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Master Molecular Biosciences

The master’s program in Molecular Biosciences offers you the chance to continue your academic career in your favorite field of Biosciences. You can choose between 8 different Majors (main subjects). It is also possible to apply for the master’s program in Molecular Biotechnology that is organised by the Heidelberg Institute for Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology (IPMB). B. Sc. Bioscience students are advised to complete courses in bioinformatics and physical chemistry if they want to apply for the M. Sc. Molecular Biotechnology.

The Master’s programs are taught in English, but there are also some courses taught in German. 

The 8 different Majors in the M.Sc. Molecular Biosciences are:

  • Cancer Biology

  • Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

  • Evolution and Ecology (EvolEcol)

  • Infectious Diseases

  • Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB)

  • Molecular Plant Sciences

  • Neuroscience

  • Systems Biology

Application and curriculum of these Majors varies a lot. You can only take one these Majors, but attend a lab rotation in a different Major.

Cancer Biology

The major „Cancer Biology“ is integrated with the research and teaching facilities of the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ). Correspondingly, over the course of the programme, students will gain insight into a plethora of relevant themes and techniques concerning cancer research; such as molecular and cellular tumour biology, biophysics and medical physics, structural and functional genomics and proteomics, systems biology, tumour immunology, tumour virology, tumour epidemiology, toxicology, and translational oncology. Similar to other bioscience major programmes in Heidelberg, the major „Cancer Biology“ will provide all its participants with an early opportunity of involvement with various dkfz research groups. The major speaker is Prof. Hofmann.

For more information, visit the website of the DKFZ.

Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

The Major Developmental and Stem Cell Biology is integrated with the research and teaching facilities of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS).
The development of a living organism form a single cell is a spectacular process.  It represents a masterpiece of temporal and spatial coordination of gene expression, of cellular events and communication between many different cell and tissue types.
Aim of research and teaching in the Major „Developmental and Stem Cell Biology“ is to gain understanding of the mechanisms that guide a fertilized egg and the resulting daughter cells through cell divisions and complex morphogenetic rearrangements, with crucial checkpoints in time and space to ultimately emerge the body axes as well as complex structures such as eyes, brain or flowers. The structures of the adult organism need not only to be established, but are also maintained throughout adult life by the activity of stem cells in their respective niches.
Organismal development and the role of stem cell mediated growth and homeostasis is in the research focus of the scientists participating in the Major. The major speaker is Prof. Holstein
For more information, visit the website of the COS.

Evolution & Ecology (EvolEcol)

The Major Evolution and Ecology is integrated with the research and teaching facilities of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). The program offers practical courses in the COS groups of Thomas Braunbeck, Marcus Koch, Claudia Erbar. Thomas Rausch, Andreas Franzke, Karin Schumacher and Rüdiger Hell. Cooperation partners are Andre Baumann (NABU Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), Norbert Becker (KABS Kommunale Aktionsgemeinschaft zur Bekämpfung von Schnackenplage),  Jochen Bogs(DLR Rheinpfalz), Mike Thiv(Museums of Natural History in Stuttgart) and Michael Wink(Institute for Pharmacy and Molecular Biotechnology IPMB).

For entering the Evolution & Ecology study program not only respective English language skills are needed and mandatory, but we also have to require substantial skills with the German language (speaking and listening; writing is less important).
The major speakers Prof. Koch and Prof. Braunbeck.
For more information, visit the website of the COS.

Infectious Diseases

The Major Infectious Diseases is strongly affiliated to the Institute for Hygiene of the University Hospital Heidelberg, having Prof. Bartenschlager from the Department Molecular Virology as its major speaker. Dr. Ilka Rebhan is currently responsible for the broad organization of the program and student consultancy.
For more information, visit the website of the University Hospital Heidelberg.

For more information, visit the website of the University Hospital Heidelberg.

Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB)

The major „Molecular and Cellular Biology“ integrates activities in several institutes, such as the ZMBH, BZH, MPI and DKFZ. The program offers training in fundamental molecular and cellular research methods used to investigate processes like gene expression, protein trafficking pathways, protein folding, intracellular organization and communication, macromolecular structures and interactions, and control of biochemical pathways“. The major speaker is Prof. Clayton.
For more information, visit the website of the ZMBH.

