PhD program at Biophysical Chemistry
The PhD program at the Department of Biophysical Chemistry is open to students with an undergraduate degree at the Master’s level from a Swedish or foreign university. Most of our Swedish PhD students have graduated from a 5-year “civilingenjör” curriculum in biotechnology (“bioteknik”), chemistry (“kemiteknik”), or physics (“teknisk fysik”) and have taken one or more advanced (4th year) courses in physical chemistry, biophysical chemistry, statistical mechanics, or molecular biology. However, other degrees at a comparable level and with a similar focus may also be appropriate, for example, a Master’s degree (“fil mag” in the Swedish system) in chemistry at the science faculty.
Foreign students must possess the equivalent of a Master’s degree, with a chemistry, physics, or biophysics major, from a recognized university. We cannot admit students with a predominantly biological or biochemical educational background, unless this is supplemented with several university-level courses in mathematics (analysis, linear algebra) and physical chemistry (thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, molecular spectroscopy).
Proficiency in Swedish is not a requirement, but a good command of English is essential.
The normal means of financial support of PhD students is a PhD position awarded by the Department at the time of admission, but administered by the University. Formally, the student is employed by Lund University and receives a monthly salary (currently starting at about SEK 22 000). From this sum, about 35% tax is deducted. The monthly living cost in Sweden is about SEK 10 000 for a single student. Foreign students are entitled to the same national health insurance and other social benefits as Swedish citizens.
The PhD program corresponds to 240 ECTS credits, corresponding to four years full-time activity. The PhD position can be extended for a maximum of five years (four years plus one year’s salary for undergraduate teaching and/or departmental responsibilities).
The PhD program at the Department of Biophysical Chemistry requires the student to take at least 60 ECTS credits of advanced graduate-level courses, corresponding to one year of full-time work. The student has considerable freedom in choosing the topics and the timing of these courses. However, it is advisable to complete most of the course work during the first three years of the program.
The courses should include 7.5 credits (from at least two courses) chosen from a group of general courses, such as information management, communication, science ethics, or data reduction and error analysis, as well as 15 credits (from at least two courses) of “hard-core” physical chemistry courses, such as statistical mechanics, intermolecular forces, quantum mechanics, nuclear magnetic resonance, or molecular spectroscopy. The remaining 37.5 credits may include bio-oriented courses, such as protein chemistry, molecular biology, cell biology, bioinformatics, or protein crystallography, or more physics-oriented courses, such as molecular kinetics, advanced NMR spectroscopy, or nuclear spin relaxation.
Relevant graduate-level courses completed prior to enrollment in our PhD program may, with the consent of the Research supervisor and the Department head, be counted towards the required 60 credits of course work.
Teaching and departmental responsibilities
Undergraduate teaching is an integral part of the PhD program that develops your communication skills and consolidates your understanding of physical chemistry. The Department offers basic physical chemistry courses, covering thermodynamics, intermolecular forces, and molecular kinetics, in three undergraduate programs. Advanced (4th year) courses are offered in biophysical chemistry and molecular spectroscopy (including quantum mechanics). The teaching responsibilities of PhD students usually involve supervision of laboratory exercises or problem-solving classes.
Most of our PhD students also engage in the supervision of various undergraduate research projects. In addition, each PhD student is responsible for a part of the Department’s infrastructure, such as instruments, computers, or lab areas. If these responsibilities are extensive, they may substitute for part of the teaching duties.
The Doctoral thesis is usually a collection of 4 – 6 original scientific papers, all of which have been, or will be, submitted for publication in international journals. This is preceded by a summary of the thesis research and some background material. Because most or all of the papers have already been subject to peer review, the Swedish PhD defence is essentially a formality, albeit still surrounded by a certain amount of ceremony and festivity. At the PhD defence, the thesis is publicly debated under the leadership of an external examiner. An examination board then grades the thesis: pass or (very rarely) fail. Recent PhD Theses from the Department of Biophysical Chemistry can be found here.
All essential steps in the admissions procedure are handled by the Department of Biophysical Chemistry, but certain formal matters are administered by the office of the Faculty of Engineering at Lund University (Lunds Tekniska Högskola, LTH).
The admissions procedure is directly linked to the award of PhD positions, which are advertised on the Lund University web page for vacant PhD positions, on the relevant research group's web page, and sometimes in newspapers as well. All PhD positions are awarded in open competition and applications are accepted only during a period (at least three weeks) following the advertisement. PhD positions can be advertised at any time of the year.
The formal application should contain your Curriculum Vitae and attested copies of degree certificates, academic records and other relevant documents. The selection among the applicants is made by the Department council and is then officially confirmed by the University.
Before a PhD position is advertised, we ensure that one or more of the research groups in the Department has the capacity to supervise an additional PhD student (the group leader is usually the principal supervisor of the PhD student) and the funds (usually from an external research grant) to cover a PhD scholarship for five years. An advertised PhD position is therefore often linked to a particular research group and to one or more, new or ongoing, research projects within that group.
We rarely advertise a PhD position unless we are assured that at least one highly qualified candidate will apply. The formal application is therefore preceded by an informal evaluation procedure. This procedure usually follows either of two tracks:
Track I: A student at Lund University elects to carry out his/her Master's thesis project (about 4 months) in one of the research groups in the Department and then wishes to continue as a PhD student.
Track II: An external (foreign or Swedish) student expresses interest in our PhD program. In this case, an opportunity must be created for the student to assess the merits of the research group and the Department and for the presumed research supervisor to assess the ability of the student to successfully complete the PhD program. This opportunity may take the form of a Master's thesis project or, if this has already been completed elsewhere, an employment (with full salary and travel expenses reimbursed) for a trial period (typically three months) of research work in the chosen research group. Upon a subsequent enrollment in the PhD program, the research work carried out during the “trial employment” may be counted towards the PhD. Before a student is invited for a “trial employment”, an assessment is made by the group leader based on the student’s academic record. For this purpose, you should submit your CV, academic transcripts, and a brief statement of career objectives. Foreign students should also explain the grading system, define the contents of courses, and, if available, provide their GRE and TOEFL scores.
Students interested in our PhD program are encouraged to consult the research group pages of this website and to communicate directly with the preferred group leader. In case you cannot, or do not wish to, choose among the groups at this stage, you should communicate with the Department head.
If you have already secured funding for five years, it may be possible to admit you to the PhD program without a formal application (linked to the PhD position). However, funding does not guarantee admission to the PhD program. The informal procedures of Track II still apply, in particular, the requirement of a “trial employment”.