4th term report and interview

NOTICE: This information is outdated.

The following is taken from a DAMTP email sent to first years:

During your first year as a research student in Cambridge you are formally in the position of 'not being registered for any degree'. On the basis of satisfactory progress in the first year, however, you are formally registered with the Board of Graduate Studies as a candidate for the PhD.

The assessment takes the form of a report written by you, followed by an interview and discussion with two members of staff (neither of whom is your academic supervisor, but one of whom will probably be your PhD advisor, if you have been assigned one). You will be asked to hand your report in towards the end of September of your first year, so it's a good idea to start thinking about it a couple of months earlier.

The report should be typeset, and should typically be between 15 and 20 pages long. It should describe clearly the general area and background of the problems you are working on, previous work by other people which is especially relevant to what you are doing, the progress you have made to date with your research, and (very importantly) the plans you have for how your research is going to develop over the next two years. You submit three paper copies to the relevant interview coordinator.

When writing the report you should bear in mind that the interviewers will not necessarily be experts in your precise field, but will be able to follow the technical details of your work if clearly explained. You should also give prominence to any new results which you have been able to obtain. It is important that you write this report yourself, although of course your supervisor will be able to give you advice. Please also feel free to contact one of the interview coordinators (for Oct 2008 these are Natalia Berloff in Applied Mathematics or Peter D'Eath in Theoretical Physics) at any time if you are unsure about what to put in the report.

Record sheet you will also be asked to fill in a record sheet describing the various academic courses (e.g. from Part III Mathematics), training sessions, workshops and seminars which you have attended over the last 12 months. We think it is particularly important for research students to attend academic conferences during their PhD, so please list any conferences you might have attended already, plus plans you have for going to conferences in the future.

Interviews usually happen in mid October, and by the end of October at the latest. Usually both interviewers are members of staff in DAMTP, with perhaps one from your research group, but we do sometimes use people from other University departments or even who are external to the University, as appropriate. The interview typically lasts about one hour, and is really a fairly informal discussion between you and the interviewers about the contents of your written report. Much of the discussion will be of a scientific nature, but the interviewers will also want to talk about more practical issues (such as supervisions arrangements), and about the range of courses etc which you have attended. Students invariably find the interview a helpful and stimulating experience, and of course the interviewers will definitely take a close interest in your subsequent work and be happy to offer further advice and help.

Feedback On the basis of your written report and the interview, the interviewers will write a short report by the end of October. A copy of the report is passed to your supervisor, who will be able to discuss its contents with you. The report will usually contain a number of helpful suggestions about your research, and will either recommend that you are 'formally registered for the degree of PhD', or will recommend some other course of action (perhaps that further assessment is needed). You will, of course, be kept fully informed of what is going on, and the interview coordinators are more than happy to discuss the process at any time.