PhD Programme

Institutional framework

The International Doctoral Programme in Molecular and Cellular Biotechnology Applied to Health Sciences (BiotechHealth) is jointly organized by:

  • Two schools of University of Porto (UPorto) - the Institute for Biomedical Sciences Abel Salazar (ICBAS) and the Faculty of Pharmacy (FFUP);
  • Two Research Institutions - the Institute for Research and Innovation in Health of the University of Porto (i3S) and the Network of Chemistry and Technology (REQUIMTE)
  • One Hospital - the Hospital Centre of Porto (CHP).

More than twenty institutions, the majority of which international, including universities, research institutes and companies, are also associated to BiotechHealth.

BiotechHealth has been approved for funding in 2013 by Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia.


Research environment

Right from the first year, students are integrated in the advanced research environments provided by i3S ( and REQUIMTE-LAQV ( An essential component of the program is the collaboration with research groups of excellence, hospitals and companies. Students should spend a minimum of 6 months in a foreign institution (research laboratory, hospital or industry).


BiotechHealth aims to provide excellence in doctoral training in Molecular and Cellular Biotechnology applied to Health Sciences, in an interdisciplinary and international environment, fostering collaboration with internationally recognized research groups, hospitals and industrial companies, both from Portugal and other countries.

The programme combines cellular and molecular biotechnologies that are crucial for clinical and industrial application. Molecular Biotechnology (or Molecular Bioengineering) is a new interdisciplinary field, encompassing a new combination of several disciplines, including (Micro)Biology, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Materials Science, Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Bioinformatics and Nanotechnology.

An essential component of BiotechHealth concerns the collaboration with international reference institutions (research centers, hospitals or industries), where students should spend a minimum of 6 months.

Research Areas

The programme will have a special focus on the scientific areas:

  • Regenerative Medicine and Cellular Therapies
  • Nanodiagnostics and Nanotherapeutics
  • Molecular and Cellular Biophysics and Computational Design of Biomolecules
  • Microbial Biotechnology

Students will be integrated in one of the above scientific areas, but interdisciplinary projects, involving two or more areas will be strongly encouraged. See the list of institutions.

Training - Plan of studies

1st year

The formal training component is concentrated in the first year, enabling the students to acquire Transferable skills (6 ECTS), particularly in the areas of: Scientific Information Sources, Scientific Writing, Ethics and Responsible Conduct in Research, Communication, Grant Writing, and Management of Intellectual Property and Technology Transfer in the Health Sector.


Participation in Scientific Meetings (6 ECTS), Advanced Training Courses (6 ECTS) and Advanced Experimental Techniques (3 ECTS) complements training in the first year. Students are given a high degree of freedom to select activities in these areas.


No formal allocation of the supervisory team is done initially, so that students can select the group and work programme that best suits their research interests. In March, in a meeting with the Scientific Commission (SC), students present a preliminary version of the research plan and propose their supervisory team. After the input of the SC the students prepare the final version of the PhD Thesis Project (39 ECTS) which is evaluated at the end of June, during the Annual BiotechHealth Symposium. This evaluation is carried out with the participation of external experts.


2nd, 3rd and 4th years

During the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years, students focus on their research project.


In order to prepare themselves for a professional career, students acquire further transversal and scientific skills, either as part of their daily life in the institution/laboratory/group or through participation in advanced training activities. The competences acquired are acknowledged in two ways:


  • Scientific Meetings – students participate in group meetings, scientific seminars and symposia, including the Annual BiotechHealth Symposium. Podium and poster presentations in international conferences is financially supported. The student must fulfill 6 ECTS/year.


  • Transferable Skills and Advanced Training - the student is free to select the path that best suits his/her interests, taking into account the need to acquire skills that may be crucial for a professional career either inside or outside academia. Acquisition of transversal/transferable and scientific skills is credited with 18 ECTS at the end of the 4th year, after intermediate yearly checkpoints done by the Scientific Commission (SC). Most of the skills (12 ECTS) are acquired through participation in the every-day life of the research environment. The remaining ECTS (6 ECTS) are acquired through formal training in areas selected by the students. To mentor the students’ progress, annual check points are carried out, based on annual progress report and taking into consideration the opinion of supervisor and, whenever applicable, of the PhD Advisory Committee (PAC).

Supervision & Monitoring of progress

Those interested in becoming supervisors of BiotechHealth students should send an email to addressed to the programme’s Director, including a motivation letter and a brief CV.


The core supervisors should comply with minimum criteria set out below, irrespective of their age, gender, career position or type of contract/agreement with the host institutes. This means that a researcher hired by a research laboratory will have the right to supervise a PhD thesis if he/she meets the following criteria:

a) Have published a minimum of 5 scientific papers in journals of the first quartile (Q1) of their scientific area in the last 5 years;

b) Have supervised or co-supervised at least two successfully completed PhD theses in the last 5 years;

c) Have had funding for the last 5 years, through projects secured by competitive funding;

d) Have had an active participation in the organization of advanced international training activities in the last 5 years.

4) Co-supervisors will have to meet the above criteria, in case they obtained their doctoral degree more than 5 years ago. Younger investigators will be allowed to co-supervise students if they meet the above criteria, except criterium b).


PhD Advisory Committee (PAC)

Whenever suitable and adequate a PAC will be constituted for each student for regular discussion with the student on the progress of the work. The PAC will be proposed by the student and the supervisor to the BiotechHealth SC. The PAC should include the supervisor, co-supervisor (if applicable) and up to two other investigators not directly involved in the research work. The PAC meets at the request of the student. It is recommended that the PAC meets the student at least once a year. The scientific information exchanged during the meetings is kept confidential.


Monitoring of progress

Every year the student prepares a short activity report (2-3 pages), including:

  • Conferences, courses, seminars, workshops (Title, organising institution, chairperson/organizer, dates, link to web page; added value for the student. Training activities both in the scientific domain of the thesis and transferable skills)
  • Research activities (Objectives; major findings; deviations from the initial plan)
  • Transversal skills (Statement on skills acquired through participation in the daily life of the institution/laboratory/group, namely organization of meetings; training of undergraduate students; participation in laboratory management. An estimate of the time allocated to each one of these activities should be provided).   
  • Research outputs (Papers published; communications in conferences)
  • Collaborations (International and national. Scope of the collaborations and their added value)
  • Plans for next year (Planned activities, in terms of research and advanced training (both scientific and transversal skills)


Progress is approved by the SC, based on prior assessment by the supervisor, eventually complemented by a report by the PAC. The SC provides a feedback to the student which includes: (i) qualitative assessment on progress and (ii) a checkpoint mark (scale 1 to 5) for the Curricular Unit of Transversal Skills and Advanced Training. The final mark in this Unit is based on the checkpoint marks for the 2nd, 3rd and 4th years.


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