EDCB Internal Regulations

For documents you are submitting to the doctoral school/program, please sign them together with your thesis director (plus your co-director and/or mentor when applicable) and then bring or send them to the EDCB program administrator. She will then present them to EDCB Program Director to approve before she submits them to the doctoral school.

One exception to the above guideline is for your annual reports: as this is an oportunity for a short meeting with the EDCB Director once a year, please drop by his office to deliver your report. You can either drop by spontaneously or email him prior to your visit, to check his availablility.

Course rules

Each PhD student has to earn 12 ECTS (credit units) before the oral thesis exam.

4 of these credit units have to be earned within the first year, before the Candidacy Exam.

Before enrolling for courses, PhD students should ensure that taking such courses doesn’t create conflict with their other assignments at the EPFL and discuss the decision with their thesis director as his/her prior approval is required. More details on the EDCB course book.

The PhD Students can earn credits not only from EPFL PhD programs, but also from:

  • EPFL Bachelor and Master programs
  • other external (non EPFL) PhD programs (approval of the program director needed)
  • official PhD transferable skills courses listed here (of which the credits do not count in the first year)

Please note that the course below is mandatory for all EDCB PhD Students:

  •  BIO-664 Responsible Conduct in Biomedical Research (1 ECTS)

EDCB students should furthermore take this course within the first year of their PhD.

Course enrollments

Enrollments in EPFL courses can be done by the EDCB PhD Students directly in IS-Academia, providing that they have obtained prior validation by their thesis director. For certain non EDCB PhD courses, you will be required to enroll through the administrator of the given PhD program. Therefore, please follow the instructions given by the program offering the course.

External PhD courses (non EPFL courses)

Students can earn credits from other external doctoral courses if the EDCB program director approves them beforehand and this approval is documented in writing: course description, number of hours, organizing institution and instructor. Provision of credits follows the EPFL rules, in terms of duration and evaluation.

1 credit = 28 hours of work (contact hours + hours of personal work), with a written or oral examination of the student.

Please use the following document for your external course credit request and follow the instructions on the top of the form:

According to the EPFL rules and to the PhD job description, each PhD student is required to participate in undergraduate teaching. These teaching duties do not give any graduate credits.


Within the first 6 months of enrolment, each PhD student should choose a mentor who will follow her/his progress in the program. The mentor should be an EPFL professor; he/she cannot be the co-director of the thesis work, nor be directly linked to the host lab or to the thesis project. The mentor is authorized to act as jury president of the candidacy exam or the oral thesis exam of the PhD student s/he is mentoring.

The mentor’s main task is to follow the general progress of the student. The mentor will sign the research plan, receive the annual report and should meet with the student once per year to discuss the general advancement of the thesis. The student may also contact the mentor at any time to discuss potential problems affecting her/his doctoral studies. The mentor must contact the EDCB program director, if he/she foresees any problems with the thesis at any time.

The EDCB director cannot be a mentor. Mentors may not be changed without the express permission of the EDCB director.

As soon as your mentor has been chosen, thank you for relaying his/her name to [email protected] so that it can be registered on your file.

Before the end of the first year a candidacy exam (CE) will be held and prior to that, at least 4 credits must have been earned.

• a research plan will have to be sent 2 weeks in advance to the jury and signed by all participants on the day of the exam together with

• the Candidacy Exam (CE) form prepared by the EDCB Office and emailed to the PhD Candidate before the exam.

• A mentor needs to be identified before the exam, but does not need to be present at the exam

Candidacy Exam Jury will be composed of:

• the president of the Candidacy Exam who has to be either an EDCB committee member or an EDCB thesis director (with PO, PA, PT, MER or PATT status),

• the thesis director

• the thesis co-director (if applicable)

• two experts in the field (one of whom may be external to the EPFL)

• the mentor (the mentor’s presence at the exam is optional)

The EDCB Office can be contacted anytime to check the validity of the CE jury.

Fail or Pass

There is no possibility of “passing conditionally”: the outcome is either “pass” or “fail”. If the candidate fails the candidacy exam, a second and final exam may be rescheduled within a maximum period of 15 months after enrolment.

