PhD Program in Health Data Sciences

The PhD Program in Health Data Sciences at the Charité is aimed at qualified young scientists interested in:

  • deepening their methodological knowledge in the fields of biostatistics, epidemiology, metaresearch and/or population health science
  • further expanding their competence in research and teaching

Upon successful completion of the program, students will be awarded the academic degree of "Doctor of Philosophy" (PhD).

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Key Facts

  • Six semesters (full time).
  • 180 ECTS: scientific research project (150 ECTS) and accompanying scientific coursework in the HDS disciplines of biostatistics, epidemiology, meta-research, population health science and public health (30 ECTS).
  • All scientific coursework offered through the program will be taught in English. Other university courses at the Charité may also be counted towards the 30 ECTS requirement, if approved.
  • The PhD program is free of charge with the exception of the Charité enrollment fee.
  • Next possible start of program: Fall 2020 (Winter Semester).
  • Applications will be accepted starting March 1st, 2020. Due date: April 30th, 2020.


About the program

Flyer Health Data Sciences

The goal of the multidisciplinary doctoral program in Health Data Sciences for outstanding junior researchers is to provide a structured framework of studies, research, and teaching for promising scientists in the disciplines of Health Data Sciences (HDS). The program places particular emphasis on preparing students for future careers at universities, non-university research institutions, and other scientific public or private institutions in the fields of biostatistics, epidemiology, meta-research, population health science and public health.

The program Health Data Sciences is under the direction of Prof. Dr. Dr. Tobias Kurth, Institute of Public Health, Prof. Dr. Geraldine Rauch, Institute of Biometry and Clinical Epidemiology and Prof. Dr. Ulrich Dirnagl, BIH Center for Transforming Biomedical Research (QUEST).

The scientific coursework serves to deepen methodological knowledge, instill the fundamentals of sound scientific research practice, and promote effective dissemination of knowledge through teaching. Focus areas:

  • Methodology:
    Doctoral students attend courses in HDS domains to learn advanced health data sciences methods they will later apply in a practical research setting for their individual research projects.
  • Research:
    Interactive seminars and workshops serve to support doctoral candidates in all stages of their individual research project work ultimately resulting in three scientific publications.
  • Teaching:
    Under the guidance of experienced HDS faculty members, doctoral students prepare and teach courses focused on relevant topics.

About the Institutes


The Institute of Public Health pursues the goal of improving population health at local, national and global levels through excellent and innovative research and teaching. Research at IPH focuses on renal-, pharmaco-, cardiovascular- and neuroepidemiology, health services and causal inference.


The Berlin Institute of Health Center for Transforming Biomedical Research (QUEST) strives to increase the value and impact of biomedical research by maximizing quality, reproducibility, generalizability, and validity of BIH research. QUEST seeks to create an awareness of the need to rethink biomedical research and initiate a cultural change in academic biomedicine.


The Institute of Biometry and Clinical Epidemiology offers biometrical and epidemiological consulting services and supports the planning, execution, and evaluation of medical research projects as a cooperation partner. The Institute is also active in methodologic research and both internal and external teaching activities.


Admission to the HDS PhD program is competitive and students must meet the following requirements to be considered for acceptance:

  • Proof of eligibility for a doctoral degree per the requirements outlined by the Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin (Promotionsberechtigung)
  • Evidence of prior course work with professional relevance to Health Data Sciences (biostatistics, epidemiology, meta-research and/or population health science)
  • A strong command of the English language (minimum B2 level based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, please find details here)
  • Secured funding for the duration of the doctorate program:
    As this is a full-time program, the possibilities of an additional secondary occupation are limited. At the current time, we are not able to offer scholarships, but this may change in the future. We recommend that students consider how they plan to finance their living expenses for the duration of their studies before applying.

Beyond the formal requirements, students demonstrating exceptional motivation for their research topic(s) of interest will be prioritized. Interested students are strongly encouraged to contact potential supervisors in their field prior to applying.
The HDS doctoral program committee will conduct interviews in the spring of each year. Admitted applicants may formally enroll in the program the following semester.

