Guide to Studying Bioinformatics at the Center for Bioinformatics at Saarland University

What is Bioinformatics?

The definition of bioinformatics is not universally agreed upon. Generally speaking, researchers in bioinformatics develop algorithms and software for simulations of biochemical processes and the analysis of molecular biology data. Here, you find a nice introduction into bioinformatics.

What is the Center of Bioinformatics in Saarbrücken?

CBI is one of the 5 German centers of excellence in bioinformatics that are funded by the German Research Council (DFG) on basis on a very competitive selection.

Scientific highlights of bioinformatics in Saarbrücken?

FLEXx : Small-molecule docking software.

BALL : Biochemical Algorithms Library.

BN++ : Biochemical Network Library.

Q-HOP : molecular dynamics with flexible protonation.

Who does bioinformatics or computational biology in Saarbrücken?

The following groups are the core groups of computational molecular biology in Saarbrücken:

Many others groups in computer science and in experimental life sciences and medicine have an interest in bioinformatics, and may be available for collaboration.  These include, but are not limited to:

  • Rita Bernhardt (Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy and Materials Science)
  • Elmar Heinzle (Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy and Materials Science)
  • Claus-Michael Lehr  (Department of Biology, Chemistry, Pharmacy and Materials Science )
  • Eckart Meese (Department of Medicine)
  • more to come ...


What bioinformatics programs are offered in Saarbrücken?

Saarland university offers 3 programs in bioinformatics:

Bachelor of Science - 3 year program. Here is the course program and a possible schedule English Version German Version.

Master of Science - 2 year program. Here is the course program and a possible schedule.

Diploma in Bioinformatics - 2,5 year program building in prediploma in life science field - no new students admitted.

What is the course language?

Bachelor and Diploma programs are mostly taught in German.
All courses of the Master program are taught in English.

What qualifications are required for the M.Sc. program?

The formal requirements are (1) that you hold a B.Sc. degree in a subject relevant to bioinformatics, and (2) a good command of written and spoken English. The third requirement is that your university education should be "equivalent" to the B.Sc. degree with Computational Molecular Biology profile at Saarland University. Our emphasis is on methods development in bioinformatics. Therefore we require a dual education in Math/Computer Science and life sciences as entrance qualifications.

Is there an integrated Master/PhD program?

No. Admission to the Master program does not automatically include admission as a PhD student.
Prospective PhD students should directly apply to the professor they want to work with.
Alternatively, the Max Planck Institute of Computer Science has an International Max Planck Graduate Research School.

What courses in bioinformatics are offered in Saarbrücken?

The following five courses are the core bioinformatics courses in Saarbrücken and are offered once a year.

Bioinformatics 1  Analysis of protein and DNA sequences. Algorithmic focus. (Winter)

Bioinformatics 2  Analysis of protein structures, expression analysis by microarrays. Algorithmic focus.  (Summer)

Bioinformatics 3 Genome analysis. Concepts of molecular, metabolic, and regulatory cellular networks.  (Winter)

Computational Chemistry Introduction into molecular mechanics, molecular simulations, and quantum chemistry. (Summer)

Softwaretools in Bioinformatics 3 blocks: sequence, structure, networks, are discussed in a lecture. Students learn to work with current software tools in tutorials, before they need to complete 3 mini research projects. (Winter)

In addition, a number of special lectures are being offered infrequently. For example

Discrete Computational Biology by Dr. Marc Hellmuth

The Elements of Statistical Learning 1 by Prof. Thomas Lengauer

The Elements of Statistical Learning 2 by Dr. Thomas Lengauer

Modern Methods in Drug Discovery by Dr. Michael Hutter

Biological Sequence Analysis by Prof. Volkhard Helms

Acquisition, Analysis and Management of Biological Image Data by Prof. Dr. Verena Wolf

Computational Systems Biology by Dr. Jürgen Pahle

How do I apply for the bioinformatics programs?

Bachelor Program: please find more information on the websites of Saarland University students office and submit the required paperwork until  July 15 of each year (for winter semester intake) and until January 15 of each year (for summer semester intake).

The applications for the B.Sc. will be screened by the Studierendensekretariat. Decisions about acceptances will be mailed out as soon as possible.


Master Program: Please upload your documents as pdf-files to the online application platform (OAS) until January 15 (for summer semester intake) or July 15 (for winter semester intake)..

