Degree focus at Heidelberg University

Master’s in Matter to Life: Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering

Years 1 & 2 of the 5-year B.S.-to-Ph.D. program

The Matter to Life (MtL) program at Heidelberg University focuses on the field of Molecular Systems Chemistry and Engineering.  This degree provides students with a multidisciplinary education by integrating fundamentals in Chemistry with aspects from Physics, Molecular Systems, Engineering, and Life Sciences.

This interdisciplinary curriculum focuses on the following scientific topics:

  • Physical chemistry and the physics of life
  • Quantitative analysis of life
  • Hierarchical assemblies of molecular and nanoscopic units as a basis for life-like materials

Through intense mentoring of students by an exceptional group of scientists and scholars, access to the most advanced instruments for reverse engineering of living systems, and highly collaborative research environments, students will learn how to extract the necessary information for making a blueprint of life.

The curriculum of the MtL at Heidelberg University has been developed to overcome the traditional boundaries that exist between disciplines.  It addresses the roots of biological processes in chemistry and physics, which form the basis for the understanding of life, as well as providing the means to engineer life-like processes. Thus, the program is heavily research-oriented and encourages students to think and learn autonomously. It expands upon the student’s foundations from their Bachelor’s studies into interdisciplinary scientific issues.  

The preliminary curriculum catalog is published here in English (coming soon) and in German. 

*Entwurf (unter Vorbehalt der Genehmigung durch das Ministerium)

The first year of the Master’s program is dedicated to courses which establish a common core knowledge for all students, followed by lab rotations in which the student will pursue work to complete a Master’s thesis.  During the lab rotations, students are encouraged to work with more than one of the Max Planck School MtL fellows, including those outside of Heidelberg.

The preliminary curriculum for the first year is as follows:

  • Physical Chemistry of Life (see more details below)
  • Quantitative Analysis of Life, including quantitative analysis methods and bioengineering
  • Physics of Complex Systems and Biophysics of Life
  • Ethics in Synthetic Biology
  • Molecular Systems Chemistry, including macromolecular structures and functions, chemical biology, bioconjugation, and imaging chemistry
  • Molecular Systems Engineering, including genome engineering, synthetic cells, and virology

In addition to the classes held at Heidelberg University, students will participate in the annual summer seminars of the Max Planck School MtL together with students from the other MtL programs at Göttingen University and the Technical University of Munich.

After successful completion of a Master’s degree at Heidelberg University, PhD candidates will continue the last three years of the program performing research with any of the MtL fellows within the network. 

If you would like to get a head start on the curriculum, or if you're curious about the topics covered in our course "Physical Chemistry of Life", please refer to the following two recommended books:

  • "Physical Chemistry for the Life Sciences" by P. Atkins and J. de Paula (2011) - available for free download here
  • "Thermodynamics” by J. Kreuzer and I. Tamblyn (2010)
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