PhD applicant F.A.Q.

Many emails I get regarding PhD projects under my supervision often ask similar questions. To reduce the number of emails sent/received, I will address below the most common questions.

  1. When should I apply? Applications are best submitted in either late December or early January. Funding decisions regarding university studenships are typically made around February time so you want to apply before then. The university accepts applications all year round and sometimes funding will become available at different times of year, but your chances are significantly reduced if you apply later than mid-January.
  2. How do I apply? All applications must be made by completeing the online application form, here. For this you will need: a CV, a transcript of your exam results and two referees who will provide a letter of recommendation. You are very welcome to also informally email me, to introduce yourself or ask further questions about the project. But please be aware that an email is not considered a formal application.
  3. When is the start date? A successful January applicant would typically start in September the same year.
  4. Do you have funding for a PhD studentship? The department has a limited number of EPSRC funded studentships. If you have read an advert for a PhD position in my group, then (unless otherwise stated) it will be for an EPSRC funded studentships. These studentships are allocated competitively. This means that allocation of studentships is partly decided depending on the track record of the student applying. Therefore, I have to first shortlist and interview applicants, and then decide whether to put them forward for a studentship award. UK citizens are eligible for EPSRC studentships. EU (but non-UK) citizens are also eligible and encouraged but currently (as of 2018) only 10 percentage of EPSRC studentships can be allocated to EU (and non-UK) citizens.
  5. What is the Sheffield University Prize scholarship? This is a more prestigious award that is very competitve and you can read more by following this link. It has the advantage that all nationalities are eligible. However, since it is extremely competitve, it is only worth applying if you are an exceptional candidate. For instance, if you scored top of the year in your exams and already have a published piece of research.
  6. The job advert asks for a degree in physics, computer science or mathematics but I only have one of these degrees, will I struggle? I am only expecting applicants to have one degree. Quantum computing and information is interdisplinary topic and so draws on tools and techniques from different degree courses. This makes it an exciting and rewarding area of research that makes you more aware of the connections between different disciplines. Indeed, I now consider the division of universities into departments as a historical accidient rather than a reflection of a fundemental division. Nevertheless, undergraduates often feel nervous about choosing an interdisciplinary research topic. As a supportive tale, I often point out that I started my PhD in quantum computing with an undergraduate in Physics and Philosophy, and so I only had half a relevant degree. However, what you lack in experience must be replaced with enthusiasm. I expect PhD students to be fascinated by different aspects of physics, computer science and mathematics.
  7. Can I do my PhD remotely? An important part of a PhD is becoming part of a research group and interacting with your peers on a daily basis. As such, I expect students to be based in Sheffield and only permit remote supervision in exceptional circumstances. I might be more flexible on this point if you have your own external funding.
  8. Can you recommend any other PhD programmes? In the UK, I highly recommend the quantum themed CDTs (centers for doctoral training) run by University College London, Imperial College and Bristol. They are all have 1 extra year of training at the beginning, after which you choose a 3 year project (so 4 years total). An important point is that after the first year these CDTs (usually) proivde the option of doing your research project at another university, giving you a lot of options. There are also a lot of great places internationally, too many to list.

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