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Full FAQ List

On this page, you will find the full list of FAQs found on the HDS PhD website. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Research Project

What kind of research project am I required to have? How many details should I provide in the application?

In the initial application, we are looking for interesting, relevant project ideas related to one or more of the health data sciences domains. It is also important that you can convince the HDS PhD Board that your proposed project would be feasible with respect to the 3-year time frame, you have or will gain access to the requisite data, you have a plan for funding the project, and that the project is suited to your skillset and background. We encourage you to discuss your project ideas with at least one potential supervisor prior to submitting your application.

What format does the final dissertation project have?

All HDS PhD Program students are expected to complete a cumulative dissertation (doctorate by publication), as is the general Charité guideline for PhD students. For more information, see: https://promotion.charite.de/en/procedure/regulations_2017/dissertation/

Program Structure

What courses do HDS PhD students take and when do these courses take place?

In total, HDS PhD students must collect 30 ECTS credit points throughout the three-year program. These points are divided as follows:

  • 18 credits come from three “core” required courses:
    • “Research Proposal Seminar” and “Advanced Methods in Health Data Sciences”, which take place during Semesters 1-3.
    • “Mentored Teaching of a Methods Course”, which can be individually scheduled in the later semesters of the program based on student and instructor availability.

  • 12 credits come from elective coursework that can be spread out over the course of the studies according to the student’s preferences and in consultation with the supervisory team’s recommendations.

How does the Health Data Sciences PhD program fit into the numerous options to pursue doctorate studies at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin?

The Health Data Sciences PhD (HDS PhD) Program is one of several structured PhD programs at the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Charité) / Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) and is considered an “Advanced Track” program.

The HDS PhD program is run by three main departments within the Charité/BIH: the Institute of Public Health (IPH), the Institute of Biometry and Clinical Epidemiology (iBikE) and the BIH Center for Transforming Biomedical Research (QUEST). If you are accepted and successfully complete the HDS PhD program, you are awarded a PhD in Health Data Sciences.

Please note that this structured degree program is different from the “unstructured PhD,” “Dr. rer. medic.” and “Dr. med” options also offered by the Charité. For more information about the distinction between these options, see: https://promotion.charite.de/en/procedure/regulations_2017/requirements/#c30557603.

What is the duration of the Health Data Sciences (HDS) PhD Program?

HDS PhD students take classes including taking part in mentored student teaching (30 European Credit Transfer and Accumulation System (ECTS) total), and work on their individual research projects over a three-year, structured study period (six semesters).

Is this the right program for me?

What academic backgrounds do the current HDS PhD students have?

Our current students come from diverse backgrounds; in the most recent cohort, we have students with previous degrees in Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Public Health, Psychology, Mathematics, Philosophy, and Health Economics.

I am currently a medical (or dental) student. Is this the right program for me?

Most medical and dental degree programs do not have enough methods-focused coursework in the domains of Health Data Sciences to sufficiently meet our requirement for relevant prior coursework. If you have studied medicine/dentistry and have also completed extensive methodological coursework outside of your clinical studies, you may be a suitable applicant.

I am interested in pursuing a PhD in Public Health focused on policy and management in Berlin. Is this the right program for me?

While strongly related to the Public Health field, this PhD program focuses on Health Data Sciences and our students’ coursework and projects are rooted in the domains of Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Population Health Science, Public Health, Meta-Research and Medical Informatics. There is another doctoral degree in Berlin offered by the Technical University (Dr. PH) that might be a better fit if these are your interests. See: https://www.mig.tu-berlin.de/menue/teaching/promotion/parameter/en/

Language Requirement

Do I need to speak German?

Our students come from a variety of international backgrounds. For the HDS PhD Program, it is not mandatory that you speak, read or write German. However, these skills are very helpful in daily life as well as scientific collaborations; therefore, we strongly recommend German language lessons for successful applicants without German language skills.

I am required to provide proof of at least B2 level English proficiency. Is it mandatory that I provide a TOEFL or IELTS as a proof?

The official language of instruction of the Health Data Sciences PhD Program is English. Therefore, the absence of strong language proficiency in (scientific) reading, writing and/or speaking will make it very difficult for the student to complete HDS PhD program coursework and their final cumulative research dissertation (in English). For this reason, we require no less than a B2 level English language proficiency based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). 

Please see the detailed list of accepted proof of language skills other than TOEFL or IELTS. Important for many HDS applicants: if you had multiple English language courses during your university studies (at least 20 credit points), this also fulfills the requirement. If you believe you fulfill this requirement by other means you can demonstrate, the HDS PhD Board will decide on a case-by-case basis. We encourage candidates to contact us early if this is a concern, so there is enough time to provide additional language proficiency documentation if their primary documentation is deemed insufficient.

I am required to provide proof of at least B2 level English proficiency. Is it mandatory that I provide a TOEFL or IELTS as a proof?