Molecular Plant Sciences (MPS)

As the Major Evolution and Ecology this major is integrated with the research and teaching facilities of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS).
Plants do not only provide the food, feed, shelter and energy to sustain our growing global population, they are also fascinating objects for basic research that aims at understanding the principles of life. As sessile organisms, plants can’t run away and thus need to be able to adapt to their local and often changing environments. The resulting metabolic and developmental plasticity is an asset that we only have begun to explore.
Heidelberg is most famous for its concentration of world-class biomedical research laboratories but it is also home to a very active and growing community of plant researchers that are mostly based at the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS). The major speaker is Prof. Maizel.
For more information, visit the website of the COS.


The Neuroscience Major is organized by the IZN (Interdisciplinary Center of Neuroscience). This is a network of all neuroscience research groups located in and around Heidelberg, among these are groups from the faculties of Biosciences and Medicine of the University of Heidelberg, the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research (MPI), the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL), the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) and the Central Institute for Medical Health in Mannheim (ZI).

Like all other students of the MSc Molecular Biosciences program Neuroscience students have to take part in the modules Frontiers of Biosciences I and II. The lectures will give an overview of cellular biology and different research fields like developmental biology and immunology. The modules Focus in Biosciences I and II in the second semester are organized by the major coordinator Prof. Stephan Frings and give an introduction in neurobiology.

The practicals for the Frontiers and Focus modules and the upcoming modules Working in Biosciences and Biolab in the third term have to be organized by the students themselves. You can do any internship you want if it is somehow connected to neuroscience. So the whole IZN can offer practicals. It is even possible to do an internship somewhere else, but this has to be confirmed by Prof. Frings. In the end you have to reach the magical number of 24 weeks of practical work to start your master thesis.
Seminars are organized in almost the same manner. Here you can choose any neuroscience seminar of the university or take part in self-organized seminars about the lab rotation program, where the students present their experiences they got in different laboratories.
The major speaker is Prof. Frings.

For more information, visit the website of the IZN.

Systems Biology

An impassioned but serious plea for studying systems biology by Lorenz Adlung.

To explain biology at the system level is a great challenge for students and future scientists alike. The intrinsic complexity of biological problems demands the amalgamation of experimental and computational research to illuminate the functions of life. Theoretically driven in-silico approaches must be intertwined with practical validation in vitro or even in vivo. High-throughput technologies allow to scrutinize biological systems in large scale. Quantitative data generation is required to verify hypothesis.

The emerging discipline of systems biology focuses on structures and dynamics of biological pathways and their evolution derived from single molecules. Such a workflow offers absorbing opportunities for biologists. Indispensable tools for modeling and design of biochemical networks are provided by interdisciplinary collaborations. The education curriculum schedule depicts this aspect. A load of institutes participates in the Heidelberg systems biology investigation cluster, such as BioQuant, DKFZ, IWR and EMBL. Become a part of the scientific research community and its manifold co-operations! It would be negligent to ignore the recent technological advancements and breakthroughs in experiments and software development. Currently, we start to benefit from predictions of biological scenarios. What will come next? Explore biology at the system level!
The major speaker is Prof. Kummer.

For more information, visit the website of the Faculty of Biosciences.

Master Thesis

In the end of your Master studies you have to write your Master thesis. There are a few conditions you should pay attention to.

  • You have to register your thesis 6 weeks after your last examination!

The grades you get for the different modules (lectures, seminars, lab rotations) are sent to Mrs. Penninger‘ office. The module coordinator may need some time to send the grades after you have passed the course. The six weeks’ period starts when Mrs. Penninger receives your last required grade. So make sure to you don’t miss it. However, you are able to start earlier, if your supervisor tells Mrs. Penninger that your last module has been passed and the grade will be handed in later.

  • You can choose the date of the beginning of your thesis.

You don’t have to start six weeks after your last examination. You just have to register. On the registration form you have to give the date of the beginning of your thesis. So you should know when you want to start at the time of registration.

  • You have to find two examiners!

The lists of examiners for your major can be found online or in the examination office. The examiners have to be on the major specific list. One of them is usually the one in whose lab you will do your thesis. The first examiner always has to be a member of the Faculty of Biosciences.

