Description and basic rules of ICA

The Doctoral Program “Immunity in Cancer and Allergy - ICA” is funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF) and aims at educating PhD students to become independent researchers with an excellent scientific profile.

The Paris Lodron Universität of Salzburg and the University Hospital Salzburg consider allergy and tumor research with a focus on immunological aspects as their top priorities and actively support the employment of up-to-date immunological methodology. The Doctoral Program complements the existing research-oriented network and is organized as an interdisciplinary graduate training program for students in molecular biosciences. The University of Salzburg is the host institution and the students finish with a PhD degree awarded by the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

ICA offers training opportunities for students within established research groups focusing on medically-oriented basic and translational research. Their expertise covers immunological, biochemical, molecular biological, cell biological, structural biological, genetic, genomic and proteomic techniques.

The overall aim of the Doctoral Program is to create an interactive environment. The broad range of scientific, technological and methodological expertise paired with common and overlapping scientific interests of the college members builds a solid basis for solving complex questions in the field of allergy and tumor research that are beyond the capability of the individual groups.

The state-of-the-art scientific training of a young generation of researchers also strengthens the scientific profile and reputation of the University of Salzburg as an up and coming, continuously growing center of biomedical research.

Supervision

Thesis committees are a central element of the DK. Their task is to comment on the submitted thesis project and to supervise the progress of each student’s thesis research throughout his/her graduate work. Each committee consists of at least two senior scientists (apart from the student and the thesis supervisor or supervisors), and each ICA student receives an internationally renowned scientists set to his/her side who takes the part of an external godfather/godmother for the student.

Regular meetings of the committee include progress reports of the students and extensive discussion of the running projects. In addition, once every year (typically immediately before one of the two regular thesis committee meetings) the student has to submit a progress report to the committee members, which will also be filed by the ICA secretary. Thus the thesis committee offers the most intensive level of individual mentoring possible within the program.

ICA also implemented a so-called internal seconds system, which means that each student selects two workgroups of ICA to provide active support in terms of experimental expertise and discussion of his/her thesis project. The student is invited to one of the lab meetings of the seconds group to present his/her results and to address difficulties of any kind, for which help may be provided by the seconds group. Furthermore, the students are encouraged to contact the group whenever there is need for support or expertise, which is not available in the own workgroup.

Beyond this formalized procedure of guidance and supervision, PhD students present their results in a public symposium, organized by ICA. This symposium with international speakers not only trains the ICA students with respect to their communication skills but also represents an excellent monitoring tool. The progress reports are discussed and recommendations are given by the auditorium, including the guest speakers, the ICA faculty and their workgroup members, and all master and doctoral students of the Department of Molecular Biology, who altogether represent a broad scientific expertise.

Selection procedure and admission:

Positions for ICA-funded doctoral students are advertised internationally, striving for a mixture of excellent students recruited during their study at the local Universities and students from abroad.

Mainly four criteria are used for high rating, i.e. (1) academic excellence, based on the submitted certificates, duration of study, letters of recommendation and assessments of the interviews, (2) commitment to science, based on previous scientific experience and on the letters of recommendation and on the evaluation during the interviews, (3) communication skills as demonstrated by the oral presentation during the hearing and (4) social competence as described in the recommendation letters and as perceived during the interviews.

Additional convenient criteria for selecting candidates will be “well-fitting” of the applicant into his/her favored work group, compatibility of the scientific interest, background and skills with the topic of the selected work group.

Applications will be reviewed and ranked by a committee consisting of the ICA faculty. The short-listed candidates will receive an invitation for interviews at the University of Salzburg. Free accommodation will be provided and travel expenses will be reimbursed.

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