Doctoral program Clinical Science

Doctoral program Clinical Science

The doctoral program Clinical Science, which focuses on research with healthy or sick people in a clinical setting, has been established to open a university postgraduate qualification opportunity in the field of clinical research. The university hospitals will keep on promoting clinical research, making this program a true trendsetter.

The Clinical Science program allows candidates to carry out an in-depth clinical research in the field of medicine. It is open to highly motivated candidates who have proven to be academically outstanding and show a strong interest in clinical research.

This program is coordinated by the Dean’s Office of the Faculty of Medicine.


The doctoral program consists of original research as well as of curricular content, with mandatory and optional modules of at least 16 ECTS points, for which a minimum of three years in full-time employment is scheduled. However, in justified cases exceptions to this may be authorized by the doctoral program commission.


In order to apply for this doctoral program, candidates must have a university degree of master in either medicine, biomedicine, biology or psychology. Further academic qualifications which are compulsory for eligibility as well are listed in the following document “Doktoratsordnung”. All candidates must have good skills in English.

Doktoratsordnung (PDF, 183 KB)

Managing the Program

The general responsibility for the doctoral program Clinical Science lays within the program committee which set up by the Faculty of Medicine.

This committee manages the business of the doctoral program , decides on the development of the curriculum, coordinates the curricular requirements, is involved in the selection and admission of candidates and supports the cooperation with the Faculty of Medicine.

As of now, the doctoral program committee is composed of the following members:

  • Director
  • Deputy Director
  • Vice Dean of Research
  • Program coordinator
  • Representative of the PhD students

Current senior members of the committee are:

  • Prof. Malcolm Kohler, MD, Director (website)
  • Prof. Milo Puhan, MD, PhD, Deputy Director (website)
  • Prof. Maries van den Broek, PhD, Vice Dean of Research (website)

Also members of the doctoral program committee are:

  • Lisa Marxt, lic. phil., program coordinator
  • Thi Dao Nguyen, MSc ETH in Biology, representative of the PhD students
  • Jeffrey Keller, MSc ETH in Human Movement Sciences, deputy representative of the PhD students

Member's Meeting

The Member's Meeting consists of faculty members taking part in the program. In addition, supervisors which are not faculty members but supervisors of students (mostly with private research programs) may be elected members. Tasks of the General Assembly include, but are not limited to, the strategic direction and organization of the doctoral program, the selection of the Directress or the Director as well as their deputies, and active participation in the doctoral program.


The guidelines govern the doctoral program Clinical Science, which is offered at the faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich. They formalize the promotion regulation for the title Dr. sc. med. (equivalent to a PhD) from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Zurich



In order to apply for this doctoral program, candidates must at least hold a university master's degree in either medicine, biomedicine, biology or psychology. Further academic qualifications that are compulsory for eligibility as well are listed in the document "Doktoratsordnung". All candidates must have good skills in English and German.

Double matriculation*

Double matriculation in the general doctorate of the Faculty of Medicine (Dr. med.) and in the PhD program Clinical Science is not planned. If, at the time of your application for the PhD program, you are about to graduate as Dr. med., please indicate this in your application. Otherwise, the simultaneous completion of the general doctorate and the PhD program is not intended.
*Applies to future PhD students

Application deadline

July 1st, 2020


The registration fees are set by the Student Administration Office of the University of Zurich and also apply to doctoral students. Doctoral students must be enrolled throughout the entire period of study.

Application process

Applications must be submitted by using the Online application portal of the Life Science Zurich Graduate School exclusively. Applications sent by e-mail or mail will not be accepted.

There are two ways to apply for the Clinical Science doctoral program:

Track 1: Applicants without a PhD position have to apply via Track 1. Within the doctoral program, PhD positions will be advertised competitively in each application round. Open positions will be published on in spring/autumn. All applications received via Track 1 will be checked for their suitability for the open positions. In an interview, the admissions commission examines the admission to the doctoral program. The person who has an open PhD position also takes part in the interview.

Track 2: Applicants who already have a PhD position have to apply via Track 2. In an interview, the admissions commission examines the admission to the doctoral program. Note: Please submit your application for the Clinical Science doctoral program also for Track 2 by December 1 or July 1!
To receive the link for the online application, please contact:

License to practice Medicine

For some PhD positions, the licence to practice Medicine from the Swiss Bundesamt für Gesundheit (BAG) is mandatory for candidates with a master’s degree in Medicine that was not issued in Switzerland.


Applications will be reviewed by the admissions committee after the deadline. Please refer to your personal Glowbase account to find out about your current status. Interviews will be held in English and German.


Prof. Malcolm Kohler, MD (website)
Prof. Milo Puhan, MD, PhD (website)
Prof. Maries van den Broek, PhD (website)
Lisa Marxt, lic. phil., Program coordination(contact)

Curricular content

Medical Research: An Introduction (Johann Steurer)

The overall goal of the course “Medical Research: An Introduction” is to introduce students to the central concepts of medicine – medicine in the meanings of medical care and medical research. The foundation of every science is the definition of concepts and the most relevant concepts will be presented and discussed in this course, e.g., medicine, illness, diagnosis, and prognosis. A further focus is a discussion about the specific aims of patient-level clinical research versus the aims of laboratory based clinical research and epidemiology. In a third part the application of the presented concepts will be exemplified in the planning of a diagnostic study.

