Priming your PhD

At the beginning of their PhD Students participate in the introductory course Priming your PhD. As the name suggests the aim is to prime skills and competencies that are essential for a successful PhD. The course lasts for approximately three weeks and takes place twice a year: in January for the Summer Class and in June/July for the Winter class.

With this course we expect students

  • To Develop scientific reasoning skills (SR):
    • How to read, evaluate and integrate scientific literature and data;
    • Raise Awareness of different technologies and experimental approaches.
  • To improve communication skills (CS):
    • Writing;
    • Presenting;
    • At the workplace (interpersonal communication).
  • Strengthen the PhD students network and resourcefulness on campus (NR).

These aims are translated into the following modules:

Structured Journal Club (SR)

Facilitated by two faculty members

Critical reading of a manuscript is an essential skill for Science.

This module aims to ensure that all students know how to read and assess published data. Through a structured discussion of papers students will learn how to read a paper, raise questions and provide constructive feedback.

Numbers in Biology (SR)

Alexander Stark and Julius Brennecke (developed together with Wolfgang Busch)

This module introduces why today’s biology relies increasingly on data analysis and statistics. During hands-on exercises, you will review different topics , which will be important during your PhD - most of which you probably know from your previous education. The module will also point to other topics (and resources) you might want to explore.

  • Descriptive measures
    • mean, stdev, s.e.m (meaning and difference from stdev)
    • median and quartiles
  • Plots
    • scatter plot
    • barplot (definition/meaning of error bars)
    • boxplot (definition/meaning of whiskers)
    • violin plot
    • histogram (frequency & cumulative)
    • heatmaps & clustering (not covered)
  • Statistical tests
    • comparison of group means (t-test)
    • comparison of group medians (wilcoxon)
    • parametric vs. non-parametric testing)
    • Anova for multivariate tests (not covered)
  • Multiple testing correction
    • Bonferroni
    • FDR / Benjamini Hochberg (BH)
  • Counting statistics
    • binomial, hypergeometric, Fisher exact, chi-square
    • other distributions: exponential, poisson (not covered)
  • Other need-to-knows
    • Pearson and Spearman correlation
    • Linear regression
    • Calculating with ratios (geometric mean, problem of mean for ratios (0 <-> 1 <-> inf))
    • Calculation with logarithms
    • bootstrapping, permutations (=empirical p-values; not covered)
    • PCA (not covered)

Laying the foundations for effective writing (CS)

Trainer: Iain Patten Opens external link in new window

The workshop will introduce ways of understanding the process of writing before looking at the primary challenge of achieving clarity when presenting complex scientific information. Emphasis will be placed on applying common principles to different types of writing while recognising the specific requirements of each. Throughout the workshop, participants will consider how to apply these principles to the main writing tasks they face in their work, such as scientific publications, theses and fellowship applications. Participants will also explore how to use writing as a powerful and creative tool to enhance their scientific research by exploiting the relationship between critical scientific thinking and effective writing. Finally, participants will use these insights to develop a more efficient approach to writing and publication that will benefit their productivity. 

Primer on Presentation skills (CS)

Andrea Pauli and Inês Crisóstomo

Scientists are responsible to communicate their data to different publics.

This module will provide an introduction on how to prepare a good presentation. Students will then prepare and deliver a short their own presentation, which will be discussed and improved by the peers and facilitators.

Managing your PhD (CS / NR)

Inês Crisóstomo and Hilde Janssens

This module focus on on two main areas: organizational skills and inter-personal communication. During this module students will be presented with different theories and tools aimed at increasing their productivity and catalysing a positive working relationship with supervisor, colleagues and collaborators.

Technologies @ViennaBioCenter (NR)

Vienna BioCenter Scientific Facilities and Scientific Community

We have numerous facilities on campus, it is important that students know what is possible, and whom to contact. 

Through lectures, visits and workshops students will discover the different technologies. They will meet and learn from different experts and discuss the current possibilities and future directions.

Research Integrity and Good Scientific Practices (SR / NR)

David Drechsel

Every student needs to be aware what are the dos and don'ts in a research lab. In the module students will be presented with the current guidelines on good scientific practices, discuss issues/situations that may occur and present and examine cases of scientific misconduct.

Becoming a scientist (NR)

This module includes two sessions:

  • Getting the most out of your PhD: the experienced students will share their wisdom and experiences with the incoming class.
  • Becoming a Group Leader: three faculty members present over an informal lunch their career path. Important people, crucial decisions. The aim is to demystify the path to become a Group Leader