University of Innsbruck

PhD in Atmospheric Sciences


The top academic degree – for students who are exceptionally independent, creative and persevering and keen to embark on exciting research projecxts in supportive teams. The direction of the PhD programme is closely interwoven with the current research topics at our institute in the fields of atmospheric dynamics, atmospheric physics/chemistry, and climatology/glaciology. Normally, a PhD student will work in and receive funding from a research project as a research assistant. Enrolment is possible at any time.


Comprehensive information from university on curriculum, forms etc.

Course Catalogue


Practical information from the study advisor

To be able to apply for our PhD programme, you will need a Master's degree in Atmospheric Science, Physics, Mathematics, Earth Sciences or related fields. You are encouraged to look at our job openings on our news page to see whether we are currently filling PhD positions in research projects. Otherwise, please directly contact the faculty member for the research area, according to your preference to get your PhD. You will then have to start the admission process through the admission department of our university. Note that procedures vary for EU and non-EU citizens. Unless your Master's degree is in Atmospheric Science (or Meteorology), your application will go to the study advisor who will make the final decision whether you have the prerequisites for the programme and – jointly with your future advisor – whether you will have to take additional courses.

A map of the PhD program

During the first half year (up to a year) you assemble your PhD committee together with your advisor and create your research plan, which you have to defend before your committee and the whole institute. A successful defence is required to be able to continue with the programme. During that time you will also take courses needed as stepping stones for your further research.

In the second phase you dig deeper to find answer to your research questions, you present your results to the scientific communities at conferences and in papers. Your PhD thesis consists of three papers in peer-review journals framed by an extensive introduction and discussion of the combined results. International experts, who are not members of your committee will evaluate your thesis. The final step is the public defence of your PhD thesis.

Getting started: student mentor, PhD committee, dissertation registration and exposé

Find a mentor among the older PhD-students to help you get started and with whom you can talk when problems come up about which you do not feel comfortable enough to talk with your advisor. This is mandatory if you are new to the department and optional for students who have been at our department before.
Assemble your PhD committee together with your main advisor: at least one more person, more if extra expertise is required. Ideally one of the members is from outside  the department. (Who may serve as advisor on your PhD committee? See Paragraph 25 in this document in English oder auf Deutsch.
Discuss with your advisors the research direction of your PhD work and write an exposé of your disseration and hand it in together with the registration form, which the committee has to approve and sign. The exposé is a generic formal requirement by the university. Since the PhD concept in our PhD program fulfills its intended purpose, keep it brief at 3 pages that contain one paragraph of motivation, 1 - 1.5 pages of current state of research, 1 paragraph of clearly stated goal(s), followed by a paragraph each on methods and data, and half a page with a time plan (when you will be finished with courses, the PhD concept, first, second and third papers, PhD thesis). Freely use the proposal that secured the funding for you PhD research to write the exposé. Attach the exposé to the it to the signed registration form and e-mail it to the Prüfungsreferat stating "PhD registration SKZ 645" as subject of the email.

Course work and PhD concept

Select the course work from the modules core skills and generic skills to prepare you for your research and for being a well-rounded scientist. Select interactively with your main advisor and/or the other members of the PhD committee.

While you are taking courses, also write your PhD concept, which has to convince your committee of your ability to do independent research. Use the propsal that seccured your PhD funding as a starting point. IMPORTANT: You may not continue with the PhD programme without an approved PhD concept! You should defend the concept between 6 and (at the very latest) 12 months from the beginning of your studies. Until then, please enroll each semester in the appropriate group of the course "Development and Presentation of the Dissertation Concept" of the module PhD-Concept.

PhD concept

The PhD concept serves several purposes. Its main goal is to see for yourself and to show your committee that you have crucial abilities needed to finish a PhD - synthesize, create, persevere and communicate. You show that you can find, digest and synthesize how far science has already gotten in the field of your research and identify important gaps in the knowledge. You propose and preliminarily test ideas of how these gaps could be filled or even how new research themes can be opened and tackled.

The concept consists of an abstract, the fundamentals of your research area written so that someone with an atmospheric science Master can easily understand it, a detailed state-of-the-art at expert level, and gaps and directions for further research. Then outlines for 3 research papers follow. The first one should already be concrete and specific about research questions/hypotheses, data, methods and even contain first results. The outline for the second paper will be less specific but still have enough details on goals, data and method and expected results to be able to evaluate its scientific merit and whether it will be a worthhwile PhD contribution. The outline for the third paper will be a fleshed-out idea only, typically on 1-2 pages. Overall, the PhD concept should be in the ballpark of 20 (at most 30) pages. However, the number of pages is secondary, the content is crucial. Getting it done in about 6 months and putting all the essentials for it into 20 pages will demonstrate the required abilities of focus and concision. Don't go overboard - this is not your PhD thesis!

