Doing your PhD at IRB Barcelona

The IRB Barcelona International PhD Programme

Training is a way of life at IRB Barcelona. When young scientists come to the Institute, they know they will be entering into world of opportunity where they can do their research and training in a unique international and multidisciplinary setting. PhD students receive close mentoring, have access to a wide variety of scientific activities and services, and are able to take advantage of an extensive network of academic and industrial contacts. Our goal is to stimulate young people to carry out creative scientific projects at the highest possible standard, and to become future leaders in the academic or industrial world.

Nearly 130 students, almost half of whom are non-Spanish nationals, are currently working toward their PhD thesis at IRB Barcelona.

Students work on a research project that is chosen in mutual agreement with their group leader. They also participate in all day-to-day activities of the laboratory to learn a variety of skills and techniques.

In addition to the application to IRB Barcelona internal predoctoral calls, the PhD students joining IRB Barcelona may also apply to external competitive calls that fund PhD fellowships. Frequent examples in the Institute are the predoctoral fellowships from the Spanish ―Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and from the ―Ministry of Education and Culture, among others. PhD students joining IRB Barcelona have to comply with the admission rules of the Institute.

Each PhD candidate (for any non-institutional fellowship or contract) is interviewed on an individual basis (i.e. not competitive) by a Selection Committee that writes a report to help the IRB Barcelona recruit the best candidates and guarantee standards of quality.

In addition to day-to-day supervision by the thesis directors, students are followed throughout the doctorate of their studies by a Thesis Advisory Committee, consisting of three members, at least one of which is an IRB Barcelona Group Leader or Research Associate and one an external advisor. After each year, students write a report on their work and discuss the report with their Thesis Advisory Committee. Upon completion of their practical work, students must write their thesis and successfully defend it at the university in which they are enrolled.

IRB Barcelona is not a University and cannot grant PhD degrees. Successful candidates must thus enroll in a University of their choice in order to obtain their PhD degree.

Local Universities are: Universitat de Barcelona, Universitat Autónoma de Barcelona, Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya, or Universitat Pompeu Fabra.

Students complete their coursework at at one university of their choice, while concurrently doing the practical training and work toward their thesis in an IRB Barcelona research laboratory. Students generally spend up to four years at IRB Barcelona, after which they complete and defend their thesis.

The PhD degree will be awarded by the University where they are enrolled.

In addition to their laboratory work, IRB Barcelona PhD students participate in many activities.

  • PhD Students’ Retreat. A 2-days event celebrating research by IRB Barcelona PhD Students, organized every two years. Activities include talks by current and former PhD students, poster sessions, and plenty of opportunity for exchange.

  • PhD Students Symposium. The PhD Student Symposium is an event organised biannually by IRB Barcelona PhD students. Young scientists are given the opportunity to participate in all the aspects of designing and managing a complex scientific event. Events have taken in place in 2009, 2011, 2013, 2015, 2017 and the next one will be in 2018 (ENABLE Symposium). Nobel-Prize winners and top scientists meet and discuss with younger researchers cutting-edge and interdisciplinary themes in a relaxed and informal atmosphere.

  • Short stays. Students are encouraged to do at least one stay abroad during their training. The stay can be subsidized by mobility fellowships or internal funds. Examples of host centres include the Massachusetts Institute of Technology-MIT (USA) and the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel), universities, such as Harvard University and ETH Zurich (Switzerland), and hospitals, such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center (USA), among many others. IRB Barcelona is also prepared and eager to welcome visitors from institutes worldwide. Each year it hosts more than 50 visiting researchers, including PhD students.

  • Complementary training and courses. IRB Barcelona promotes a series of activities aimed at further training in order to strengthen the skill set of predoctoral students such as “How to improve Scientific Writing” workshops, “Innovation and Technology Transfer” Seminars or “Scientific Communication in English” workshop.

  • Barcelona BioMed Seminars. Leading international scientists are invited to present and discuss their results and ideas in a series of weekly seminars. These sessions allow PhD students to learn about the latest developments in the life sciences, and give them the opportunity to have direct contact with seminar speakers. PhD students are also encouraged to invite seminar speakers of their own choice.

  • Journal clubs. Recent scientific publications are discussed by researchers at all levels in several journal clubs.

  • Communications activities. PhD students will also practice their communication skills through regular presentations, workshops and participation in public engagement and education events.

  • Social activities. IRB Barcelona PhD students also participate in social cohesion activities such as monthly "Cool-off sessions" where the student community meets informally for drinks, snacks and discussion on the rooftop terrace.

  • Group and Programme Retreats. IRB Barcelona scientists regularly participate in retreats, both at the group and programme level. These activities, held at picturesque off-site venues, provide an opportunity for intense scientific discussion and social interaction, and aim to foster collaboration among groups and programmes.

The IRB Barcelona PhD Student Council is in charge of organizing student-run activities like the cool-off sessions as well as communication between the student community and the Institute's direction. The council was founded in 2008. Its ten members - two from each programme - meet monthly to discuss current issues and upcoming events. To contact them, you can write to: student_council@irbbarcelona.org

 

We organise specific activities for PhD students during their first year at the Institute.

  • Induction course. The course, given at the beginning of September, introduces the units and platforms at IRB Barcelona and the PCB as well as providing information that may be useful during their PhD training period at the Institute as well as information about Barcelona.

  • Lab rotations during the first semester of the first academic year. Rotations provide students with the opportunity to experience different laboratory environments and experimental approaches as well as to get to know lab members from other groups, thereby fostering possible future collaborations.

  • Footsteps Programme. The Footsteps programme works by pairing up a new PhD student with a PhD student volunteer, the “guide”, who has been at the IRB Barcelona for a year or more.

PhD activities at IRB Barcelona are under the guidance of the PhD Advisory Committee, comprised of Group Leaders from each Research Programme and the Chair of Graduate Training. This body is responsible for shaping PhD training initiatives and identifying and implementing future goals. The PhD Advisory Committee and the Academic and International Scientific Affairs Office supervise and support the PhD student community.

From the administrative point of view, the IRB Barcelona Academic and International Scientific Affairs Office is responsible for implementing the guidelines given by the Committee and the Chair. Moreover, from this office, students are given support in other aspects related to academic matters, such as university enrolments and the follow-up of annual fellowship reports, among other activities.

The Chair, who reports directly to the Director of the Institute, is in charge of managing matters relating to the training of predoctoral students. The Director is the supervisor and person ultimately responsible for those matters.

The current Chair is Roger Gomis. 

The Chair of Graduate Training acts as:

  1. Chair of the PhD Advisory Committee.

  2. Liaison between IRB Barcelona Directorate, Institutional Boards and predoctoral community.

  3. Advisor—in cooperation with the Academic and International Scientific Affairs Office —assisting and guiding doctoral students on all issues and concerns that affect them

English is the working language at IRB Barcelona. Some universities offer science curriculum courses in English, while courses at other local universities are taught in Catalan and/or Spanish and some in English. Therefore, IRB Barcelona offers to all its members the opportunity to attend English and Spanish lessons to improve their language level.