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    (Original post by apotoftea)
    There is an element of luck in all postgrad applications - ask any of the postgrads on this forum. Luck will always rear its ugly head in postgraduate life
    My successful PhD application was based 90% on luck, 10% on trying to place myself in the best position to recieve that luck.
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    (Original post by apotoftea)
    CDLs should be banned personally - they're evil!
    I think they're ok as an option for people who "simply must do this course no matter what it takes", but I agree they're usually very bad deals. The people I know who have them tend not to have put much thought into it either, I find.

    The other masters students I know are largely funded by the bank of Mum and Dad. Then, unless you get special and very comprehensive funding, your only other option is your own savings. I imagine 10 grand would probably be the minimum to do a masters for a year.

    I know a lot of people work at the same time but it's a gamble whether to find it or not, and you can end up in the interesting situation where you've finished your masters but your university won't let you graduate until you've paid them what you owe them.

    I don't think taught masters are as much of a "ripoff" (personal perspective there) as research masters. For research masters I'm just reminded of what one of the academics at my last university told me. He said if someone was going to pay him that much money to be able to work in his lab for a year he'd let them do whatever they liked. It's much nicer to be paid for your work.

    Does History count as a humanities course? I wonder whether that makes funded positions more scarce there, especially these days.
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    (Original post by TheQueenOfComputerScience)
    My successful PhD application was based 90% on luck, 10% on trying to place myself in the best position to recieve that luck.
    Can't say I agree. I know a fair few people who applied for postgraduate places, those who I thought were smartest and most able got funding, those who I thought were pretty dumb and just applying to try and put off the real world a bit longer were unsuccessful and those who I thought were borderline were offered what seemed to be the dregs of funding, very late on in the process.

    That said, luck still exists, largely due to how well an interview goes, but it sure as hell isn't 90%.
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    (Original post by Mitothy)
    That said, luck still exists, largely due to how well an interview goes, but it sure as hell isn't 90%.
    And I wouldn't put that down to luck as much as down to how the institution runs its interviews. I thought the interview at the place that accepted me was a lot nicer and more "fair" than the one that didn't take me. To break it down...

    Institution 1: 2-hour interview including...

    Meeting with both of the supervisors (who were familiar with my application)

    A grilling about any problems they saw with my application (one module resit, a C at A-level, etc.)

    Panel seemed nice and friendly, even when they were "picking holes" in my application (I appreciated the chance to defend against their criticisms)

    Discussion about what the PhD would entail

    Decent tour of where I'd be working, including demonstrations of some techniques

    Taken to meet a postdoc who was in my position a few years back

    Institution 2: A 50-minute interview, where they let me in 5 or 10 minutes late and then ended the interview 5 minutes early...
    Panel had one (out of two) project supervisors, and she almost wasn't on it!

    :mad: I wasn't originally told that the people I was competing against were going for different projects for different supervisors, I had to get that out of my project supervisor

    Had to give a presentation on my "academic career so far"

    :mad: Panel seemed completely unfamiliar with the supporting documents I'd sent in with my application. They had asked for an example of previous research work I'd done which it turns out had only been looked at by the prospective supervisor (who wasn't going to be on the panel until the day before the interview)

    :confused: Panel seemed quite aggressive. One of them asked me a question to test my knowledge, which I answered. I then asked me if my answer was correct which caused a silence so long that it was interrupted by another member of the panel who told me I was right. (Is it improper to ask if you gave the right answer to a factual question? really?)

    Got the impression that the reason why I had to give the presentation was that they couldn't be bothered to read applications

    :mad: Didn't seem to have read my references either (I happened to know one thing that was put in one of my references but when I told them about it they expressed surprise :confused:)

    :mad: Ended up being fobbed off with a reason that they could easily have mentioned in the interview and given me a chance to defend against

    The supervisor offered separately to organise a tour of the department on the day, though the difference here is that the interviewing panel were very separate from the department
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    (Original post by Mitothy)
    Can't say I agree. I know a fair few people who applied for postgraduate places, those who I thought were smartest and most able got funding, those who I thought were pretty dumb and just applying to try and put off the real world a bit longer were unsuccessful and those who I thought were borderline were offered what seemed to be the dregs of funding, very late on in the process.

    That said, luck still exists, largely due to how well an interview goes, but it sure as hell isn't 90%.
    I didn't actually have an interview or anything but I did do my masters research project with the supervisor so I suppose we interviewed each other for 6 months. However, if I had of picked a different supervisor for my masters project there is no way I would have ended up with such a nice project and funding. So the only bit which was under my control was down to falling in with the right guy, I was lucky that he thought I was good enough and got the company to put up the money.
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    (Original post by TheQueenOfComputerScience)
    I didn't actually have an interview or anything but I did do my masters research project with the supervisor so I suppose we interviewed each other for 6 months. However, if I had of picked a different supervisor for my masters project there is no way I would have ended up with such a nice project and funding. So the only bit which was under my control was down to falling in with the right guy, I was lucky that he thought I was good enough and got the company to put up the money.
    Well you have to be pretty good in the first place for anyone to think that you are worth that effort. Granted there's a certain amount of luck in ending up working with the right person/people, but if you're good enough for one person to show that much faith in you, you're probably good enough that other people would have done the same if you hadn't got on with him.

    There are few people more willing to call others stupid than academics. So I honestly don't think luck is the biggest factor when one of them thinks you're worth investing time in.
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    I'll have an interview in about a week's time for a PhD in Biosciences starting in 2010. I know I'm applying very early but following a personal reference from my current boss I was "strongly advised to submit a formal application right away".

