A sophisticated course programme supports the PhD students in their work. Meetings are planned in order to exchange research results, and research-supporting courses are organised that offer views into the new partner disciplines. The course programme is completed by interdisciplinary topics.

Our experience shows that it is possible to reduce the PhD period by the following measures: regular presentations of the research results and planning of the forthcoming works, the embedding in a broader research context, the liberation of the PhD workers from tasks that are not related to research as well as the possibility to take part in conferences, seminars and trips. These promotional aspects in the research training group and the sometimes completely new courses on offer clearly exceed the usual care for PhD students.

PhD schedule

Regarding a normal 3-year fellowship the course programme of each PhD student in the research training group is divided into three parts:

  • Beginning phase (1st term): get to know the reseach environment of the research training group and look into the professional and organisational tasks. Finally, a detailed work and study plan has to be presented for the following phases.
  • Main phase (2nd-4th term): realisation of the research work and interdisciplinary education in the course programme. At the end of the second term a first interim report has to be supplied, at the end of the main phase (4th term) a second interim report has to be written, in the best case a draft of the PhD thesis.
  • Final phase (5th-6th term) The research work should be finished, and the PhD students should write their thesis. The number of courses is reduced.

Each phase is supervised and controlled regularly.

Course programme

Size of the course programme

The course programme for the PhD students includes 24 weekly hours per term (SWS) for the whole period. They consist of 12 weekly hours of research supporting courses, 6 weekly hours of interdisciplinary education and another 6 weekly hours of closed conferences and seminars of the research training group.

phase term research supporting courses closed conference & seminar interdisciplinaryd SWS total ending
I 1 2-4 1 1-3 6 work plan
II 2 2-4 1 1-3 6 report
^ 3 1-3 1 0-2 4  
^ 4 1-3 1 0-2 4 report
III 5 0-2   0-1 2  
^ 6 0-2 1 0-1 2 PhD thesis
totals   12 6 6 24  

Research-supporting courses

In order to support the research work new research-supporting courses are offered that are exclusively prepared for the research training group. In the beginning of the doctoral period, all PhD students have to attend the following introducing events:

  • Circular lecture on current research topics of the partner departments (2 SWS, 1st term)
  • Integrated event on behaviour models in the engineering of human-machine-systems (2 SWS, 2nd term)

Besides, new events on special topics of human-machine-interaction are offered by the scientists of the research training group. These events that are organised by several advisors, in cooperation with the post doc, the invited scientists and the PhD students, are compulsory-optional subjects for the PhD students. Among other things, events on the following topics are planned:

  • Guided tour on human-machine-systems (Wozny, Urbas, Siegmann)
  • Assistant systems (Wandke)
  • Modelling of human-machine-systems (Urbas, Thüring, Jürgensohn)
  • Strategies of automation (Rötting)

The lectures offered within the framework of the course programme are open for the research students, too. In addition, the PhD students can attend relevant lectures of the main course programme recommended by their advisors.

Closed conferences

The one/two-day closed conferences of the research training group that usually take place outside the university twice a year are the ideal platform for the PhD students to present and discuss their research progress thoroughly. In addition, any professional and organisational problems between the PhD students and their advisors can be solved there. The closed conferences can also include survey lectures and/or workshops on special topics. The participation is obligatory.

Seminar of the research training group

The seminar of the research training group that is held every two weeks represents the forum for interim results, research reports and lectures of the participants. Usually, this event is reserved to the PhD students, but sometimes guest scientists and researchers are invited for special topics. Just as the closed conferences, this regular event is very important for the cohesion between the PhD students and their common interdisciplinary work. Therefore, participation is planned in all phases of the course programme.

Interdisciplinary education

The PhD students shall improve their interdisciplinary knowledge and ability in the research training group. Therefore, courses are offered in cooperation with other structural support programmes for young scientists at the TU Berlin, such as the "International Postgraduate School (IPGS)" and the "Postgraduate International Process Engineering School (PIPES)", aimed at improving soft skills, self management and methods of scientific work.

Seminars and lectures from guest scientists

Guest scientists are invited in order to present new concepts and research results as well as integrative approaches that are developed at other national and international universities and research facilities. These lectures - often in blocks - are part of the research-supporting events. The invited lectures from research and practice are given during the seminar of the research training group. In addition, guest scientists will sometimes be available for longer periods including intensive meetings and workshops (possibilities to initiate stays abroad).

Other important aspects of the course programme

Contacts and stays abroad

The development of international contacts is expressively supported, but it is no formal part of the course programme. It is expected that the PhD students present their research results to the international public, especially in the final phase. The PhD students are encouraged to take part in conferences or congresses disengaging them from compulsory events for that time. A possibly planned control of success has to be postponed in this case. Additionally and corresponding to their professional needs, the PhD students of the research training group are allowed to have an internship or research stay of one untill three months at cooperating institutions in research or industry. German PhD students should go abroad.

Organisation of international events

Every other year the Berliner Werkstatt Mensch-Maschine-Systeme is held that has become one of the most important national events in the research area of human-machine-interaction. This event shall be extended by an international part that will take place before or after the German part considering topics of the research training group. Thus, the PhD students get the possibility to present their work to a larger audience, and they can also train their ability to plan and organise scientific congresses by being involved in the preparation.

Alternatively, summer schools on selected topics of the research training group are planned every other year, e.g. in the framework of the DAAD programme "German Summer Academy". Its organisation will be a task of the PhD students supported by their advisors.

Tuition concept

Tuition teams and mentors

Each PhD project is supervised by two advisors. Even between the closed conferences, regular talks discussing the target agreements have to take place. In addition, each PhD student is given a mentor (scientific co-worker or assistant of the departments) who will support him/her in solving organisational problems of the project, especially in the beginning. The tuition team plus the content of the course programme guarantee an interdisciplinary education.

The participation of guest scientists offers the PhD students the possibility to exchange ideas and to prepare cooperation projects and stays abroad. From the beginning, the PhD students are supported and supervised with the aim to have international publications. The occasional active involvement of the PhD students in the organisation of lectures or events is important to teach them an independent working style.

Control of success

The system of control of success comprises, on the one hand, confidential talks on the target agreements with the tuition team and, on the other hand, the half-yearly closed conferences of the research training group where advisors, scholarship holders and other PhD students take part.

Lectures are the most important part of these conferences followed by discussions on the work of the PhD students. Those who are at the end of the beginning phase of their course programme or who finished the first/ second interim report have to give a comprehensive work report of 60 minutes including discussion. The others have to give a short survey lecture (20 minutes) on their work.

Before the closed conferences, the PhD students have to write reports that are to be delivered to the responsible professor in time. The lectures as well as the reports have to cover the tasks of the PhD students, the achieved results and the forthcoming targets planned in each work phase. The written part that belongs to a work report has to be detailed, but it can be replaced by a publication made in the same report period.

All this - report, lecture plus discussion, participation in the course programme as well as the evaluation by the advisors considering the target agreements - determine the feed back to the PhD student and finally, the decision on the further financial support after 2 years. In addition, the PhD students will get advice from their advisors how to go on with the dissertation.