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Helmholtz Munich Postdoc Center

We are still designing this website. More information for Postdocs at Helmholtz Munich will follow soon.

Besides the High Potentials Program, you might also be interested in:

Helmholtz Munich Postdoc Center

We are still designing this website. More information for Postdocs at Helmholtz Munich will follow soon.

Besides the High Potentials Program, you might also be interested in:

Helmholtz Munich High Potentials Program

Together we take the lead on your career!

The High Potentials Program in a Nutshell

Being a postdoc is not a career! While everyone is aware that postdocs are in transitional phase preparing for the next career steps, they often find it difficult to make time, organize & join qualification and training activities to prepare themselves in the best way possible for future applications and leadership roles. Given the high competition for advanced positions, planning your career strategically from an early stage on can make all the difference!

With the High Potentials Program (HPP), we introduce a new comprehensive program to support and train early-career postdocs at Helmholtz Munich to ensure that they are well-prepared for the next steps. The two-year training program is designed for early-career postdocs who are already conducting research at Helmholtz Munich and want to assume leadership positions in science in the future. During an annual call, all Helmholtz Munich postdocs who (1) completed their doctorate 0-3 years ago and (2) will ideally be able to join for the entire duration of the program are invited to submit an application. 10-12 fellows per year will be selected via a competitive selection process and have the opportunity to join the program.

The program modules include in-person, online and blended learning formats as well as an annual retreat. The fellows will receive comprehensive group trainings and individual support e.g. to develop their academic profile; their third-party funding strategy; expertise in the German academic system; lab, leadership and project management skills; input on scientific collaboration and outreach; mentoring & coaching offers as well as a long-term involvement as an alumnus after completing the program. In addition, scientific symposia and a Scientific Advisory Board will support for the fellows’ scientific progress and exchange across departments.

The program also counts on the fellows’ PIs or group leaders who are asked to engage in regular feedback and career development talks. Fellows can also profit from the intense collaboration and support of the HPP peer group which will be an essential benefit of the program.

The application period for the 2022 call ended in November 2023. 

The High Potentials Program is an internal program for postdocs at Helmholtz Munich, the program does not provide funding for the respective postdocs.

All postdocs at Helmholtz Munich who fulfill the following criteria are invited to apply:

  • You completed your doctorate 0-3 years ago. Postdocs who have not received their doctoral certificate yet are also eligible to apply.
  • Extension for postdocs with children are possible.
  • You are completing your doctorate and already submitted your doctoral thesis at Helmholtz Munich or any other institution and will conduct research at Helmholtz Munich as a postdoc in the future.  
  • You either have a work contract or a guest contract and are working at any of the Helmholtz Munich sites. Both postdocs with a fellowship and postdocs employed at other institutions who have a guest contract at Helmholtz Munich are eligible.
  • You ideally have a work or guest contract for two more years to ensure that you can actually participate in the program. Your group leader/PI will be asked to confirm this while uploading a Letter of Support. If you have a shorter contract duration, your group leader/PI will be asked to comment on your contractual situation and should ideally confirm that you will be a Helmholtz Munich long enough to participate in the program.

If you have doubts or questions regarding the eligibility criteria, please get in touch!

Fostering the career development of postdocs is a central task of PIs/group leaders given that the limited-time employment of postdocs is justified by the fact that the postdocs phase is a qualification period. To ensure the ideal support for each HPP fellow, we count on the active support of the fellow’s PI/group leader.

There is no limitation in terms of how many postdocs a PI/group leader can support per call, but s/he needs to provide a Letter of Support for each applicant.

PIs/group leader are also asked to confirm that the fellow will have sufficient time to join all modules of the HPP program and s/he will conduct regular Career Development and Feedback talks with the respective fellow.

 Furthermore, the PI/group leader is asked to confirm the postdoc’s contract duration when uploading the Letter of Support in the Application Portal and to comment on plans to extend the contract. Please note that any confirmations given here do not give rise to an obligation to extend contracts that can be enforced by the applicant later on. 

The High Potential Program (HPP) is a structured two-year career development program to support postdocs at Helmholtz Munich to prepare for leading positions in academia. As the postdoc phase is generally a qualification phase, we believe that that program offers a great opportunity to ideally support early-career postdocs at Helmholtz Munich.

The program hence aims at postdocs who completed their doctorate max. 3 years ago and who are already conducting research at Helmholtz Munich or joining soon (postdocs with children can also apply if they completed their doctorate more than 3 years ago). We are not making a difference here between postdocs with an employment or guest contract. You can also encourage fellowship holders or postdocs in your group who are employed at another institution to apply. Please note that the program does not include fellowships or positions to fund the postdocs.

