Doing a PhD at DIAG

Information for PhD students

At DIAG almost forty researchers are working as PhD students. About half of them do not originate from The Netherlands. We thus get many applicants for PhD positions, both from The Netherlands and from abroad. This page provides some background information about what it is like to do a PhD at DIAG and what you should be aware of when applying for a position.

PhD students at DIAG are primarily researchers

In many countries, doing a PhD, being a PhD student or PhD candidate, or being a graduate student (similar terms for the same thing) is closer to being a student than to being an independent researcher.

In the Netherlands, and particularly at DIAG, the opposite is true.

At DIAG, a PhD student is over 80% of his or her time busy with doing research, and this is the case from day 1. Of course, independence is something that comes with experience. And we work a lot in teams. A quick look at our publications will make it clear to you that PhD students are first authors of the bulk of our scientific output.

PhD students work on a particular predefined project

In some countries, a graduate student starts by following courses and at some point writes a proposal about the research he or she wants to do; once this proposal is approved, the actual research is carried out.

In the Netherlands, this is not common and in particular at DIAG we do not work this way.

PhD students work on particular projects. In almost all cases, funding for this project has been secured by supervisors, prior to hiring a PhD student. It therefore makes no sense to send us an e-mail "to apply to enroll in your PhD program". PhD students are hired to fill a particular vacancy and these vacancies are posted on our web site. Talented students are always invited to send us their CV, so we know already about you and your interest to work with us.

The fact that you work on a predefined project does not mean you do not have a lot of freedom to define your own research. We encourage you to be creative, follow your own ideas and make your own contributions. This is part of becoming an independent researcher.

If you apply on a particular position, you should motivate why you would like to work on that project and why you believe you are a good candidate for that particular project. Many applications we receive we discard immediately because they read like a stock letter. We recommend to read these tips.

You can follow courses, but you spend limited time on these

PhD students do have the possibility to follow courses, and most of our students follow several courses during their PhD period. Often this includes a course on giving scientific presentations or writing scientific articles, courses on topics in deep learning, image processing or machine learning, and high level tutorials at conferences or summer schools. But following courses is not obligatory, usually you do not do exams, and you discuss what courses are useful for you with your supervisor. The total time you spend on courses is less than 10%.

Side activities

At DIAG PhD students spend about 10% of their time on general services to the group. This can be organizing weekly meetings, maintaining software libraries, teaching, maintaining the web site, and so on. For example the software that creates this website was made by Wouter Bulten and a few co-workers.

Visiting conferences and going abroad

Visiting and participating in conferences and other research groups, for extended periods of time, is very important for your development as a researcher, and we therefore highly encourage this and have funding for this available. On our publication pages you see under the headings Conferences and Abstracts that PhD students tend to visit several conferences during their PhD research period (well, at least before corona hit...). Many of these conference contributions are later worked out to journal papers.

Four years and a thesis

A PhD trajectory typically takes four years at DIAG. Some people have a three year project. The main output is your thesis, which consists of a number of chapters. Most chapters are identical to journal publications that you have written as first author during the course of your four or three years. The minimum number of first author articles in international journals is three, and two of these must have been accepted by the time you submit your thesis to the manuscript committee. Note that conference contributions, even if these are published in proceedings that appear on e.g. PubMed (for example MICCAI papers) do not count as journal publications.

To get an idea of the theses written by PhD students at DIAG you can download any thesis from our publication pages.


The salary conditions for PhD students in the Netherlands are fixed and detailed in the CAO. Gross salary per month (2020 figures) is 2495 in year 1, increasing to 2911, 3050, 3196 euro in the next years. Employment at Radboud UMC comes with a range of additional benefits.