Applications for the PhD program must be submitted to the PhD Committee before the posted deadline and should include the following documents. All documents should be in English:

  1. The application form.
  2. Motivational letter in English. This letter should convey the applicant's scientific interests, academic achievements and professional background.
  3. Curriculum vitae.
  4. Copies Bachelor's and Master's degree certificates. Alternatively, comparable university degree certification or copies of other documents proving the entitlement to a doctorate may be submitted.
  5. A letter of reference from a university professor or lecturer (in English or German).
  6. Proof of knowledge of the English language at least at level B2 or equivalent of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages.

After reviewing all applications, the PhD Committee will invite applicants eligible for admission to participate in selection interviews and presentations. These interviews will be conducted by a selection committee appointed by the PhD Committee and last approximately 25 minutes each, of which applicants will give a 15-minute presentation about their previous scientific education, accomplishments, and planned research project.

Annual application window: 1st of March through 30th of April. 

The selection interviews will be scheduled to take place on approximately two months later. Applicants will be notified via email regarding the timing of their interview/presentation. 

Please send your application documents as an attachment (ideally as one single PDF document) to the HDS email address.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is this considered an “Advanced Track” program at the Charite?
Yes, if you complete the program you graduate with a PhD in Health Data Sciences. You can find out more information (unfortunately only in German) about the differences between the Default Track and Advanced Track here:

How long is the PhD Program in Health Data Sciences?
Students take classes, research and do student teaching over a three-year period (six semesters).

Is it possible to spend one year abroad during the PhD Program?
Theoretically, yes. However, it is not advisable and we have some 'core' courses that you will be required to take on campus in Berlin, so you will need to look at the schedule and speak with your supervisors. We do not currently have formal exchange programs under the HDS PhD Program.

I’ve seen mention of funding, data access and supervisors on your website, but I’m still confused. How are these related? What do I need access to prior to applying?
It is important to separate the three issues: funding, data access and supervision. Students need all three and many times all three go together. There are exceptions: e.g. If someone brings their own funding, it is possible to find data and supervisors who might fit the project. This requires a really motivated individual to make all those connections, a good research question / project idea and of course, their own funding. Most of the time, the students find a job (usually 65% paid) as a PhD student at the institute of their main supervisor.


I saw that there are a few professors listed on the IPH, iBikE and QUEST pages -- can I work with other Professors at the Charite?
You are welcome to work with other professors at the Charité. Please note that at least one of your supervisors should come from IPH, iBikE or QUEST.

Do I need to have my supervisory team confirmed before I apply?
No, but you should have a clear idea of who will be your first supervisor. It is best to contact potential supervisors directly. It is important that your research project is related to HDS (biostatistics, epidemiology, meta-research and population health research).

How many supervisors do I need in my supervisory team?
Three. The first supervisor must have at least a PD and should be from the Charité (not limited to IPH, iBikE and QUEST). At least one of your supervisors should be from a supporting institution (IPH, iBikE, QUEST). Having a PhD is enough for well qualified second and third supervisors, however the promotionsbuero prefers PD or Prof.

How is the supervisory team involved?
The supervisors must be involved in a meaningful way with the project. The roles that the different supervisors play should 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.


I could not see any funding or scholarship information on the website. Do professors provide or help with some kind of funding or should we take care of it?
Unfortunately at this time we are unable to offer funding assistance. Please contact departments and scholarship opportunities directly to see if they have funding available.


Do I need to speak German?
Our students come from a variety of international backgrounds. It is not mandatory that you speak, read or write German.

Health Data Sciences

Health Data Sciences (HDS) is an emerging scientific discipline, fusing the strengths of multiple research fields including biostatistics, epidemiology, meta-research, and population health science. HDS employs a synergistic approach to provide comprehensive, evidence-based solutions to complex, real-world health problems using various data resources.

By employing innovative analytical tools, HDS methodology provides insight both into patterns within data as well as possible underlying causal structures. Its comprehensive modeling approaches combine critical and conceptual reasoning with the latest advances in computer science to ensure accurate analysis and interpretation of data as well as effective communication of reliable conclusions for health promotions.


Institute of Public Health