Ideally, the fellows should have a contract for the entire duration of the program (24 months). If you have suitable postdocs in your group with a shorter contract duration, you will be asked to comment on their contractual situation as part of the application process.

Here are some important key facts for you:

What’s the scope of the High Potentials Program?

  • The HPP is an add-on program for postdocs at Helmholtz Munich, the program does not provide funds to cover the postdoc’s position.
  • The selected fellows will participate in a structured modular training program. Most formats will be shorter webinars that can be integrated into the working days, but we also plan one 3-day retreat per year. The program modules also include various deliverables to ensure that the fellows apply their knowledge and skills. By supporting a postdoc, you need to confirm that s/he will have sufficient time to join the program.
  • In addition, we count on the support of the postdoc’s PI or group leader supporting the respective applicant. You will be asked to conduct regular Feedback and Career Development Talks. Guidelines and a template for these talks will be provided.


  • We plan an annual call during which 10-12 fellows will be selected for a period of two years.
  • Helmholtz Munich employees as well at guest researchers conducting research at Helmholtz Munich can apply for the HPP (e.g. Fellowship holders or postdocs employed at a university who work at Helmholtz Munich).
  • The target group of the program are early-career postdocs who finished their doctorate 0-3 years ago (cut-off date: November 23rd 2019 or later). Postdocs with children can also apply if they completed their doctorate mroe than 3 years ago (upon indiv. discussion, max 5 years). You can already support future postdocs who will join your group before March 2023 as well as doctoral researchers who submitted their thesis and will continue as a postdoc at Helmholtz Munich.
  • Applicants should start an employment/fellowship at Helmholtz Munich before the beginning of the program The HPP fellows should be able to join for the entire duration of the program.
    If that is not the case for the applicant you support, you will be asked to provide some concrete information on the applicant’s employment status, e.g. if the contract will be extended. Please note that we ask for this information in the interest of the postdoc and to ensure a close collaboration among the selected fellows. Any confirmation you provide here do not give rise to an obligation to extend contracts.
  • You may support various applicants per call, please make sure you support female researchers equally. There is no limitation, how many postdocs per institute or department can be supported.
  • You need to provide a personalized Letter of Support for each applicant you support.  

Letter of Support & Submission via the Application Portal

Please provide a letter of support for the applicant. The letter should be approximately one page long and highlight the applicant’s suitability for the High Potentials Program. Please highlight the following points:

  • the applicant’s current research focus, publications and academic achievements
  • How would you rate the applicant’s profile in comparison to other postdocs? How does the applicant strike out?
  • the applicant’s potential to continue in leading positions in academia (e.g. as a group leader).

Once the applicant has started his/her application in the Application Portal, you will receive an email with the link to upload your Letter of Support as a PDF. Please note that the applicant him/herself will not have access to this Letter of Support. It is not possible that an applicant uploads this Letter of Support on him/her own.

When uploading the PDF, you will be asked to confirm that (1) the fellow with sufficient time to join the modular training program, including the participation in a 3-day retreat p.a. (2) you will conduct regular Feedback and Career Development Talks with the respective postdoc and (3) are willing to share your feedback on the program in short surveys.

The HPP fellows will be selected via a competitive selection process involving reviewers from all Helmholtz Munich Departments. 

Applications can be submitted via the application portal until November 23rd 2022. Applicants need to provide the following documents:

  1. Letter of Motivation
  2. CV including track record/list of publications
  3. Doctoral Certificate (or an official Confirmation of Submission of your Doctoral Thesis)

Tips to Prepare the Letter of Motivation

To apply for the Helmholtz Munich High Potentials Program, you need to submit a Letter of Motivation of max. 2 pages. The letter will be decisive document for the selection of the HPP fellows and we ask you to think a beyond your current day-to-day research.

Please address the following points in your Letter of Motivation:

(1) What is your long-term research agenda? 

(2) What are your career goals?

(3) What do you find interesting about the High Potentials Program? Which skills would you particularly like to expand during the fellowship? What would you bring to the group?

Here are some tips on how you could address these questions:

(1) What is your long-term research agenda? 
Which research topic(s) or questions you want to focus on in the future going beyond your current day-to-day research?
Which research gaps have you identified, in which field do you have a unique expertise? What could be a long-term focus where you could really advance the state-of-the-art in your field?

You would usually get these kind of questions when you apply for advanced positions, so we would like to see how you would address this topic. You don’t have to develop a full research proposal here, but we would like you to draft a more long-term perspective.

