The core structure of the doctoral course of the 1st semester as described in Section 4-Curricular Structure is fairly rigid.
This core structure focuses on the scientific, technological, and doctoral preparation competences not usually covered in the undergraduate formation. This core structure consists of 36 ECTS, 30 ECTS of which comes in the 1st semester of the 1st year, and all doctoral students in the programme must fulfill it. Students can add courses to their doctoral course up to 60 ECTS to complement the core formation. This is done in consultation with their advisors and must be approved by the programme director. The participating host institutions offer a wide variety of 2nd and 3rd cycle courses that may be chosen by the students to either complement gaps in their background or to allow them to further explore advanced topics.
The semi-yearly December and July workshops are important occasions for the students to network with each other, the faculty, the proponent team, other scientific collaborators, the external supervisory board (in July) and invited guests from industry and academia. In particular, the December workshop in the 1st year of studies and the Laboratory rotations are important occasions to give the students enough information for them to choose their research project/advisors. This choice is expected to occur before the start of the 2nd semester of the 1st year of studies. Until the choice of the doctoral research project and the thesis advisor, the programme director will interact regularly with the 1st year students, both individually and as a group.
As mentioned before, the doctoral research projects will always involve at least two of the proponent laboratories. After that choice of project is made, the main mentoring will be performed by the thesis advisors. In addition, the programme foresees for the first year of thesis research the optional nomination of a student mentor in the laboratories where the research takes place. These student mentors (who are more advanced doctoral students) are expected to facilitate the insertion of the younger doctoral students in their new environment. This mentorship can be a valuable reference in the mentor’s career development plans.