    This interview is for a very competitive and well-funded studenship with the potential to work with outstanding supervisors. It would involve a rotation in the first year and therefore I will be interviewed by 3 separate potential supervisors.

    I will need to give a presentation of previous planned research project, will have a tour of the facilities and 3 separate individual interviews by different group leaders. There might be something else involved in the process as well, as the schedule for my assessment day isn't going to be finalised until next week, by when I will also have to submit the title of my talk.

    I'm absolutely dreading this interview. I'm the only student who will be interviewed on that day and the whole thing seems very intimidating. I will need to go down the night before, stay in a hotel (which they will luckily pay for) and be sharp for a 9am start.

    I'm currently working on my presentation and reading papers published by the group leaders who will be interviewing me. Is there anything else I could do? What would be the best preparation for this day?
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    (Original post by lorettayoung)
    I'm absolutely dreading this interview. I'm the only student who will be interviewed on that day and the whole thing seems very intimidating. I will need to go down the night before, stay in a hotel (which they will luckily pay for) and be sharp for a 9am start.

    I'm currently working on my presentation and reading papers published by the group leaders who will be interviewing me. Is there anything else I could do? What would be the best preparation for this day?
    You sound pretty well prepared already, knowing the interviewers' areas is always a good tip as they are likely to skew their questions towards what they are most interested in and know best. Beyond that I'd say, try to come accross as confident, but be willing to say "I haven't looked at that yet" or "that's an interesting possibility which I hadn't thought of". Oh and always have a damn good answer for "so why do you want to do a PhD?"

    P.S. I thought of this too late to stop me typing the above, but I think there's a sticky somewhere with some good PhD interview advice.
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    (Original post by lorettayoung)
    I'm absolutely dreading this interview. I'm the only student who will be interviewed on that day and the whole thing seems very intimidating. I will need to go down the night before, stay in a hotel (which they will luckily pay for) and be sharp for a 9am start.
    For the above to be true they must already be quite impressed by you. Try not to be intimidated, they asked you to be there after all.

    Good luck.
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    How common do presentations feature as part of a PhD interview in biosciences? That prospect is quite daunting!
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    (Original post by tetedupet)
    How common do presentations feature as part of a PhD interview in biosciences? That prospect is quite daunting!
    It'll be a policy of the people who are making the decision. In some cases that'll be the supervisors for the PhD, in others it'll be the people providing the funding. In my experience of 2 interviews it's a 50:50 split :p:
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    For all the PhDs I've looked at presentations are required. I've so far only looked at the top-notch programmes though. I've been working on a project for a year now so at least I'll have something to talk about.
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    (Original post by tetedupet)
    Annoying for me as I have always genuinely wanted to go into academia, I'm not just doing this to get through the recession! Any advice on making my application as strong as possible? I scored a first this year in my exams and I have been working on a lab project this summer for which I received a wellcome trust vacation scholarship. Is there anything else I should be doing to be giving myself a competitive edge?

    They're ace, aren't they?

    I would recommend looking at the WT doctoral training schemes in Oxford and Cambridge, ditto the MRC centres at both universities - they pay well and give you lots of options for PhD specialisation. I found the WT vac scholarship I'd done was a real help in getting my place - it shows a real enthusiasm for research beyond your course, gives you experience of the realities of research, and you can talk in interviews about something (probably not on your course) that you've become quite knowledgeable about. Beyond that - whatever you're applying for, keep an eye out for interesting new articles that come up about this (just browing Nature, Science etc helps, as does flicking through pubmed when you're bored) so you can show you're keeping up with the field, and doing research beyond that required by the course. Departmental seminar series are useful too - I went to two or three seminars, put on for research groups in many cases, related to what I want to research - it's another easy way to keep up woth ongoing research, to show enthusiasm and to start conversations in interviews with.
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    (Original post by Athena)

    They're ace, aren't they?

    I would recommend looking at the WT doctoral training schemes in Oxford and Cambridge, ditto the MRC centres at both universities - they pay well and give you lots of options for PhD specialisation. I found the WT vac scholarship I'd done was a real help in getting my place - it shows a real enthusiasm for research beyond your course, gives you experience of the realities of research, and you can talk in interviews about something (probably not on your course) that you've become quite knowledgeable about. Beyond that - whatever you're applying for, keep an eye out for interesting new articles that come up about this (just browing Nature, Science etc helps, as does flicking through pubmed when you're bored) so you can show you're keeping up with the field, and doing research beyond that required by the course. Departmental seminar series are useful too - I went to two or three seminars, put on for research groups in many cases, related to what I want to research - it's another easy way to keep up woth ongoing research, to show enthusiasm and to start conversations in interviews with.
    Thanks for the advice

    I'm really interested in virology, and well, infection/medical microbiology in general... Do they offer WT or MRC doctoral training schemes in this area at Oxford? I know they do at Cambridge. I can't see much in the way of virology research at Oxford from googling around, other than a few people in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.
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    (Original post by tetedupet)
    Thanks for the advice

    I'm really interested in virology, and well, infection/medical microbiology in general... Do they offer WT or MRC doctoral training schemes in this area at Oxford? I know they do at Cambridge. I can't see much in the way of virology research at Oxford from googling around, other than a few people in the Sir William Dunn School of Pathology.
    I think the Peter Medawar building, next to Zoology, are into pathogen research http://www.medawar.ox.ac.uk/ And the WT centre up at the Old Road Campus do some of the statistical work relating to pathogens, although that may not float your boat (it certainly doesn't float mine!)
 
 
 
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