Frequently Asked Questions

General information

Good to know - Overview on HELENA

Checklist for new HELENA Graduate Students

Who can join HELENA?

Graduate students who have a working contract or guest contract with the Helmholtz Zentrum München (HMGU) can join HELENA. 

How do I become a member of HELENA?

For all graduate students with a HMGU contract, membership in HELENA is established on the basis of a written supervision agreement between the graduate student, direct adviser at the Center and adviser at the university. The originalsupervision agreement has to be submitted to the Human Resources Management before signing the working contract, the PDF file format of the supervision agreement has to be submitted to the Graduate Student Office.

Students with an external scholarship or those with a contract from universities or other research institutions must have a guest contract with the Center. Your HMGU supervisor will organize the guest contract with the Human Resources Management. Please send only the PDF file format of the supervision agreement to the Graduate Student Office, you can keep the original document. They can join HELENA on a voluntary basis by signing the supervision agreement.

Do I have to become a member of HELENA?

Graduate Students with a HMGU working contract are supposed to become a member of HELENA. If you have not already applied, please fill in our supervision agreement and send the original to the Human Resources Management and the PDF file format to the Graduate Student Office. Reasons for not joining HELENA are, if you either are already part of another graduate school or if you will stay at the Center only for a short period of time.

Do I need to register at a University?

Please register at the university where you will receive your doctoral degree as soon as possible, but at least within the first three months of your doctoral thesis. After your successful registration at the university, we kindly request you to inform the GSO. 

Is your foreign university degree recognized in Germany?

In the case of foreign higher education degrees, the issuing of a certificate evaluation by the ZAB is necessary so that your degree can be recognised for wage categorisation purposes. The certificate evaluation is also required for visa/residence title formalities. For further information please click here.

What is the Graduate Student Office (GSO)?

The Graduate Student Office (GSO) within Strategy, Programs, Resources (SPR) is the direct contact point for all graduate students and supervisors. The GSO offers support in all administrative matters concerning your training at HELENA.

Do I get a certificate?

After completion of the HELENA training program and of your doctoral thesis you will receive the HELENA certificate, certifying that you successfully completed the graduate program at the HELENA graduate school. Please fill out the HELENA certificate form after you have successfully defended your doctoral thesis at the university.

Thesis Committee and Working Contract

How does the Thesis Committee work?

Over the next three years, your doctoral project will be supervised by a personal Thesis Committee consisting of your direct adviser, the adviser at the University and an external adviser. The Thesis Committee provides mentoring and guidance in the scientific project but also in questions concerning the personal career development. Annual meetings have to take place after 9 months, 1.5 and 2.5 years. As a graduate student, you are responsible to schedule and document these meetings. The written documentation (TC formsigned by all thesis committee members and progress report) has to be sent only as PDF document to the Graduate Student Office. Please send us the names of your Thesis Committee members within the first six months of your doctoral project.

What should I do if my working contract ends and I am not finished with my doctoral thesis?

An extension of your initial 3-year contract is possible. For the extension, you have to develop a work and time plan to finish your doctoral thesis together with your thesis committee at your third meeting. Every member of the thesis committee has to agree to this plan by signature, and the documents have to be sent to the Graduate Student Office.

In case of a necessary extension of your contract please ensure that all the necessary documents (TC formsigned by all thesis committee members, progress report, work and time plan) are at the Graduate Student’s Office two months prior to expiration of your contract. In addition to the documents submitted to the Graduate Student’s Office, please ask only the Administrative Assistant of your Institute/Research Unit to submitthe OM-Planstellenpflege Form and Personnel questionnaire for continued employment to the Human Resources Management.

If due to unforeseen reasons in exceptional cases an extension is decided on short notice, all necessary documents have to be sent to the Graduate Student’s Office no later than two weeks prior to the expiration of your contract. Otherwise an extension of the doctoral contract is not possible.

>>> Please click here to apply for a contract extension.

Whom should I contact if I have questions about my working contract?

If you have any question regarding your contract, salary, maternity leave etc. please contact the human resources manager who is responsible for your Institute/Research Unit.

Extension of doctoral contracts

For more information please refer the "Terms and guidelines of good doctoral training at Helmholtz Munich" (Page 8 - "Funding").

All necessary documents for Contract Extensions must be submitted to the Graduate Student’s Office two months prior to contract expiration date. 

HELENA Training Program and Requirements

What type of training and education is offered by HELENA?

HELENA offers in-depth scientific training as well as training in leadership, management and communication. HELENA consists of three training activities mandatory elements, scientific training and professional skills training. Graduate students can select and set up their own individual curriculum from an offering of lectures, courses, seminars, retreats, winter/summer schools and participation in scientific conferences.

What are HELENA Equivalents (HE)? As of January 2021, the Credit Point System the “HELENA Equivalents (HE)” will be replaced by working hours.

