If you are considering becoming a PhD student with me, the following notes will give you an idea of how I work and supervise and what I expect from a PhD student. These notes are a reflection of my experience to date and as such will evolve as I learn more about supervising and the business of research in general. So, even if you have been a student with me for a while, it may be worth checking out these notes occasionally.
If you are thinking of applying for a PhD position under my supervision, talk to me first. I will not normally accept to supervise students who I do not know, so simply putting in an application to the College without having talked to me won't normally work. You can contact me by email on my work address to start discussions. From such an initial email, I would expect to get at a minimum:
- An idea of who you are and why you want to study towards a PhD (and why with me).
- An initial research proposal as a basis for discussion. This should be approx. two pages long and include appropriate references. Among other things, the proposal needs to clearly link to topics that are of interest to me and fit well with the research I am currently engaged in. Read some of my papers to get an idea of what I am doing. You can also check out my list of proposed topics.
- Examples of previous research work that you have engaged in. Your MSc thesis would be a good start here.
- An idea of how well you have done academically so far. Transcripts, references, etc. would be helpful. However, please be selective and only include the most important documents at this stage.
If I find your topic generally interesting I will aim to respond within a reasonable timeframe. Depending on how busy things are, I may not respond if you haven't included all relevant materials or if I am otherwise not interested in taking you on as a student. If I am interested, I will set up a skype chat or a discussion in person to get to know you better and get a feeling for whether you would be a good fit personally.
- If I agree to supervise you, you will still need to apply to the College through the standard route, naming me as your supervisor of choice. Only the College can make you a formal offer of a place.
- If I do not agree to supervise you, this isn't necessarily a judgement of your quality or potential as a researcher. It may just be that your topics do not fit in with my research agenda or that I wasn't sure whether I could work with you on a personal level. Keep trying!
The main characteristic I am looking for in a student is independence of thought and work. We will be meeting regularly to discuss your progress and I will be more than happy to advise and discuss, but your PhD project is your project and you are responsible for its success! You need to put in the work and initiative to make progress and build up a contribution worthy of a PhD. I will not tell you what to do or how to do it. There frequently are no simple right or wrong answers. If I knew the answer already, it wouldn't be research.
I would normally expect you to:
- Have an initial work plan as part of our shared on-line dashboard by week 2;
- Keep track of your work plan continuously, adjusting it as necessary; any major deviations need to be discussed with me first;
- Establish a sound background in the relevant techniques and literature by the end of month 7 / the beginning of month 8, in time for your 9-month viva, keeping up-to-date on new literature throughout your thesis;
- Discuss your progress with me at regular intervals -- approx. once a week in your first year, once every two weeks in your second year, and once every month in your final year;
- Have a clear research proposal, initial results and plan for research and evaluation by month 13, in time for your upgrade viva;
- Publish some of your work before submitting your thesis -- at a minimum, you should aim for a workshop or doctoral-symposium paper after your first year, a conference paper after your second year, and a journal paper after your third year.
I strongly recommend you take on some TA (teaching-assistant) duties throughout your PhD studies as this will increase your chances in the post-doctoral job market. We will also jointly agree a plan for your professional development, which will, for example, include you participating in courses offered by King's College London. As part of your training I may, from time to time, invite you to collaborate on reviewing papers for workshops, conferences, or journals.