  • You have to hand in the thesis within 6 months.

Depending on your date of beginning you have 6 months to do your experiments and write your thesis. You can apply for an additional month, when you can prove that there were problems you had no influence on. You have to hand in three bound copies of your thesis to Mrs. Penninger. University logos are not allowed to be printed on your thesis.

  • It is possible to get one more month to finish your experiments.

If something is going with your experiments (technical issues, illness), you can ask for an additional month to finish your thesis. You just have to write an informal letter/Email to Mrs. Penninger and describe the reason why you need more time.

  • The disputation has to take place within 4 weeks after finishing your thesis.

After handing in your thesis, you have to give an oral presentation and defense of your thesis in front of your examiners. You have only 20 minutes for your presentation. After this there are 25 minutes left for answering questions about the thesis or your knowledge about the topic.

  • You don’t have to be registered as a student during working on your thesis.

You only have to be enrolled as a student of the University of Heidelberg at the time of registration of your thesis. For insurance issues it would be advisable to be a registered student during your time in the lab. For the disputation there is no need to be registered, so maybe you can save the fees.

  • Grading on your thesis

The grading is based on the average grade of your examiners. 2/3 is based on the written thesis on 1/3 on the oral disputation.


Bachelor graduates from Heidelberg have to apply like everyone else for admission to the Master’s program. International applicants from outside the European Union (EU) and from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) countries will need to provide additional documents. 

Internal applicants do not necessarily have to exmatriculate themselves: If one has…

  • a Bachelor of Science degree

  • is approved in Heidelberg for the Master’s program

  • is currently enrolled,

… one can use this form for change of program from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s program. Even if you have finished your Bachelor’s program, you can still be enrolled in the 7th semester as Bachelor´s student at the University of Heidelberg. You will then get a certificate enrolment sheet for the 7th semester as Bachelor´s student. Then you can change from a Bachelor’s to a Master’s program.
However, first you will need to apply for the Master’s program Molecular Biosciences at the University of Heidelberg. 
Call for application: February
Deadline: March 15
Application form
Further information about the application

The electronic system leads you through the application process. You will have to include:

  1. The printout of the application form in duplicate

  2. transcript of records, especially of the fifth semester (or last term) if the final grade is not yet awarded. Final degree certificates or appropriately certified copies must be provided before formal admission to the course is granted. Obviously, if you are still completing your BSc degree, this will not be possible; in that case, we just need them as soon as possible – at the latest, when you formally register at the University.

  3. a CV in duplicate

  4. a statement, why you want to study Molecular Biosciences and your chosen majors in Heidelberg (one for each Major, recommended length: one page; in German or English)

  5. a proof of English language skills (for Heidelberger Bachelor enough to participate in the IELTS preparation course with final examination, an English-language BSc thesis or an English interview)

  6. applicants without a German Abitur: an officially certified photocopy of the school leaving certificate

Our faculty welcome applications from students who have, or expect to have, completed a relevant Bachelor’s degree with an above-average (German system: at least 2.4; British System, 2.1 or above) grade by the end of the academic year preceding the desired semester of entry.
Selection procedure: You can apply for two Majors with different priority.
The selection process is a three-step procedure

  1. Initial ranking based on subject-specific grades of your Bachelor’s program (max 10 points)

  2. Ranking by the specific Major based on your individual training regards the Majors objectives (max 10 points). You can give evidence – if appropriate – of any awards, prizes, vocational training, work experience or subject-specific/extra-curricular achievements. The evidence must be submitted as officially certified photocopies of the original and in the relevant officially certified translation (for the duplicate, single copies are sufficient). According to a ranking list made out of process 1 and 2, the best candidates will be invited for an interview in Heidelberg

  3. Interview (max 20 points) Here you can prove your personal motivation and qualification. Invitation to the interviews will be send only electronically via email. In addition, your application number issued upon online application is published in the Internet.

Final ranking is created on the basis of the 60 total points. The approvals take place usually in May. In case of being accepted by the committee, you will receive a letter of acceptance (Zulassungsbescheid). You need this document for subscription at the University. In addition, please send back the confirmation of acceptance

Additional Information