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Introduction to the PhD (Physics and Astronomy)


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Short talk given to final-year undergraduates thinking about doing a PhD in Physics and Astronomy

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Introduction to the PhD (Physics and Astronomy)

  1. 1. Introduction THE COSMIC WEB to the PhD Peter Coles
  2. 2. What is a PhD? • Postgraduate Research Degree • Examined by presentation of a thesis and viva voce examination (must contain original, publishable research). • 3 years (+~0.5 “writing up”) UK • Often 5 years elsewhere (USA, etc)
  3. 3. What comes after? • About 50% stay in academic research.. • Next step is a postdoc (2-3 years) • Attrition rate is heavy thereafter • Steady-state means each supervisor generates 1 permanent academic..
  4. 4. How to choose a PhD • The most important thing is the project – it needs to be something that will drive you. • Check out potential supervisors. Are they publishing? Getting cited? • Talk to staff in your own institution in the area you want to work; they will help you find destinations • Choose something that interests you – not necessarily what you did in your UG projects!
  5. 5. Qualifications • A “good” honours degree – at least a 2.1 • Some areas are more competitive than others, and in sexy areas you may need a 1st and or a Masters • It’s easier to get a place than to get funding because there are fewer bursaries than qualified candidates
  6. 6. Funding (UK) • UK Research Councils pay Universities (DTA) who pay PhD students a STIPEND • Current rate £13590 (£15590 in London) • Fee paid from DTA • Most universities also have their own bursaries at the same rate • Teaching/demonstrating is extra
  7. 7. Funding (non-UK) • Various schemes throughout Europe – advertised in dept. • Many institutes in EU have English as their working language…e.g. Max Planck Institutes, Denmark and Netherlands • In USA, usually have to do teaching (graduate teaching assistant), but better paid…
  8. 8. How to Apply • Standard application forms (usually). • Two referees, usually personal tutor and project supervisor • Research “proposal”, usually general area only needed.
  9. 9. Timescales • STFC – interviews usuall in Feb/March, decisions end of March • Most applications arrive in January • EPSRC a bit later
  10. 10. Interviews • This is the crucial bit of the process • Expect a grilling! • Be prepared to talk about your project • It’s your chance to find out about the place..