Keystone logo
© (c) IST Austria Magic Lemur Productions
Institute of Science and Technology Austria

Institute of Science and Technology Austria

Institute of Science and Technology Austria


The Institute of Science and Technology Austria - ISTA is looking for highly qualified candidates with bachelor's or master's degrees to apply for the Ph.D. program. We offer fully-funded PhD positions in Astronomy, Biology, Computer Science, Chemistry and materials, Data Science and Scientific Computing, Earth Science, Mathematics, Neuroscience, and Physics, in a world-class research environment on the outskirts of Vienna.

In 2019, ISTA was ranked #3 in the worldwide Nature Index ranking (normalized). In 2018, ISTA was ranked within the top ten of Nature Index Rising Stars' “ Top 30 academic Institutions under 30” list. All students are offered 5-year contracts, they receive internationally competitive salaries and full social security coverage. There is also financial support for students to attend scientific conferences and workshops. The application deadline is January 8, 2024, for a PhD start date in September 2024

One of the hallmarks of the ISTA PhD program is the shared graduate school experience.

We aim to train broad-minded scientists who perform cutting-edge, curiosity-driven research. An initial stage of exploration encourages broad exposure to important scientific approaches and problems. This allows students to lay a solid foundation for intensive research in the second phase of the PhD program.


Our Graduate Program is characterized by modern comprehensive training with a special focus on interdisciplinarity.

There are seven tracks of PhD study:

  • Biology
  • Chemistry & Materials
  • Computer Science
  • Data Science & Scientific Computing
  • Mathematics
  • Neuroscience
  • Physics

What is special about the ISTA PhD curriculum is its flexibility— students come in with different goals and can shape their own educational and research trajectories. Some students come to ISTA looking to explore, others have a clear idea of where they want to go. Our program accommodates both.

Cutting-Edge Research

Students work closely with outstanding faculty within small research groups and have access to first-rate facilities.

In 2019, ISTA was ranked #3 in the worldwide Nature Index ranking (normalized). In 2018, ISTA was ranked within the top ten of Nature Index Rising Stars “ Top 30 academic institutions under 30” list and was featured in this article in Nature Index. For more details, browse our Nature Index research profile. In 2018 we also had the highest ERC Grant success rate (at 48%), ahead of the Weizmann Institute, ETH Zurich, Cambridge and Oxford, and the Max Planck Society. Our faculty are also the recipients of many distinguished honours including the Erwin Schrö Dinger Prize, the Ludwig Boltzmann Award, and the Carus Medal.

You can see the full list of student publications in the ISTA Research Explorer database.

Research groups

  • 69 research groups in 2022
  • 90 research groups by 2026

State-of-the-Art Facilities

No matter what your field of study, you will have access to cutting-edge equipment to perform research at an internationally competitive level. From bioimaging and electron microscopy to nanofabrication and high-performance computing: centralized scientific services support cutting-edge research.

Ph.D. Degree

ISTA is a research institute with the right to confer the titles of Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy. ISTA is an independent legal entity under public law and has its own governance and management structures under the Federal Act of the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (BGBl. I no. 69/2006).

As our degree-granting authority stems directly from an Act of the Austrian Parliament, ISTA is exempt from the Austrian Universities Law.

Support and Career Development Services

ISTA&rsquo's faculty and administration can provide information, advice, and support throughout your studies. Academic support services include guidance from study track representatives, mentors, and the Graduate School Office. With regular career talks, skills training sessions, as well as visits from industry leaders, graduate training and career development programs prepare scientists for their next steps; in academia, industry, and beyond.

Where is ISTA?

The Institute is only a 25-minute bus ride from Vienna, which is consistently voted one of the best cities in the world to live in. Our students have the choice of living in Klosterneuburg, a quiet area surrounded by beautiful woods, or right in the hustle and bustle of Vienna. We also have several housing options on campus.

Ista&rsquo's Single Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program Enables Students and Faculty to Freely Collaborate Across Research Groups and Disciplines. This Gives Rise to New Ideas and Research Approaches.

PhD students at ISTA can choose from seven different tracks of study as their primary track: biology, chemistry & materials, computer science, data science and scientific computing, mathematics, neuroscience, and physics. Many faculty members are associated with multiple tracks, reflecting the interdisciplinary nature of the research groups on campus and allowing students to approach topics of interest from a variety of angles.

Rotations in Three Different Research Groups

Every incoming Ph.D. student performs three approximately two-month rotations in different research groups. The matching process guarantees a good fit between students and supervisors and exposes students to new areas and methodologies.

