The PhD Advisory Committee

The purpose of the PhD Advisory Committee (hereafter PAC) at MPIA is to monitor the progress of PhD students to help ensure successful completion of their theses.

PAC meetings are obligatory for all PhD students at MPIA who obtain their degree from the University of Heidelberg. The PAC is also there to mediate in case of conflicts and/or communication difficulties between the student and supervisor. PAC meetings are not an examination of the student. Nor are they intended to advise on the scientific content of the thesis (this is covered in the [IMPRS] thesis committee meetings). Instead, PAC meetings focus on the following issues:

  • Is the student getting sufficient support from his or her supervisor?
  • Is the thesis project sufficiently well defined and manageable in the anticipated duration of the thesis?
  • Is the project on schedule?
  • Can the student access all data and equipment necessary for the thesis?
  • Is the student giving oral presentations at MPIA as well as at international conferences?
  • Is international visibility (via papers and international collaborations) being established?
  • In the final year, are the preparations for post-PhD career planning on track?

Scheduling of PAC meetings

Each student must arrange annual meetings with the PAC during his or her studentship at the MPIA. In addition to the mediation function described above, each of these meetings has a specific goal. The first meeting should occur around the end of the first year. Its purpose is to evaluate how the PhD student has adjusted to the working and social atmosphere at MPIA (and to his or her group) and whether the original goals of the PhD thesis can be achieved. Additional meetings should take place around the end of the second and third year. The last meeting will focus on the structure and timing of the final months of the thesis, as well as preparation for future career opportunities. The chair of the PAC will contact each student when the next PAC meeting is due. Please contact the PAC chair (see list below) immediately if you think that you should be scheduled for a meeting. The student and one of his or her supervisors must attend the PAC meeting. Typically, two members of the PAC committee will also participate.

Preparation for the PAC meeting

For each PAC meeting, the student needs to fill out a PAC report, using the LaTeX form that can be downloaded here. This filled-out LaTeX form (the LaTeX file as well as a ps/pdf file) should be sent to the PAC ( and the supervisor(s) no later than one week before the meeting.

A typical PAC meeting

The PAC meeting will start with a short (~5 minutes) summary of the thesis by the student (no ppt presentation). Issues to be addressed are 1) What is the scientific goal of the thesis? 2) What is the planned road to reaching these goals? 3) What tools/data/code is being used? 4) What are important milestones in your thesis and how many have been reached? This summary is followed by a discussion with the student and the advisor, a private discussion between the student and the PAC, and then a private discussion between the supervisor and the PAC. After the meeting, the PAC adds their report to the student’s report which is then sent to the student, the advisor and the institute directors. The content of this report is confidential and will not be made available to third parties, unless all participants in the PAC meeting agree to do so. The report will not include items for which confidentiality was requested by either the student or advisor.

Meetings outside regular PAC meetings

In addition to the regular meetings, PAC members can be approached at any time by students, for example if they need general advice, see their thesis project threatened, or if they are having difficulties with their advisor. Supervisors who see problems and would like to have a second opinion can also approach the PAC. Such discussions, both with students and supervisors, will be kept strictly confidential.

PAC members

The members of the PAC are appointed by the MPIA directors and the WBK (Scientific Advisory Council). The current PAC members (chair: Fabian Walter) are:

Dr. Wolfgang Brandner
Research Group Leader
  • +49 6221 528-289
Dr. Tom Herbst
Research Group Leader
  • +49 6221 528-223
apl. Prof. Hubert Klahr
Research Group Leader
  • +49 6221 528-255
Dr. Ralf Launhardt
Scientific Staff
  • +49 6221 528-207
Dr. Annalisa Pillepich
Research Group Leader
  • +49 6221 528-395
Dr. Fabian Walter
Research Group Leader
  • +49 6221 528-225

The PAC members strongly support an “open-door” approach. You should feel free to contact PAC members at any time if you have questions or concerns. If you wish to address the entire PAC committee, please send e-mail to

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