Graduate School of Natural Sciences PhD Council

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The Graduate School of the Natural Sciences (GSNS) PhD Council, formed by voluntary PhD candidates, aims to represent all PhD candidates in the natural sciences.

The primary goal of the council is to promote the interests of the PhD candidates in the natural sciences.

A first approach to this goal is to remain up to date with the affairs that concern PhD candidates like teaching load, communication with supervisor, colleagues and HR, performance pressure, and so on.

Moreover, the council functions as a source of information for PhD candidates and offers help in case questions or complications arise. The council is in contact with the Board of Studies of the GSNS Utrecht, the University Council of the university, the PhD network (PrOUt) and the national PhD network (PNN), in order to keep up to date with relevant developments for PhD candidates in general.

We are also in frequent contact with the policy maker for the GSNS, dr. Egbert Mulder.


University Council elections in 2017

In April 2017, elections for the University Council will be held. The University Council is an elected advisory body, representing all employees and students of Utrecht University. The council meets regularly with the executive board to advise on issues regarding the whole university. PhD candidates are now represented in the University Council after being completely absent until 4 years ago, and it is important this is continued. In this way, we can make sure that issues specific to PhDs are considered within the university when policies are made or changed. If you are interested in standing for election next year or for more information, please contact Frank Hendriks or Eliane Fankhauser.

Teaching Assistant Training

PhD candidates interested in improving their teaching skills can follow the university’s free Teaching Assistant Training. It consists of three 2-hour meetings on Thursdays from 17:15-19:00. It is synchronized with the start of each teaching period and it is worth 1 ECTS. If you are interested, you can send an email to Manon Thijssen.


To be representative, the council aims to have at least one PhD candidate from every institute within the natural sciences. When a council member resigns, it is preferred that the member in question looks for a substitute member of his or her institute. Current members are:

Iris ten HaveDebye Institute (DINS)
Massimiliano ChiappiniDebye Institute (DINS)
Erik van der WurffTheoretical Physics (ITF)
Etienne van WalsemTheoretical Physics (ITF)
Nico NausInformation and Computing Sciences (URICS)
Federico D'AmbrosioInformation and Computing Sciences (URICS)
Lennart van DoremalenSubatomic Physics (SAP)
René van WestenInstitute for Marine and Atmospheric Research (IMAU)

We are always looking for fresh blood and at the moment especially from the Mathematica and Freudenthal Institute. If you are interested, contact us!

Contact information

The council can be reached via email at

Info on obligatory documents for PhD candidates

Introductory guide for new PhD candidates

A document that contains very helpful information for every PhD candidate of the Graduate School of Natural Sciences. You can download it here.

Training and Supervision Agreement (TSA)

This agreement contains the rights and duties of both you and your supervisors during your PhD track. Your PhD track is still a form of education and you are supposed to learn from it, so the TSA can contain courses that you want to take or skills that you want to acquire. It should also contain planning on how your progress will be monitored by yourself and your supervisors (through the yearly B&O talks for example). In short, this document can give you an overview of what you want to achieve in your PhD track and what you can do to make that happen. Also, it can give you support if things are not going according to plan. A template for the TSA can be found here.

Metis/hora est

Metis/hora est is a university wide database for PhD students. It contains information submitted by both supervisors and PhD students and it needs to be completed in order to obtain your PhD degree. You will have to fill in a form about your PhD track within 3 months after starting your PhD accompanied by a copy of your diploma and your ID. After that, you won't have to deal with hora est until the last year of your PhD. More information can be found here.