A Credit Point System, the “HELENA Equivalents” (HE), enables the composition of an individual curriculum for every graduate student. HELENA Equivalents correspond to the workload of a training activity. 4 hours workload will be accredited with 1 HE.

Please note: As of January 2021, the Credit Point System the “HELENA Equivalents (HE)” will be replaced by working hours, corresponding to the respective workload of the training element. 

How do I complete my HELENA Training Program?

To complete your HELENA Training Program, you need to document your participation at external lectures, courses, conferences etc. and submit the "Form for external courses" with an agenda/time schedule and certificate/confirmation of participation. Courses which are organised by the thematic fields such as institute seminars, journal clubs, method courses etc. are accredited for each term and should be submitted to GSO via the "Form for HELENA lectures, seminars, courses etc.". After filling the forms, you will receive an email which should be signed by your supervisor. The signed email should be submitted to the GSO at the latest 3 weeks after submitting the form. The scientific training attendance forms should be submitted to the GSO after every term (1 term = 6 months (from the starting date of your working contract)).

270 hours in scientific training activities and 40 hours in professional skill courses are required in order to receive a HELENA certificate. The Graduate Student Office sends you a Transcript of Records once a year, which gives you an overview over the collected course hours. In case you need this information earlier, please send an e-mail to GSO.

Exemplary Curriculum

1 term = 6 months (from the starting date of your working contract)

Completion of the mandatory elements

- Orientation Days (1 time) 
- Statistics and Reproducibility 
Good Scientific Practice
- Kick-off seminar TUM or HELENA Mid-Term Booster LMU

Completion of the scientific training: 270 hours

- Journal clubs (1h per week/6 terms): 84 hours 
- Institute seminars (1h per week/6 terms): 84 hours  
- 2 method courses (2x3 days): 48 hours  
- Introductory seminar (1h per week/1 term): 14 hours 
- Advanced seminar (1h per week/1 term): 14 hours
- Scientific training: 10 hours 
- Retreat (2 Days): 16 hours

Professional skills training: 40 hours

- 3 courses (1.5 days each): 40 hours

When should I submit the participation/attendance forms?

The "Form for HELENA lectures, seminars, courses etc.and "Form for external lectures, courses, conferences etc.should be submitted to the GSO after every term (1 term = 6 months (from the starting date of your working contract)). A transcript of records (summary of HELENA Equivalents) will be provided once a year (April) to all HELENA graduate students.

For external courses please always submit an agenda/time schedule and certificate/confirmation of participation.

I did not receive a certificate of an external course, what should I do?

Please fill out the "Form for external lectures, courses, conferences etc.". After filling the form, you will receive an email listing the external lectures, courses, conferences, etc. which should be signed by your supervisor. Please include the agenda/time schedule of the lecture, course, conference etc. that you took part in. The signed email should be submitted to the GSO at the latest 3 weeks after submitting the form.

Financial Support

Does HELENA provide financial support?

The Helmholtz Graduate School Environmental Health (HELENA) supports active participation (poster or talk) of its members at international conferences with up to 1.500 € and research stays abroad with up to 3.000 €. Graduate students can apply for a research stay abroad only one time. If the number of applications are very high, HELENA reserves the right to award the funding for research stays in a competitive manner. Currently, HELENA does not suppport research stays and summer schools. 

>>> Please click here to apply for a travel grant.

When can I apply for financial support?

Only graduate students who have completed their first Thesis Committee meeting can apply for financial support. The written documentation of the Thesis Committee meeting has to be sent to the Graduate Student Office.

Please note: Complete applications have to be submitted to the GSO at least 4 weeks prior to the planned travel date.

>>> Please click here to apply for a travel grant.

Which forms do I have to fill to apply for financial support?

HELENA graduate students with HMGU working contract should fill the following forms:

HELENA graduate students with HMGU guest contract (external scholarship or contracts with non-partner universities) should fill the following forms:

For the "Honorar- und Auslagenabrechnungen Form" please contact the administrative office in your Institute/Research Unit.

HELENA graduate students having a TUM working contract and HMGU guest contract should fill the form "Application for TUM Graduate School Internationalization".

HELENA graduate students having a LMU working contract and HMGU guest contract should fill the form "Application for a Travel/Research Stay Grant at LMU".

Please note: Posters and talks must be approved by the Institute director via the electronic system of the HMGU ‘Electronic Publication Application’. The reference number will be provided by HELENA Graduate Student Office after the travel grant is approved by HELENA. Complete applications have to be submitted to the GSO at least 4 weeks prior to the planned travel date. Please always submit an agenda and time schedule of your international conference/research stay.

>>> Please click here to apply for a travel grant.

Does HELENA offer travel grants during the corona pandemic?

