Career Opportunities at our Institute

Career Opportunities at our Institute


  • The institute has introduced an MPI-NAT guest program, which offers the opportunity to apply for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship as a Manfred Eigen Fellow.
  • When the Manfred Eigen fellowship is expired, the postdoctoral period can be extended by up to three more years, with the postdoc then being employed by a regular contract.
  • The postdoctoral period at the MPI-NAT cannot be extended beyond five years.
  • Depending on both performance and acquired technical expertise during the postdoctoral period, there may be further career-options at the institute beyond the five-year limit. These positions, however, are all limited in time (no tenure track).
  • Individual advice for career development and grant support will be available to all interested postdocs at the MPI-NAT.

Postdoctoral phase

There are two ways of embarking on a career in science as a postdoc after gaining a doctorate.

Firstly, you can apply for a fellowship as a Manfred Eigen Fellow as part of the MPI-NAT’s guest program. This fellowship can be granted for up to two years. Being awarded with a Manfred Eigen Fellowship constitutes a distinction, providing you with freedom and independence to devote yourself wholly to a scientific research project of your own choice. The only condition is that you are hosted as guest by a department or research group, which implies that your research project fits into the research direction and is accepted by the respective group leader. At the end of the two-year fellowship there may be an opportunity to extend the postdoctoral period as research associate on a salaried position governed by the Collective Wage Agreement for the Civil Service (TVöD13). Transfer to such a position requires an offer by the respective group leader. Whether such transfer is possible will be communicated no later than six months before the fellowship expires.

Secondly, an interested postdoc can be appointed directly to a postdoctoral position governed by the Collective Wage Agreement for the Civil Service (TVöD13). These positions are usually given for specific scientific projects that, while leaving certain degrees of freedom in project planning and execution, are integrated in the research program of the respective group whereby the group leader acts as supervisor and is entitled to issue directions.

The entire postdoctoral period at the MPI-NAT is limited to maximally five years. Employment contracts issued under the TVöD will be initially for a minimum of two years even if the funding source changes during this time (funding sources may include, for instance,  the Max Planck Society (MPS)), the German Research Foundation (DFG), the European Union, industry, or private foundations). Extensions of contracts beyond the initially granted two years may have shorter terms. The total five-year postdoctoral phase (interruptions due to parental leave lead to contracts being automatically extended) is accompanied by annual meetings with the host/supervisor, in which the progress is reviewed and further career perspectives are discussed. Furthermore, postdocs are entitled to educate themselves regularly about career opportunities within academia and beyond, and to obtain individual professional counseling. Moreover, the MPI-NAT organizes courses and workshops dealing with career-related subjects, and it offers individual career guidance. In particular, advice is provided on funding opportunities, for instance by special courses dealing with strategies for successful applications at a variety of German and European funding bodies

Staff scientists and project leaders

Occasionally, staff scientist positions become available for experienced postdocs. Furthermore, in a few instances successful postdocs may be appointed as project leader by his/her supervisor. Project leaders are responsible for a defined research program and may supervise doctoral students and/or postdocs within a department/research group while scientifically not being independent. Again, these positions are usually time-limited, with no tenure track. Only in exceptional and rare cases such positions are converted into permanent positions or transferred to permanent service positions within the scientific infrastructure of the institute

While the MPI-NAT is a research institute with no teaching obligations, interested scientists may have the opportunity to gain teaching experience within International Max Planck Research Schools. Teaching experience is beneficial for those who wish to pursue a career in academic education such as at Universities.

Research group leaders

During or following the postdoctoral period, scientists may apply for the position of a research group leader, but only if being suggested and financially supported by a member of the Board of Directors (usually the one in whose department the research is being carried out). Appointment as research group leader requires an application including CV, a project proposal, and a letter of support by the supporting director. The application is being reviewed by the “Research group leader commission” of the institute that makes a recommendation based on at least two external letters of reference. Research group leader positions are limited to a maximum of five years and must not extend beyond the retirement of the Director. The appointment as research group leader also requires approval by the responsible Vice President of the MPS. The budget of the research group is negotiated with the responsible department head. Research group leaders are scientifically independent and, for administrative purposes, they are assigned to a department at the MPI-NAT. The leadership of a research group and the resources negotiated are fixed for five years and can be extended for additional five years after further evaluation (see above) by means of a Board of Directors’ decision. 

Research group leaders also include all scientists who are financed by external (i.e. non-institute based) grants, such as Max Planck Research Group leaders, Emmy Noether Groups of the DFG, Biofuture Groups, Holders of ERC starting/consolidator grants, etc.). For the duration of the funding the institute provides these groups with space and access to the infrastructure at the normal rates for the institute. Max Planck research group leaders are assigned to the MPS both in scientific and administrative terms, and all other research groups are administered via a department in the MPI-NAT.

Status conversations with supervisors/mentors concerning the personal career and development of postdocs, staff scientist, and research group leaders are held every year.

In principle, positions as staff scientists, project- and research group leaders are time-limited and cannot be continuously extended. There is no tenure track option for project- and research group leaders at the MPI-NAT. The Board of Directors assumes that individually varied career options will be chosen outside the institute during and after the postdoctoral phase.

Go to Editor View