Phase I: 1st semester - getting started at the BMS

Students generally find housing and move to Berlin around the beginning of September. The types of housing available in Berlin range from dormitories of the Studentenwerk, to WGs (shared flats), to private apartment rentals. It is recommended that students arrive in September so that all administrative requirements can be completed before the start of the semester. The BMS One-Stop Office will provide support for all of these requirements, but the process will take time. In addition, international students often spend their first month (before the actual semester begins) taking an intensive German language course, which will be covered by the BMS.

The BMS Orientation Week will take place during the week before the first day of classes, usually the second week of October. During orientation week you will learn about your academic requirements, the operation of the graduate program and other opportunities offered by the BMS such as travel funding and student activities.

University Registration and Phase I Mentor

At the beginning of the first year, each student is assigned a Phase I mentor. Your mentor is a faculty advisor with interests similar to those indicated on your application for admission. The mentor will review your course selection each term, keep track of your academic progress, and provide advice for your program of study. The Phase I mentor will also advise you on acceptable topics for your qualifying exam.

You will officially be enrolled at the university of your Phase I mentor. Each semester, you must pay a small registration fee (approximately 300€) to receive your semester ticket. This semester ticket will also act as a transportation pass for all Berlin public transportation systems, including the U-Bahn, S-Bahn, and Metrobus, valid for the entire semester (six full months).

Course Registration

BMS students are expected to register for two or three graduate courses every semester until the completion of their qualifying exam. Each university has a separate system for registration of courses, but all of them are online.

The courses can take place at any of the three Berlin universities. BMS courses are posted on the BMS website, but you can take any of the courses offered at the three universities. If you would like to take a course that is not registered as a BMS course, it is possible to receive credit for it as a BMS basic or advanced course. Confirm with the One-Stop office in the beginning of the semester to make sure the credits are properly transferred. All BMS courses (and most other courses) will be taught in English upon request.

Academic Evaluation

The grades for each course are evaluated only by the students’ performance on the final exam. To be eligible to take a final exam, students must successfully complete 50-60% of the homework exercises, which are assigned weekly and usually completed in groups. Final exams can be either written or oral. Written exams will take place during the last weeks of the semester. Oral exams are set by appointment, usually after the end of lectures or the beginning of the following semester.

The overall academic performance of all BMS students is evaluated at the end of each semester. Students are expected to maintain an average grade of at least 2.0. Upon completion of 7 one-semester courses (5 basic courses, 1 advanced course, 1 seminar) with an average grade between 1.0 and 2.3, students will become eligible to take the Qualifying Exam.

Soft Skill Seminars

The BMS offers soft skill seminars throughout the year. These 1- to 2-day workshops help you develop skills that are useful, and often necessary, to continue working in mathematics in either academia or industry. Some past workshops include intercultural training, communication and presentation skills, organization and work methods, writing mathematics, mathematical graphics, team dynamics and leading teams, applying for jobs and positions in English and project management.

Students are strongly encouraged to attend these workshops.

Choosing a Thesis Advisor (3rd semester)

As students progress in their coursework and their interests become more focused, they select an advisor in their intended area of research. They generally make at least a tentative choice by the end of the third semester in order to plan for the Qualifying Examination.

Qualifying Exam/End of Phase I (3rd semester)

The qualifying exam is an oral exam given by a committee of BMS faculty members to evaluate whether a student is ready to move on to Phase II, the research phase of the doctoral program. The exam will be a 90-minute exam based on three courses, an advanced course and two basic courses from their Phase I course program. By the end of the first year, students should know on what courses they would be tested in the qualifying exam.

The exam committee will be made up of the professors who taught these courses and your Phase I mentor. Your Phase I mentor will act as both an advisor for your choice of topics and also your supporter on the exam committee.

Phase II: Research (4th - 8th semester)

After successful completion of the qualifying exam, students must designate a thesis advisor, who supervises dissertation, and a mentor, who will provide support in other aspects of the dissertation including career advice, networking, and resolving conflicts between the student and the advisor. Students are expected to finish Phase II in 4-6 semesters.

Students are expected to take at least one advanced course per semester during their research phase. Grades are not recorded from courses taken during Phase II.

Thesis Defense (9th semester)

When the thesis approaches completion, a Thesis Examination Committee is formed according to the regulations of the respective university. The student's successful defense of the thesis completes the doctoral program.