New Edition of Solar System School

The International Max Planck Research School for Solar System Science is set to begin a new future now including an additional partner: the University's Geosciences Centre.

February 12, 2019

After 18 years, the graduate school “International Max Planck Research School for Solar System Science”, a joint project of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (MPS) and the University of Göttingen, is being relaunched. This was agreed by a Joint Commission of the Max Planck Society and the German Rectors' Conference. From 1 October 2019 for an initial six years, the successful graduate school, known here affectionately as the "Solar System School", will start a new future as what could be called "Solar System School 2.0". In addition to updated scientific priorities and teaching content, there is another change: the group of participating University institutes now includes the Geosciences Centre - as well as the Institutes of Astrophysics and Geophysics.

Members of the Solar System School 2018.

"The Solar System School is a unique success story and an important component of the close cooperation between the MPS and the University," summarises Professor Sami K Solanki, Director at the MPS and Spokesperson for the graduate school. University President Professor Ulrike Beisiegel's conclusion is also positive: "At the IMPRS we offer doctoral students from all over the world the opportunity to prepare for their doctorate, benefiting from the excellent research and teaching conditions across the Göttingen Campus and the supervision of internationally renowned scientists.”

Initially approved for six years, the programme was positively reviewed and extended twice in the previous 18 years. To date, the Solar System School has guided 188 early career scientists to their doctorates; an above-average number of alumni have remained loyal to science and still work at internationally renowned research institutions today.

Nevertheless, the principle of the International Max Planck Research Schools, in which individual Max Planck Institutes cooperate with universities, determines that there must be a complete break after three funding periods - even with a programme as successful as the Solar System School. A new application is required, for which the partners involved question the basic principles and redesign the programme for the future. "The current decision should not be understood as a further extension of our graduate school, but rather as an improved and expanded new edition," explains Professor Laurent Gizon, Managing Director of the MPS and Professor at the Institute of Astrophysics at the University of Göttingen. While building on their success,  there are also significant changes.

These include the circle of partners who support the Solar System School. In addition to the MPS and the University's Institutes of Astrophysics and Geophysics, the Geosciences Centre now complements the range of expertise. "The Earth does not orbit the sun in isolation from the rest of the solar system, but has been in exchange with its cosmic environment since the very beginning of its development," says Professor Andreas Pack, Managing Director of the Geosciences Centre, explaining the close connection between geosciences and solar system research.

PhD-students of the Solar System School during a scientific discussion.

Altogether, this results in a broad scientific spectrum covering the entire solar system: from the complex magnetic properties of the sun and its manifold influence on the planets to the formation and evolution of the planets themselves. In addition, the researchers look beyond the edge of the solar system to distant stars and exoplanets, which serve as a reference model for a better understanding of our own cosmic homeland. "Such a focus on all bodies and processes within our solar system can hardly be found at any other graduate school in the world. Internationally, this makes our Solar System School a highly sought-after place," says Dr Sonja Schuh, Coordinator of the IMPRS.

In addition, the Solar System School also offers other teaching such as: current numerical, theoretical and experimental methods; the handling of data products; scientific writing and presentation; and career planning. From 1 October 2019, annually about ten young scientists will be admitted to the Solar System School.

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