How to proceed?

At least 1 week before the Candidacy Exam (CE), the student should complete and validate the jury proposal by logging in to his/her IS-A account. There is no need to print and sign your jury proposal. Once you have validated it online, the EDCB administrator receives an automated message with the candidacy details and will email the students their candidacy exam form based on the data provided, i.e.:

1. the (provisional) title of the thesis work

2. the names (and address if not EPFL) of the CE jury members (see above)

3. CE date, time and room

The research plan cover page is also available to the PhD student through the IS-Academia portal.

After the exam, the 2 documents (CE form and research plan) are to be signed by all participants, PhD student included, and brought to the EDCB Office by the PhD student right after the exam, or latest within 2-3 days after.


This exam should be planned for no more than 30 minutes in length uninterrupted, or 60 minutes with interruptions and questions.

For more specific guidelines, one suggestion would be to organize the presentation of the proposal in the following way. Note that the most important thing is that it is logical and clear:

• Motivation (1/2 page)

• Overall goal and specific aims (1/2 page)

• Background (a few pages)

• Proposed research; separate each aim point by point (e.g. 4.2=Aim 2) and for each describe:

– why this aim is proposed – what it will (or should) tell you and how it contributes to the overall goal;

– proposed key experiments

– predicted outcomes or potential pitfalls

• Proposed timeline (1/2 page)

You should have enough preliminary data to justify your proposed research and show that it will likely work (or have backup plans if it doesn’t).

Request for extension of the Candidacy Exam date:

Should you need to postpone your candidacy exam beyond the mandatory 12 months after your enrollment date, you may submit a Request of Extension form to the Doctoral School via the EDCB office.

Such a request needs to be approved by your thesis Director(s), the EDCB Director and finally by the Dean of the Doctoral School at least 1 month prior to your exam due date.

At the end of the second, third and fourth years of enrolment, the doctoral student must submit an Annual Progress report to be brought directly to the EDCB Director. Kindly refer to the signature procedure at the top of this webpage. The deadline for this report is the anniversary of the date of definite admission to the Doctoral School. Please find the form and appendixes below.

The thesis oral exam should take place within latest 4 years after the enrolment date.

How to proceed?

Thesis Jury

The PhD student should organize the thesis jury by:

  1. first obtaining the EDCB director’s approval of the proposed jury composition. Please send him an email (with Sonja in copy) listing the names, titles & positions of the president, one internal expert and two external experts (ETHZ experts can be considered either internal or external)
  2. and then, only after his approval, contacting the jury members and arrange the date and time and book a room
  3. then by submitting the thesis jury proposal on IS-A
  4. and finally, at least 8 weeks prior to the exam date, the PhD student should provide the EDCB Office with the thesis jury proposal form signed by the PhD student and the thesis director and co-director (if applicable) (see guidelines under oral exam – jury proposal here). This document should be accompanied by a print out of the PhD student’s ECTS account signed by the thesis director.

    Please note that both documents are to be prepared by the PhD student by logging in to his/her IS-A account.

EDCB rule, all members of the EDCB Commission, as well as full professors (PO, professeurs ordinaires) and associate professors (PA, professeurs associés) affiliated to EDCB can serve as president of the oral thesis exam.

Therefore, PhD students are authorized to propose a president from this list on any new jury proposals. The list is updated at the begining of each year.

Extension of the delay

Under exceptional circumstances, a request to prolong the thesis preparation and delay the oral thesis exam may be submitted. This extension, typically no longer than 6 months, must be well justified; the form to be used is provided below. Please fill in the form, including the ‘motivation’ part and sign it together with your thesis director before handing it to the EDCB office; it is then presented to the EDCB director for his approval and transmitted to the Dean of the EDOC. Submission of this form does not guarantee approval, the form should be submitted at least 2 months prior to the fourth year of enrolment.

More details on the website of the Doctoral School, as well as the option of downloading the “Request of extension form“.

The thesis deposit for the oral exam

Please refer to the following instructions for the deposit of your thesis directly at academic services.