EC²/BIG-NSE alumni: Statistics

Since the school was founded in May 2007, 131 BIG-NSE students have already finished their PhD (as of August 25, 2023), while 55 are currently working on it. Considering that the first PhD students from BIG-NSE finished their PhD in 2010, the school has graduated about ten PhD students per year since then. This corresponds to the usual annual average batch size. Ten students have not finished their PhD yet and might never finish, mainly for private reasons. In the majority of these cases, an interesting job offer came in between, for which obtaining a PhD was not required.

91% of our alumni obtained their “Doktortitel” with either an “excellent” (32%) or “very good“ (59%) grade. Only 9% received “good” or “sufficient.”

On average, it took our students 4.2 years to finish their PhD (including the thesis defense and the 3.5 months of the “initial phase” program). The majority (58%) of our alumni finished their PhD within less than 4 years (or less than 5 years in case they had a child), but it took a few of them a much longer time to finish, increasing the average duration. The time spent on the PhD studies varies significantly from 2.3 years to more than 5 years in these few cases. The BIG-NSE scholarship holders (4.0 years) accomplished their PhD in approximately the same time as the associated members (4.3 years). For the extra months after the end of their three-year BIG-NSE scholarship, they usually received external funding from their group leader or from their university (e.g., “TU-Durchstarterstipendium”). The average age at start was 26.1, that at the time of defense 30.3 years.

Nationalities of our alumni

Years on PhD distribution


Altogether, in March 2020 we could report about 590 peer-reviewed publications and patents published by 104 finished or almost finished students. 56% of them were first-author publications. 22% of them had more than one EC2/BIG-NSE author, which underlines the high level of collaboration between our students. An even higher percentage of these papers (43%) were the result of collaboration between different UniCat groups.  

Many of the EC2/BIG-NSE publications were published in journals with a high impact factor (Ref: 2018/2019): See figure on the right side.

In the last years, each student has published almost five publications during or just after her/his PhD. On average, our BIG-NSE alumni have published 1,4 publications per year of their PhD. However, many of these papers get published after the student has left the school. Moreover, there are high disparities in the publication numbers per student, in particular due to the high level of interdisciplinary research in the cluster. While some PhD students manage to produce up to 20 papers related to their PhD topics (usually biologists, especially those working on spectroscopy), only a few of them (in particular engineers) have to struggle to publish at least one.


By March 2020, the same 104 PhD students had given at least* 111 talks in Germany and 54 abroad. Five of these talks received a special prize. This means that on average our students giveone talk in Germany during their PhD studies, but only every second student gives a talk abroad. In terms of posters, 204 were presented at conferences in Germany by these same students, and 72 abroad. This means that our students present an average of two posters at conferences in Germany, and almost one per student abroad. Three of these posters were awarded.   

* Unfortunately, many of our alumni do not answer the question about the talks they gave or the posters they presented during their PhD. Therefore, the real figures are certainly higher those given here.

Publications in journals with high impact factor (IF)

Prizes and awards

Quite a few of our BIG-NSE students received an award during or after finishing their PhD. Often, it is an award for the PhD thesis itself, sometimes for a particularly good talk or a poster presentation at a conference. In other cases, it is a scholarship allowing the student to take part in a conference abroad.

Below are a few recent examples:

On July 11, 2019, Rodrigo Beltrán Suito (WS16 batch) from Peru, won the Poster Prize at Tag der Chemie, organized by "Nordostchemie". Rodrigo is writing his PhD thesis in the group of Mathias Driess on the topic "Synthesis of transition metal pnictide and chalcogenide catalysts for efficient water splitting."
In July 2019, Konstantin Laun, from the WS18 batch, won the Poster Prize at MoTEC 2019. MoTEC is the "Molybdenum and Tungsten Enzymes Conference." In 2019, it took place on July 7-12 in Potsdam. Konstantin, who works in the group of Dr. Zebger (TU), presented a poster titled: "Using inhibitors as a vibrational spectroscopic probe to monitor possible substrate interaction with the formate dehydrogenase from Rhodobacter capsulatus."
On Nov. 20., 2019, our student Ammar Al Shameri (WS16 batch) from Yemen won 4th place at the "Forum Junge Spitzenforscher-Klimawandel" organized by the German Foundation for Energy Research (Stiftung Industrieforschung and Humboldt-Innovation). Ammar is a PhD student in the research team of a BIG-NSE alumnus, Dr. Lars Lauterbach at TU Berlin. He is working on a highly interdisciplinary project together with Dr. Bettina Nestl, Universität Stuttgart. His work is located in the field of green chemistry and is about "electro-driven synthesis of N-heterocycles." More information here.
Finally, Yuwen Wang was one of the 45 finalists for the 2019 Reaxys PhD Prize organized by Elsevier! Yuwen is a previous WS15 batch PhD student of EC2/BIG-NSE and group member of Matthias Driess. The committee honored her publication “An Isolable Bis(silylene)-Stabilized Germylone and Its Reactivity” in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.  Yuwen's PhD was financed by the Chinese Scholarship Council and UniCat funds. She defended her thesis in January 2020.

          Finalists of the Forum Junge Spitzenforscher-Klimawandel; Ammar in the lower right corner; Photo: © Alexander Rentsch

          Yuwen Wang presenting her research



          Data from 2018 show that approximately

          43%of the alumni pursue an academic career immediately after their PhD. However, the majority of them (31%) first stay on to work in one or two postdoc positions before opting for a more definitive career path.


          of our alumni have become university professors, most of them in their country of origin (France, Colombia, China, India, Jordan...). One of our alumni from Venezuela "made it" to a professor position in the USA, however. Moreover, a Chinese alumn is teaching in Denmark.


          are group leaders at a university (TU Berlin of course, but also FU Berlin, U. Marburg,TU Dresden, U. Göttingen etc.) or a research institute (MPIs, HZB) in Germany or abroad (U. Chengdu; Northwestern U., USA; Nanjing U.; Xian U.; Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology etc.) and are on a good way to becoming professors.




          42%of our alumni now have a job as a researcher/senior researcher in industry, in Germany or abroad: Novartis/CH, Genentech/Roche, Atotech Berlin, PCK Schwedt, Sandoz/CH, Air Liquide/Frankfurt, BASF/Ludwigshafen, Shell/Amsterdam, Bosch/Berlin, Evonik/Frankfurt, Biopetrolia/Gothenburg, Sweden, Boehringer Ingelheim/Lörrach, BASF/New York, Continental AG/Hannover, hte/Heidelberg, Clariant AG/Brückmuhl), KAO Germany GmbH, Total/Brussels, BASF Shanghai, etc.

          Among these, a few of them work for SMEs, like DSR Ingenieurgesellschaft mbH /Berlin, Orafol/Oranenburg, PV Crystalox Solar Silicon in Bitterfeld, Dr. Türck Ingenieurbüro, Berlin.


          And a few have founded startups like Battist Rabay CEO and co-founder of “Nano-Join GmbH,” Berlin.





           10%of our alumni are engaged in a non-academic, non-industry-related activity: Sales at B&W Tek/Frankfurt a.M., Research Gate, Wiley, Science Teacher at OSZ Lise Meitner/Berlin, Education Advisor at GesBiT, Berlin), Clinical Research Associate for Novartis, IP Department, Cynora GmbH, Bruchsal), IT Consultant / Software Developer at SALT Solutions AG/Dresden.


          Temporary unemployment

          Finally, at the time of the survey,

          5%of our alumni were unemployed. Almost all of them graduated recently and are searching for their first position.

          Alumni career

          Some of the academic institutions where our alumni are currently or have been working

          Some of the companies in which our alumni are currently or have been employed


          A closer look at the mobility of our alumni students shows that

          49%of them had to change their country to study at EC2/BIG-NSE.
          48%changed their country of residence after the PhD as well.


            33%of the German students went abroad after their Ph.D
            52%of the international students stayed in Germany after their PhD, and
              39% of them even continued living in Berlin. The school apparently does not only attract excellent people to Berlin; their experience here motivates almost half of them to stay!
             29% went to another country (than Germany or even their country of origin) to pursue their career,
             → only 19% went back home (most of them, those funded by CSC, being forced to do so).

            Where our international students "land" after finshing their PhD