Next run in fall 2020.

Introduction to Epidemiology (Milo Puhan)

The overall goal of the course Introduction to Epidemiology is to introduce students to the major questions of clinical and epidemiologic research and to methods to address these questions. The course follows an overall framework (Figure) that describes the course of scientific discovery from the detection and burden of disease and its causes, to diagnosis and prognosis of disease up to the development and evaluation of preventive and treatment interventions and their consequences for population health. We will discuss study designs in the context of existing knowledge and the type of evidence needed to advance knowledge for specific questions. Thereby, students learn to combine subject knowledge and methods expertise to design, conduct and interpret substantive medical research. The course will provide a basis for further studies and research in the fields of Medicine and Public Health (on Master or PhD level), both of which are very dynamic and diverse fields.

Next run in fall 2020.

Advanced Medical Research Methods (Heike Bischoff-Ferrari and core lecturers)

This course has been designed for Clinical Science PhD students to learn and experience the scientific and practical aspects of applied clinical research methods.

Course description:

Advanced Medical Research Methods
The aim of this course is to introduce students to advanced research methods and apply previous knowledge in epidemiology and biostatistics into real-life research. To achieve this, the lectures will cover novel study designs (special designs of RCTs and observational studies like factorial RCTs and nested case-control studies), advanced statistical methods (propensity scores, missing data). We will introduce special topics in epidemiology related to modifiable risk factors (nutrition and physical activity) which can be applied to a variety of outcomes, as well as current topics in research (molecular epidemiology, big data and translational research). The ‘lab’ sessions will provide practical techniques, (using R) that will further expand the set of tools that the future PhDs will be able to apply in their research. Furthermore, the practical experience will be complemented by the group exercise of writing protocol for a fictional RCT (designed and developed during the semester) under a guidance of an epidemiologist/researcher at the ZAM.

Group project:

Three groups of 3 to 4 students, preferentially with diverse interests and backgrounds, will design a feasible RCT to address a real public health problem. One lecturer will be assigned per group. Further administrative information will be provided at the beginning of the first lecture.

Next run in fall 2020.

Clinical Biostatistics (Leonhard Held)

The aim of the course "Clinical Biostatistics" is to give students an introduction to statistical methods in clinical research.

 The following topics will be addressed: randomized controlled trials, bias, hypothesis tests and sample size calculation, randomization and blinding, confidence intervals and p-values, analysis of continuous and binary outcomes, multiplicity, subgroup analysis, protocol and protocol deviations, some special designs (crossover, equivalence, and clusters), analysis of diagnostic studies, analysis of agreement. 

Next run in fall 2020.

Case Studies in Clinical Biostatistics (Ulrike Held)

The aim of the course is to give students practice in different stages of dealing with a clinical research project: study design, primary outcome definition and sample size calculation, plausibility checks, data analysis and modelling, computation, interpretation, and communication of results. In five research projects, students will face real-world problems typically associated with study design, data analysis and reporting.

Project 1: Descriptive statistics and graphical display of data with different levels of measurement, including continuous, ordinal, and dichotomous variables.
Project 2: Comparison of the means of two populations, hypothesis testing with parametric and non-parametric tests, confidence intervals.
Project 3: Research protocol for a clinical study, primary outcome, secondary outcomes, sample size determination.
Project 4: Multiple regression analysis, including missing data, plausibility checks, for continuous outcomes.
Project 5: Categorical data and multiple logistic regression.

The statistical software R will be used. Students are encouraged to work in groups. At the end of each project, students will be asked to hand in individual reports and present their results in a 15 min talk. The talks and reports will be assessed. In order to enroll in this course it is mandatory to have passed CS16_003 Clinical Biostatistics (Vorlesung und Übung).

Location: Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Prevention Institute, Hirschengraben 84, Zürich, Room HRS F28.

PhD Seminar (Malcolm Kohler)

The objective of this course is to have a more detailed look into diverse research topics, methods and problems. Sessions are either based on a talk by an experienced researcher followed by a student lead discussion or on a general research topic which is being prepared by a group of PhD students for discussion with peers. Examples for discussed topics include personalized medicine, biomarkers, evidence based medicine, graphs in publications a.o. This PhD Seminar will take place every four weeks during the semester.

Location May 5, 2020: Careum 2, Gloriastrasse 18, 2nd Floor, Room 286/290

Location May 12, 2020: Careum 2, Gloriastrasse 18, 2nd Floor, Room 271

Location May 19, 2020: Careum 2, Gloriastrasse 18, 2nd Floor, Room 271


University of Zurich
Dean's Office /
Office of the Board of Directors of
the Academic Medicine Zurich (UMZH)
Pestalozzistrasse 3/5
8091 Zurich

Lisa Marxt, lic. phil.
Telefon: +41 44 634 48 21