Unique Blend of Breadth and Depth

A combination of interdisciplinary core courses and advanced electives gives students the chance to interact with scientists across disciplines as well as pursue their chosen topic in greater depth.

Pushing the Frontiers of Knowledge

The most innovative research tends to arise at the interfaces of disciplines. In the Graduate School, students play a central role in bringing together different approaches to shape the future of science.

The following graph shows cross-group collaborations at ISTA, based on co-authored publications from 2016 to June 2019.

Campus Features

The Campus of Ista is Located in Klosterneuburg, a Historical Town to the Northwest of Vienna.

The site is nestled between the Vienna Woods, only 18 kilometers away from Vienna’s city center.

A large part of the campus is made up of lab buildings, along with student, faculty and staff housing, and other facilities including the cafeteria, the kindergarten, a soccer field, a tennis court, and the Art/Brut Center gugging museum.


    Entry With a Bachelor’s or Master’s Degree

    ISTA welcomes students with different academic backgrounds who can bring their skills and experiences to the scientific setting.

    We welcome applicants holding (or expecting to hold before enrollment) a bachelor's or a master's degree in biology, neuroscience, mathematics, computer science, physics, chemistry, and related areas.

    International English-speaking Environment

    ISTA has a diverse and international student population coming from over 50 countries. The institute brings together scientists and staff from 72 different countries.

    The working language of ISTA is English.

    Admission Costs and Tuition Fees

    ISTA does not charge any tuition fees. No application fee is required to apply to our PhD and internship programs.

    Bachelor’s and Master’s Students Eligible to Apply

    ISTA welcomes students with different academic backgrounds who can bring their skills and experiences to the scientific setting.

    Students with a Bachelor&rsquo's or Master&rsquo's degree in biology, chemistry, neuroscience, mathematics, computer science, physics, data science and scientific computing, astronomy, earth science, and related areas are encouraged to apply.

    How Do I Apply?

    ISTA processes applications to its PhD program once a year. To apply, you have to create an online account, which will allow you to track your application through its various stages. We do not accept applications and documents received outside of this system.

    Please fill out the form using a web browser on a desktop computer. Web browsers on mobile devices (i.e. Android, iPhone, iPad, etc.) are not supported.

    What Application Materials Are Required?

    We ask you to upload the following documents to the application portal:

    • CV
    • Statement of purpose (SoP) The Statement of Purpose is an important part of your application. In it, please share with us anything that prepares you for graduate-level research. For instance, you can describe your past research projects, motivation, skills, and background relevant to the research areas and groups you selected on the application form. Try to be as specific as possible about your experiences, with an emphasis on the technical skills you master. Please structure your Statement of Purpose by first addressing the general points above, and finish by addressing the following specific questions:
      • An important goal of the first year in the Graduate School is to find an academic home by affiliating with a research group. Taking into account that a successful affiliation does not depend only on your own preferences, you might consider multiple options. Based on your research interests and background, which group(s) would be relevant for you, in what order, and why? Please specify up to three research groups at ISTA’
      • During the first year in the Graduate School you need to complete three rotations in three research groups. Explain which groups you would choose and why. The Graduate School encourages students to consider one rotation outside of their field of expertise; should you decide to explore this option, which research group would you consider and why?
    • University transcripts and diplomas of all degree programs and all years you have attended and/or are currently enrolled in (in English and in original language)
    • Contact information of 3 referees who can assess your academic and research performance. All documents have to be submitted in English and copies of university transcripts are also in their original language.

    What are the Selection Criteria?

    The selection committee uses a collection of indicators to evaluate the applicant's preparedness, motivation, and potential. The following will be considered:

    1. Undergraduate performance: overall, with a special focus on relevant field-specific courses
    2. Reference letters provided by professors and senior scientists: one letter from industry is acceptable, but letters from an academic background are given priority; referees are asked to address analytical capabilities, technical proficiency, ability to work independently, and motivation/commitment
    3. Statement of purpose: the applicant's past research experience and motivation for applying to this particular PhD program: is it a good academic fit? how does the program contribute to the candidate’s future career plans? etc.
    4. Additional relevant skills (field-specific): demonstrated in, e.g., internships and/or participation in research projects, participation in science Olympiads, programming languages, lab techniques, etc.
    5. Transferable skills: e.g. communication skills, experience with working in teams, previous mobility and international experiences, leadership experience as demonstrated in student organizations, etc.
    6. Diversity: e.g. a woman in computer science/math/physics; an applicant who switched fields, etc.

    Scholarships and Funding

    Alumni Statistics


    • Klosterneuburg

      Am Campus, 1 Klosterneuburg ISTA - Graduate School Office, 3400, Klosterneuburg