Writing the PhD concept will give you a chance to further hone your writing skills, deepen your programming abilities and collect the technical and field-specific tools for your further research (from how to produce great figures to how to run a model or a measurement platform).

Once your PhD committe is content with your PhD concept, defend it in a 45-minute presentation, followed by questions from the audience and then questioning and discussion with your PhD committee members.

Doing original research and interacting with the scientific community

Once you you have successfully defended your PhD-concept use it as blueprint to do research and let your curiosity explore your topics. Please enroll each semester in the appropriate research group of the course "Analysis and Discussion of Research Results" from the module Analysis and Discussion of Research Results. If necessary take additional courses. Also organize meetings with other (or all) members of your PhD committee at decisive stages of your research!

You will be participating at conferences to present your (first) results and network with your peer researchers (module 5 Participation in the Academic Discussion). Your main advisor has to send a list of them to the examinations department and assign ECTS-AP. A week-long conference is worth 2 ECTS-AP.  The examinations department (Prüfungsreferat) will then add these to your academic records.

Prepare manuscripts and submit them to peer-reviewed journals. They will form the core of your PhD thesis.

When you and your PhD committee select a journal to which you want to submit your work make sure that they allow the parallel publication of the manuscript as part of your thesis, that you as the author retain the copyright and the article ideally as a CC-BY license (meaning it is freely distributable). You find that information usually under something like "preprint policy". These are the practical implications of the detailed university guideline.


Your thesis must contain a collection of 3 (or more) embedded in a "frame".

In the collection of 3 accepted papers you must be first author of at least 2 papers and can be co-author of a third paper but must clearly state your contribution to it in your PhD thesis. Two papers must already have been accepted for publication and the third at least for review.

For these papers to form a dissertation, you need to write a „frame“ around them consisting of

  •  Front matter: overview (more so than space provided by journals for that purpose) of scientific questions and current state of knowledge as it pertains the whole area(s) covered by your 3 papers
  • Back matter: discussion of the combined results of the 3 papers embedding them in previous research. Your papers already contain individual discussion sections; the discussion here should be of the thesis as one whole body of research.

While at least some of your committee members will be coauthors of the papers and have contributed to them, you must write the frame on your own.

No specific layout is prescribed but you may use a LaTeX-template provided ( Download thesis_template_v2.0 and preview). The university has a recommended cover layout. You must include a sworn statement about having properly conducted your research.

Since the thesis will have to be uploaded to the university library repository according to the detailed university guidelines, there can be a conflict with the requirements that journals have. Already before you submit your first paper, you and your PhD committee should therefore select a journal to which you want to submit your work make sure that they allow the parallel publication of the manuscript as part of your thesis, that you as the author retain the copyright and the article ideally as a CC-BY license (meaning it is freely distributable). You find that information usually under something like "preprint policy".   Some allow you only to include the last version prior to acceptance; others the final accepted version and even others the final printed version in the journal. If possible (but not required) include the articles formatted in the same style as the rest of your thesis.


The necessary steps for the very last phase of your dissertation are as follows:

Dissertation review

Several months before your dissertation is finished, find 2 external reviewers (they must not be part of the committee) with the help of your dissertation committee and contact them whether they would be willing to do the review. Once you found them, fill out the submission form Submission of the dissertation and take it to the examination office („Prüfungsreferat“). Also take four hard-cover versions of your dissertation. A plagscan is not necessary for a dissertation consisting of several published papers. If you want to perform one nevertheless you need to get a code here.

To speed up the review process, you can already informally send an electronic version of your thesis to the reviewers, which must be identical to the version the examination office is going to mail them!

The reviewers have three months to send back their reviews. You can use that time to see your third paper through to review process to publication.


Once the review are back, fill out the form for your PhD defense

Electronically submit your thesis and the PDF to the university library. In the course of the upload you will be ask for your affidavit about the authorship and application of proper scientific practice of your dissertation.

Once the date of your defense has been established, ask our secretaries (email, phone) to post an announcement on the ACInn homepage and the ACInn newsletter, reserve our seminar or computer room for public presentation and our meeting room for the subsequent exam. If needed, your presentation will also be streamed so that people can participate online, too.

The defense consists of a public 45-60 minute presentation of your research results. At its end anybody in the audience may ask questions. Afterwards only the dissertation committee will examine the candidate (in the area of his dissertation) for up to an hour– again, the public is admitted.


Study advisor (Prof. Dr. Georg MAYR)

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