The applications for the M.Sc. program are being screened by a committee of Bioinformatics professors shortly after the applications are received.

General information is available under  information for foreign applicants (m/f)

What materials/information should I upload to apply for the M.Sc. program?

    Required information:

  1. Curriculum Vitae
  2. Certified copies of your
    • High school degree
    • B.Sc. degree or equivalent or higher university degree
  3. A detailed list of courses taken in your B.Sc. program (with credit points or listing the number of hours AND grades obtained). This list should document your dual background in math/computer science and in life sciences.
  4. A statement of purpose
    You may add (not required):

  1. A certificate of your proficiency in English language
  2. Recommendation letter(s) by professors
  3. Any additional material that you feel may strengthen your application


Studying in Germany is free independent of nationality at present. There is only a registration fee (159 € for summer semester 2013) to be paid each semester that also contains the bus and train ticket for the Saarland.

Financial Support

Saarland University does not offer studentships or fellowships. Experienced students may be employed as teaching assistants (tutors) for computer science and bioinformatics lectures, or as research assistants ("Hiwis") in the research groups.
A small number of fellowships for the M.Sc. program are available for outstanding applicants at the Max Planck research school .

What about if I am an undergraduate?

Undergraduates can contact interested faculty investigators for positions as research assistants. Normally (although not exclusively) it is critical to have some basic knowledge of biology as well as computer programming skills in order to have a good experience in one of these labs. 

Why should I study bioinformatics in Saarbrücken? 10 good reasons.

1    Saarbrücken has a strong bioinformatics community ...

At the last comparative review (May 2003) The Center of Bioinformatics was ranked number 1 among the five German centers of bioinformatics that are funded by the German Research Council (DFG).

2    ... that is embedded in a strong computer science community.

The computational biology in Saarbrücken is based on a very strong computer science that is ranked number 1 in Germany with students and professors, in terms of research and infrastructure according to the last Stern/CHE ranking. Therefore it is first choice for researchers and ambitious students.

3    Broad spectrum of applications within a defined vision .

CBI's vision is "From disease to therapy through computational biology". In this context, CBI covers a broad variety of bioinformatic applications in the areas of diagnostics, drug design and therapy. Substantial contributions are made by the disciplines of biochemistry, biotechnology, gastroenterology, genetics, molecular biology, pharmaceutics and medicinal chemistry, structural biology, and virology in Saarbrücken and Homburg.

4    Real-life problems
Besides fundamental problems in computational biology, our specific focus in Saarbrücken are important diseases (HIV/Aids, Hepatitis C, cancer). This application-oriented focus is reflected in our course program.

5    Internationality included
Our degrees and courses are fully compatible with the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS). This allows you to easily import credit points earned during studies abroad (in relevant subjects of course).
To prepare for the M.Sc. program that is fully taught in english you may earn up to 6 LP in English courses during the B.Sc. program.

6    An ideal ratio between students and researchers
More than > 50 researchers in bioinformatics are ready to supervise your B.Sc. or M.Sc. thesis.
The total number of students is 200 maximum (150 in B.Sc. program, 50 in M.Sc. program).

7    World-renowned institutions in close vicinity of the university
Max Planck Institute of Computer Science , the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence , the Fraunhofer Institute for Biomedical Engineering (IBMT) ... all these famous institutes make important contributions to bioinformatics in Saarbrücken.

8    National and international Collaboration
Researchers from Saarbrücken are involved in numerous national and international collaborations, e.g. the european bioinformatics network Biosapiens, the national genome network ... Important international conference series are coordinated from Saarbrücken. This secures the integration of computational biology in Saarbrücken into the international world of research

9    The most important research awards
were awarded to our researchers: Zukunftspreis des Bundespräsidenten, Leibniz-Preise der DFG, Zuse-Medaille, Karl-Heinz Beckurts Preis, Phillip-Morris Preis,...

10    The Saarland
is a direct neighbor of France and you notice this influence with the local people: you will quickly make new friends and Saarland offers a high quality of living.

Living in Saarbrücken

Many practical hints about this can be found here (on the website of Max Planck Institute of Computer Science).

Where to learn more?

  1. Send e-mail to our dean of studies (e-mail: add "volkhard.helms" in front of (at)")
  2. Helpful information may also be found on the english websites of our Computer Science department.
  3. M.Sc. students of bioinformatics may be supported by the local International Max Planck Research School .
  4. General Information about Studying in Germany: see the website of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) .