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International Max Planck Research School

"The Leipzig School of Human Origins"

The Department of Human Evolution is not currently accepting applications to the IMPRS.


The Department of Human Evolution has between 14 and 20 graduate students at any one time. These students work on projects related to the general themes of the department including biological evolution (primarily through hominin fossil research), archaeology (excavation, stone tools and faunal analysis), dating (radiocarbon and luminescence), and isotopic studies of diet and migration (including methodological studies of more recent collections, application to the Paleolithic, and application to extant primates).

A PhD in the department is expected to take three years. A request for a one year extension can be made in the final year. A PhD based on a set of published papers is strongly encouraged, though monographic PhDs are also possible in some circumstances. Because we are not a PhD granting institution, our program is affiliated with other PhD granting institutions. In physical anthropology, our students complete their defense at and receive their PhD from the University of Leipzig, Department of Biology, where Jean-Jacques Hublin is a professor. In archaeology and archaeological sciences (including dating), students complete their defense and receive their PhD from the University of Leiden, Department of Archaeology, where Jean-Jacques Hublin is also a professor and where other members of our department can serve on the committee. All PhDs are written and defended in English.

Applications are due on December 1 of each year. A committee meets to review the applications and to make a short list of potential candidates soon after. These candidates are normally brought to the institute for a one-day interview. Typically we admit only three students each year (all disciplines combined). Decisions are made as quickly as possible but can take 1-2 months.

With regard to the applications, these generally fall into two categories. First, we have some PhD projects for which we are seek students with particular skill sets. In this case, the application needs to provide us with a good overview of their skills and accomplishments to this point and needs to provide us with an idea of the kinds of research topics they consider important next steps in their careers. Second, we have some PhD applicants who have a topic that is already well prepared, usually as a result of their masters work, and that they think would be of interest for our department. In this case, the research agenda portion of the application needs to explain the importance of this topic to our understanding of human evolution and its feasibility within the timeframe of the PhD (i.e. access to collections, data sets, etc.). In both cases, the application should explain why our department is appropriate for your studies and in most cases should also identify the individuals(s) with whom they would like to work.

We also have a few students who do much of their PhD work here but obtain their PhD through another program. These students do not go through the IMPRS application process. Instead such programs of study are arranged directly through Prof. Hublin, the student’s current professor and perhaps also an additional researcher in our department.

Since 2007 we have graduated a number of students who have gone on to obtain positions in top level research institutions world-wide. To read more about the program and to obtain an application, please visit the website of The Leipzig School of Human Origins.