The official language of instruction of the Health Data Sciences PhD Program is English. Therefore, the absence of strong language proficiency in (scientific) reading, writing and/or speaking will make it very difficult for the student to complete HDS PhD program coursework and their final cumulative research dissertation (in English). For this reason, we require no less than a B2 level English language proficiency based on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). 

Please see the detailed list of accepted proof of language skills other than TOEFL or IELTS. Important for many HDS applicants: if you had multiple English language courses during your university studies (at least 20 credit points), this also fulfills the requirement. If you believe you fulfill this requirement by other means you can demonstrate, the HDS PhD Board will decide on a case-by-case basis. We encourage candidates to contact us early if this is a concern, so there is enough time to provide additional language proficiency documentation if their primary documentation is deemed insufficient.

I do not have a current TOEFL score. Is it possible to count my education as proficiency in English since the courses took place entirely in English?

Yes! If you earned 20 ECTS (or equivalent) through courses taking place in English at a state or state-recognized university you will have enough to prove English language proficiency.

Funding

Are there any funding opportunities available through the HDS PhD program?

International applicants may apply to be considered for one of two three-year scholarships provided by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) through the HDS PhD Program as part of the Graduate School Scholarship Program (GSSP). Please click here for more information about the DAAD GSSP scholarship. Since this scholarship opportunity is expected to be competitive, international applicants are encouraged to explore additional funding opportunities from national and international foundations. The DAAD scholarship database may be useful:

https://www2.daad.de/deutschland/stipendium/datenbank/en/21148-scholarship-database/?detail=50076777

Is a full-time employment position recommended while being a full-time PhD student?

Though some students have scholarships, most of our current HDS PhD students are employed in part-time (e.g. 65%) research positions. Ideally, most/all work on your PhD projects should count as work time for your employment. Your employer should be willing to support your participation in required HDS courses and help facilitate you sticking to your three-year project timeline. Should your employment be full-time, this support and flexibility is especially important.

Studying Remotely

Is it possible to spend time abroad as a HDS PhD Program student?

In general, yes, it is possible. However, our program does have specific presence requirements for the required courses in the first through third semesters. If you would like to travel during the PhD program, we recommend doing so during semester breaks or in the fourth through sixth semesters. We do not currently have formal exchange programs under the HDS PhD Program, however, the Charité does support international research exchange, and many HDS instructors and supervisors have large international networks and can help advise you.

I live permanently in another city far from Berlin. Is it possible for me to complete the HDS PhD Program remotely?

The HDS PhD program has several courses which require regular attendance, especially in the first three semesters. Unless weekly travel to Berlin is realistic for you, it will not be possible for you to participate in the HDS PhD program remotely. We strongly encourage all prospective students to relocate to the Berlin area if accepted to the program.

HDS-Related Coursework

In the application, I should provide evidence of HDS-related coursework. What does this mean?

In order to be accepted as a student in the HDS PhD Program, you have to provide proof that you’ve had previous methodological knowledge related to any of the main domains of health data sciences (Biostatistics, Public Health, Epidemiology, Meta-research, Population Health Sciences or Medical Informatics) in your previous studies. Proof can be in the form of transcripts or certificates of such coursework. Many of our current students have Master’s degrees in these or closely related fields.

Supervisory Teams

How many supervisors do I need in my supervisory team and who can be a supervisor?

Three. The first supervisor should have a “PD” (Privatdozent), Professorship, or an equivalent academic status and should have an affiliation with the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin / BIH. Ideally, the 2nd and 3rd supervisors also have higher qualifications, but at least a PhD is expected. The 2nd and 3rd supervisors do not need to have a Charité affiliation. You are welcome (and encouraged) to work with other supervisors at the Charité/BIH outside of the IPH, iBiKE and QUEST. Ideally, at least one of your supervisors should come from the IPH, iBikE or QUEST (the departments running the HDS PhD Program) or be otherwise directly connected with our program through involvement in teaching activities and/or the supervision of other HDS PhD Program students.

In rare exceptional cases, a non-Charité first supervisor may be approved on a case-by-case basis. In these situations, the other two supervisors should be Charité / BIH affiliated.

Do I need to have all three members of my supervisory team confirmed before I apply?

No, but you should have a clear idea of who will serve as your first supervisor. It is best to contact potential supervisors directly before applying. At the time of your application, it is beneficial if you can demonstrate that one or more supervisors are interested and willing to work with and support you for the duration of your proposed project.

How is the supervisory team involved?

The HDS PhD Board expects that the three individual supervisors are involved in a meaningful way with the student’s project. The roles that the individual supervisors play should ultimately be decided by the four of you together. Obviously the first supervisor should be the most integrated in your research and writing, and it is likely that they will be providing you with access to the dataset for your research. We do not expect you to have these details worked out at the time of initial application.