Department of Computer Science and Technology

PhD Applications

I'm always interested in hearing from potential students wanting to pursue a PhD. If you want to work with me, here are a few notes to help you with the application process.

The Application

As part of the application process you have to write a research proposal (more below) and fill out an online form. Bear these things in mind when you start to think about applying:

  • Apply as early as possible.
  • You can find out the deadlines for applications on the graduate admissions page for Computer Science.
  • Funding is dealt with separately to your application. However, you need to get in early to be eligible for many of the scholarship competitions that are around. The page above has some deadlines on it, which are generally
    • Mid-October for US Gates Funding.
    • Early December for non-UK funding.
    • Early January for UK / EU funding.
  • I may have funding myself, so feel free to email me to ask. I may also be able to obtain separate funding if I have a strong candidate who has applied. The key again is to apply as early as possible.
  • Be realistic in how long it will take to apply, including writing the research proposal.
  • Highlight on your application form any relevant work that you have done in this area and explain why you want to do a PhD with me.
  • It almost, but surprisingly not quite, goes without saying that you should read a little about my current research, so you know the areas in which I am interested in having PhD students work.
  • The Computer Lab has lots of information about the application too.

Research Proposal

The most important part of your application is your research proposal. This is your chance to demonstrate your knowledge of the subject you want to research, and highlight your ideas for the PhD. The aim is to convince your application reviewers that you have a solid grounding in the area, can identify where there is research to be done, and an understanding of how to start on that.

  • Write clearly and concisely. The proposal doesn't have to be long (aim for 6 pages, but that's just a guide).
  • Structure your proposal so that it has introduction, related work, problem definition and proposed research sections (not necessarily with these names). Within these:
    • Your introduction should give a high-level overview of the area.
    • Related work discusses prior research in this field (highlight both positives and areas where there are gaps).
    • The problem definition discusses limitations of existing techniques.
    • Your proposed research is where you discuss how you will start to address these. Please try to include achievable goals for the first year in this section.
    • It is often helpful to include an anticipated schedule of work for the first year (at the granularity of a couple of months at a time). This shows you've thought through what needs to be done and can plan effectively.
  • The research proposal is about your ideas for research, not about you as a person. By all means highlight any relevant work you have done in the past in this area, but it should be mainly focused on what you intend to do if you study here.
  • Current research can also be found by looking at the top conferences in the area (for example ISCA, MICRO, HPCA, ASPLOS, PLDI, CGO). Look for papers being published that solve problems, as well as those that are more visionary and describe emerging challenges.
  • Feel free to contact me to discuss potential areas before starting work on a research proposal. I am more than happy to comment on a draft proposal, but in the end this is your application and your ideas, so I'm unlikely to provide feedback more than a couple of times.
  • My colleague, Robert Mullins, also has some pointers on his proposal page.