You can of course briefly mention your current research focus as a starting point, but please keep in mind that this is a no project proposal. The reviewers will also have your CV to learn more about your previous research and qualifications.

(2) What are your career goals?

The High Potentials Program aims at supporting early-career postdocs interested in leading positions in academia. Hence, please address what would be your next steps to continue your career in academia. Do you have any specific programs you would like to apply for? Are you aspiring to be a group leader or professor? What motivates you to stay in academia? 

If you know that you want to stay in academia, but haven’t planned next steps yet, we would recommend to talk to researchers in group or to take a look at the resources and materials offered by the Career Center for Postdocs and Doctoral Researchers. They offer an Individual Career Development Plan, information on Career Paths and many other resources (the Career Center offers guidance for all kind of career paths, not only academic careers). You can also schedule a 1:1 coaching session to e.g. clarify your motivation for your application.

Please note that we would like to hear your own ideas and how you approach planning you career here. As this is an internal call, so the Career Center will not be able to draft you the perfect answer or to give you feedback on your Letter of Motivation.

(3) What do you find interesting about the High Potentials Program? What would you bring to the group? Which skills would you particularly like to expand during the fellowship?

Please share some information about your motivation to join the program! Forming a peer group that joins a structured training together and engages in intense exchange and collaboration during this period is an essential part of the program. What do you expect from the peer group and what would bring to the group? Do you have a particular expertise other group members could profit from, are you a great team player, do you have a great approach to research others could learn from or are you particularly looking forward to collaborate beyond your discipline?

You are also welcome to address what kind training and skills you think is particularly important for future leaders, which skills do you want to expand during the next years to be a great leader/researchers/supervisor?

Tips on how to write the Letter of Motivation

You can write the Letter of Motivation as one coherent text, you do not need to repeat the questions.

We do not give very strict limitations here regarding word count and formatting. Please use make sure the Letter of Motivation is easily readable for reviewers (normal font, paragraphs, font size 10 or larger).

If you fell that you absolutely need a list of references, you can add them on an extra page. Please do refrain from using extensive footnotes here.

Please make sure you write this from your point of view, ideally in first person. If you address previous or future research goals, make sure your highlight your own performance and achievements and rather than describing your group’s work in general.

The questions are also meant as food for thought about your future plans, so be realistic, but do not be too modest here. As a postdoc, you already have great skills and expertise, so don’t undersell yourself!

The reviewers will also be asked to rate your application focusing on the how you addressed the questions above.

Submission of the Application

Please note that all documents need to be uploaded before the deadline and you need to submit your application. After the application deadline, it Is not possible to exchange documents or to add further information.

Along with your documents, your PI/group leader also needs to submit a Letter of Support and answer a few questions while uploading the letter.

How can your PI/Group Leader upload the Letter of Support?

Your PI/Group Leader can submit the letter confidentially via the application portal. Applicants are not able to access the letter.

You will be asked to provide you PI’s/Group Leaders contact details and optional, you can add the details of his/her team assistant who might usually keep an eye on these kind of letters. You cannot add your own contact details here. Once you have entered the contact details, an email with a respective link to upload a Letter of Support will be sent to the email addresses provided. 

So please make sure you add these details early enough for your PI/group leader to upload the letter and that you discuss your application before you provide this email. Once the letter has been uploaded, you will be informed about it.

The training program is structured in modules and includes a mix of on-site, online and blended learning formats for the entire group as well as meetings with mentors and further experts. 

Module 1 | Kick-off Event: Introduction, Team-Building & Learn more about Your Potential

Module 2 |Boost Your Academic Profile & Apply for Advanced Positions

Module 3 | Develop Your Individual Third-Party Funding Strategy & Grant Writing Skills

Module 4 | Proficient Lab Management: Leadership & Project Management

Module 5 | Scientific Collaboration, Networking & Outreach

Module 6 | Industry Collaboration, Translation & Entrepreneurship

Module 7 | Additional Elements & Support: Peer-to-Peer Formats, Teaching Coaching, Mentoring, Invitation of Guest Speakers

Module 8 | Completion & Alumni Engagement

The duration of each modules varies. The workload of the group program accounts for ~11 days per year = 4% of the annual working time, but most of these formats will be short sessions that can be integrated into a working day. The program also includes a 3-day retreat per year and a scientific symposium.

The program will be flexible to include the individual interests and training needs of each batch. The fellows are required to submit various deliverables and to keep track of their progress.


For any questions you may have, please get in touch:

Dr. Neele Meyer
Program Coordinator