TALENTS*) is an international doctoral program of Saarland University, sponsored by the Marie Skłodowska-Curie COFUND-Action of the European Commission. It brings together 15 doctoral candidates (DC’s) to work for their PhD degree at the interface of pharmacy, chemistry, biology, medicine and bioinformatics in an interdisciplinary training alliance. The overarching aim is to investigate and exploit the human microbiota to fight diseases. Saarland University is named by this federal state of Germany, located near to France and Luxemburg. The TALENTS graduate school bridges the main campus in Saarland’s capital Saarbrücken with the medical campus and University Hospital in the city of Homburg.

*) “Training ALliancE for Novel Microbiome-Modulating TherapieS”

© Oliver Dietze

Scientific programme

All doctoral projects are in the field of microbiome and infection research, aiming at a better understanding of the microbial community defining or occurring in diverse diseases and possibilities to interfere with therapies or drugs for a targeted modulation. The fields of pharmaceutical, bioinformatics and drug research are challenged to use the growing knowledge of microbiome research especially from the clinic to develop chemotherapeutics and treatment modalities avoiding problems of current drugs (e.g., resistance development, neglected microbial metabolism, unintended microbiota alterations) in close collaboration with clinical partners. Exploitation of microbiota research for drug discovery and development holds potential for new prophylactic or therapeutic interventions against chronic inflammatory and infective diseases. Both the pharmaceutical industry and academia require a new generation of scientists well-trained in interdisciplinary research. The 15 individual research projects are structured in three clusters as depicted below.

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Each project cluster contains 4-6 PhD projects described here.

Research training

The training programme of TALENTS builds on the curriculum for doctoral studies of the Saarland University faculties, which includes an agreement on structuring the doctoral training by setting up a thesis committee. Strong interdisciplinarity is reflected by a team of two/three supervisors from diverse disciplines for each TALENTS student.

Regular project meetings, an intersectorial or international secondement, scientific and transferable skill courses contribute to a stimulating research environment and tailored training in professional skills. The required 18 ECTS points are collected by participation in various courses and activities, balanced in scientific and transferable skills elements. Few essential courses (e.g., good scientific practice; project and time management; data management and open science) are mandatory to all TALENT students, while the majority can be chosen from either courses/training provided within the TALENTS programme (e.g., USAAR courses, or suitable training measures offered by other parties). The training and career development planning is discussed in the individual thesis committees of each doctoral candidate.