The PhD lasts 4 to 5 years, depending on whether a student is admitted with a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. The start date is September 15, 2017.

The PhD program comprises two distinct phases:

Phase I of PhD studies

Students with a bachelor’s degree have at most two years from their start date, and students with a master’s degree have one year from their start date, to find a supervisor and affiliate with a research group.

When joining the PhD program of IST Austria, students are not yet part of any specific research group.

During the first phase, students:

  • Find a PhD supervisor (a professor at IST Austria)
  • Do three rotations with three different professors (approx. two months each).
  • Fulfill course and credit requirements:
    1.  Two basic courses:

    • "Introduction to Research at IST Austria"
    • "Scientific Presentation and Conduct"

    2. Attend 2 required core courses (6 ETC credits each)

    • 1 interdisciplinary general core course (fall semester)
    • 1 field-specific track core course (spring semester)
    • For students with a B.S. degree obtain a total of 24 ETCS credits of elective coursework in addition to the required core courses) by taking courses in at least 4 segments and at least 2 tracks (see attached course classification scheme).  6 ECTS credits can be delayed until after the qualifying exam (Phase 2). Students with M.S. degrees can have up to 12 elective ECTS credits waived by the track representative. Each full-semester course carries 6 ECTS credits; each half-semester course carries 3 ECTS credits. The credit requirement can be fulfilled by taking courses at IST Austria or at other institutions while enrolled at IST Austria.
    • additional courses worth 12 credits in total

  • Form a thesis committee, consisting of:

    • the supervisor(s)
    • two other thesis committee members (one of whom must be external)

  • Pass a qualifying exam, which consists of:

    • an oral presentation of the thesis proposal, and
    • an oral exam on the thesis proposal and reading list

Phase II of PhD studies

After passing the qualifying exam, a PhD student works primarily on research towards a thesis.

Students hold regular progress reviews with their supervisors, and a committee of professors must approve each year that the student is making satisfactory progress towards completion of the PhD degree.

A thesis defense is typically scheduled within three to four years after passing the qualifying exam. It consists of a public oral presentation of the draft thesis (normally 40 – 50 minutes) in the presence of the thesis committee, followed by questions and answers on the thesis. 

Once a final thesis is submitted and accepted by the thesis committee, the PhD degree is awarded by the Institute.

Glossary—some keywords explained

Affiliation: this is the process whereby PhD students join a research group. See also Rotation.

Phase I: the first stage of the PhD, where a student takes courses, performs lab rotations, affiliates with a research group, and prepares for the qualifying exam, also known as “pre-qual(ifying exam)”.

Phase II: second stage of the PhD, after a student has passed the qualifying exam, also known as “post-qual(ifying exam)”. In this stage, the student performs PhD thesis research, provides teaching assistance (see Teaching assistance), and prepares for the thesis defense (see Thesis defense).

Qualifying exam: is an exam which students need to pass the qualifying exam in order to transit from Phase I to Phase II of the PhD studies. In preparation, students need to appoint a thesis committee, prepare a research proposal, and a reading list. If students fail the qualifying exam, they may either sit the exam again, or they will leave the PhD program, depending on the result of the assessment by the examiners.

Rotation: is a period in which students spend time in a research group (a different one for each rotation period) performing a research project. It is on the basis of this experience that students can choose to affiliate with a research group, and professors can decide if a student is suited to research in a given group. Students are required to do at least three rotations with three different research groups.

Supervisor: is in charge of overseeing the PhD student’s thesis research from the point that a student affiliates with a research group. Co-supervision, whether internal or external, is also possible.

Thesis committee: a thesis committee consists of the PhD student’s supervisor(s), and at least two other committee members, one of whom must be external (i.e., not part of the IST faculty). The thesis committee is the same for the qualifying exam and the PhD thesis defense (unless explicit approval has been given for a change in committee membership).

Thesis defense: is the final examination that decides whether a student can successfully obtain a PhD degree. The thesis committee is the same as that for the qualifying exam.

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