-based test (iBT). The final, overall iBT score ranges between 0 and 120, and includes a scaled average from the four components (reading, listening, speaking, and writing). Read more about TOEFL (iBT).

Academic Requirements

The Solar System School seeks excellent applicants with a keen interest in any area of Solar System Science and beyond: Earth and planetary sciences, space physics, Solar and stellar astrophysics, helioseismology, asteroseismology and extra-solar planetary systems. Please see the latest call for the qualifications required to apply. Generally, PhD opportunities are announced and students are admitted to the Solar System School once per year.

Tuition Fee Per Year

  • Free International
  • Free EU/EEA


Usually, the research group or department provides funding to their doctoral students in the form of either an employment contract or a scholarship (approx. monthly amount of scholarship or net salary: 1100-1400 EUR).

StudyPortals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.