HELENA will cover registration costs for conferences which are taking place online. Please note that you still have to fill out the Digital Business Trip Application, and mention ONLINE Conference in the space provided for justifying your Business Trip.  

HELENA funds active participation at international conferences with up to 1500 € per doctoral student. Due to the current situation, only applications that are highly relevant for the success of your doctoral project and cannot be postponed or funded by any other means are considered.

When handing in travel grant applications, please make sure the following conditions and prerequisites are met and your documents are complete:

  • International conference
  • Active participation (poster/talk) - a confirmation letter is required
  • Please present the significance of the conference in your research field and give detailed reasons on why participation in the particular conference is important for your thesis and your scientific career
  • Please describe shortly, why other means of funding are not available to finance your conference participation

Non-refundable expenses caused by conference cancelation, quarantine orders etc. may be reimbursed by HELENA as part of the internationalization support. However, costs reimbursed will be reduced from the internationalization budget.

Unfortunately, travel grants for research stays will continue to be suspended until further notice.

>>> Please click here to apply for a travel grant.


Who can help me if I have problems with my supervisor?

Ombudspersons for graduate students are designated impartial individuals who mediate in cases of conflict between graduate students and their advisers. The HELENA Director will be contacted if the conflict cannot be solved by the ombudspersons. All conversations are strictly confidential.

Good Scientific Practice

What is Good Scientific Practice?

All research at HMGU is conducted according to the rules of Good Scientific Practice. At the HELENA Orientation Days, an interactive workshop introduces all new students to this topic.

What are the general principles of good scientific practice?

The following rules are to be observed as general principles of scientific work at Helmholtz Zentrum München. HMGU employees shall

  • work in accordance with the current state of knowledge (lege artis)
  • comply exactly with discipline-specific rules for planning research work and for collecting, selecting and processing data
  • document results
  • critically question all results
  • maintain strict honesty with regard to the contributions of employees, colleagues, partners, competitors and predecessors
  • be open to criticism and doubt from colleagues and staff
  • not obstruct the scientific work of others
  • avoid and prevent scientific misconduct

In addition, as a matter of principle, employees of Helmholtz Zentrum München shall comply with national and international legal rules.

What do I need to pay attention to when collecting data?

All employees and guests working in experimental research at Helmholtz Zentrum München shall be provided a uniform laboratory notebook (bound book with logo, table of contents, consecutive page numbers) by their group leaders, in which all experimental steps/considerations/observations as well as data and results are recorded. Loose data sheets shall be pasted into the notebook or archived elsewhere. References shall be made in the laboratory notebooks about stored data/evaluations and data sheets that are archived elsewhere. A brief summary of the results and the plans agreed upon in meetings shall ensure the traceability of an investigation.

When can scientific misconduct occur?

Scientific misconduct occurs when serious deviations are made from the generally accepted practice of scientific work, in particular when consciously or with gross negligence false information is given, intellectual property of others is violated or their research activities are compromised. In particular the following is considered misconduct:

  • Falsification of scientific content e.g. by inventing, faking or falsifying results
  • False information in grant applications or reports on the use of funds, publications, applications, etc.
  • Violation of intellectual property, e.g. through
    • unauthorized utilization under the pretense of authorship (plagiarism) and the pretense or unfounded assumption of scientific authorship or co-authorship
    • exploitation of unpublished scientific ideas or research approaches of other people (idea theft)
    • publishing or making accessible content without the consent of the entitled person
  • Willful damage, destruction or manipulation of work equipment or work results
  • Making wrongful allegations of purported misconduct of others
  • The removal of original data, insofar as it violates the legal provisions or discipline-related accepted principles of scientific work
  • Double or multiple publications, redundant information

Partial responsibility for the misconduct of others can inter alia arise from:

  • Participation in the misconduct of others
  • Co-authorship of falsified publications
  • Gross negligence of supervisory responsibilities

What should I do in case of scientific misconduct?

Ombudspersons for Good Scientific Practice ensure compliance with the rules of Good Scientific Practice and mediate in conflicts. The ombudsperson is responsible for accepting and reviewing complaints, resolving them in a mutually agreeable way wherever possible, introducing further measures if needed, and involving the Commission if necessary.

Publication Policy

I want to submit a manuscript. What should I do?

All publications (manuscripts, posters for conferences, etc.) must be approved by the Institute director via the electronic system of the HMGU ‘Electronic Publication Application’.

Taking the possibilities of the individual disciplines into account, all important steps of experiments/investigations as well as all primary data shall be recorded on non-manipulable data carriers (such as bound lab books, revision-proof software) and archived for ten years.

Do I have to submit a copy of my dissertation at HMGU?

Please send a PDF of your dissertation to the HMGU central library, to


Where can I find more information on financial support and course submissions?

You can download all available HELENA forms as well as checklists for financial support and course submission in the "forms" area using your HMGU password and username.