Welcome to the Astrophysics and Space Research Group. We hope you will
have a productive and enjoyable time here while doing your research for
your Ph.D. programme. These pages are designed to be a useful resource
for postgraduate students in the Astrophysics and Space Research Group,
containing helpful advice (collected from current and previous
students) as well as information about the various aspects of your
training as a Ph.D. student.
This document provides information which will be
useful to you throughout your time as a Ph.D. student.
Note that this is an evolving document, and if you think of
things you wish you had known on
arrival or spot any errors then please let the
Checklist of Things to do on Arrival
See the Graduate Students'
tutor or Jo Cox(Group Secretary, Room 237,
to find out which office you will be in.
See Ms Jan Hutchins (Head of School's office, Room B14 Physics West) for various introductory documents and forms. The
important forms that you would need right away are for keys, and
to get a pass to allow you to use buildings outside "normal" hours.
She will also
check whether the various registration forms have been completed.
Go to the Main Stores (Physics West) to get keys to your office.
The Jo will tell you the codes for the combination locks
for the external doors, and the door to your office. (Check with
the other postgraduates in your room to find out which keys are
needed). Please ensure that these codes are not given
to people who are not authorized to enter the building.
Contact David Stops (Group Computer Manager, Room 222 West) to obtain an
account on the ASR computer network.
Check that you can send and receive electronic mail.
Register as a Graduate user of the Main Library
If you have any questions see the
Graduate Students' tutor.
Training as a Postgraduate in the ASR Group
A Ph.D should not just be about learning a set of very specific
skills and a very limited range of knowledge related to your specific research
topic. It should be about training to be an independent research scientist.
Consequently, during your Ph.D we would like to help you develop a range
of skills, both generic, but hopefully useful in completing your Ph.D.
If you find life as a Ph.D. student is hard, take occasional looks at
PhD comics to re-assure yourself that
this is pretty Universal.
Research is very much a full-time occupation and will involve
a lot of hard work (but which is ultimately very satisfying),
including at times evenings and weekends. You should reckon on taking
no more than 4-5 weeks annually. Many Ph.D students have the
opportunity to earn some extra money doing some laboratory
demonstrating or marking. While the money will be useful, be sure to
keep in mind that your future career prospects depend on the quality
of your research and not your marking skills (which is not to say that
you should do shoddy work). PGTAs obviously have more teaching
responsibilities and more time to complete their Ph.D.
The hours you will work are flexible, though this will also depend
somewhat on what you can agree with your supervisor. Your working
hours should never be such as to restrict communication with other
members of staff and your supervisor.
Things to keep in mind
- All students should meet their supervisor on a weekly basis (particularly in the first year).
- All students are expected to attend the Astrophysics Seminars. These mostly
happen on Wednesday afternoon. They should also attend the School Colloquia, also held
- Students should also attend group meetings, which typically happen
every other week on Wednesdays at noon.
- Absences for holidays should be agreed with your supervisor, and
when you are away for this or other resasons (such as illness) please
notify Jo Cox in the Group office too.
- It is very important to get experience
of presenting talks at subgroup meetings, and at conferences and workshops.
The Postgraduate Training programme
All first-year postgraduate students participate in our postgraduate training
programme in their first year, organised under the auspices of the Midlands
Physics Alliance Graduate School (Birmingham, Nottingham and Warwick). This
involves reading, lectures, workshops,
and a variety of hands-on exercises, covering
subjects ranging from Computing skills to various research areas
This wiki page
gives details of the training programme and the methods of
Progress and Monitoring of Your Ph.D
The School and the University operate a number of procedures
to monitor your progress during your PhD studies. The main aims of
these are (i) to encourage you to reflect on your progress and plans, and
(ii) to identify any problems in time to nip them in the bud.
The main elements are as follows:
- Biannual progress reviews -
In March and September each year, you and your supervisor will complete
a progress review form which involves commenting on progress and
any problems. You should take the opportunity to reflect on how things
are going and on future plans, bearing in mind the timescale for completion
of your thesis.
- Monthly progress monitoring - This is a requirement from
the University, and involves making a brief note each month on a standard
form to demonstrate that regular supervision meetings are taking place.
- Mid-course assessment - This is the major staging post en-route
to your PhD, and is described in more detail below. It involves a report and
- Thesis planning - the September progress review at the end of
your third year is replaced by a thesis planning meeting. The idea here
is to ensure that a credible plan is in place which will get you
finished successfully and on time. A modified version of the normal
progress review form is filled in, and the meeting to discuss it will
involve not only your supervisor, but also the external staff member
who conducted your midterm review.
- Development needs analysis - The University offers a number
of skills courses which may be of value to you, and to identify
which ones may be of interest to you there is an annual DNA form
which they ask you to complete.
The Mid-course Assessment (or "midterm")
occurs at the end of your first year. For students joining in October,
the process typically takes places between October and November
the following year.
For the midterm you have to prepare a report detailing
your work, and then a viva is held with your supervisor and a senior
member of staff from another research group within the School.
The midterm report can be of one or two sorts - either
a self contained report of roughly 25 pages in length or a more introductory
report (10 - 15 pages) plus a paper ready for submission.
The deadline for submission
of the midterm is late-September, and the
viva takes place a month or so after this,
at a convenient time for all concerned.
Postgraduate Travel funds
We encourage all postgraduate students to travel to meetings and conferences within the UK and abroad. We have limited funds available within the group for such travel, and there are several sources of external funding. Wherever
possible, external funding should be sought wherever possible.
Some meetings and workshops offer financial help to students, and the
School also provides some support via the Moreton travel awards.
Writing your thesis
We strongly encourage you to write up as you go whenever possible. In
particular publishing papers along the way makes the final thesis
writing a lot easier and provides publications to go on your CV (which
should help you in getting a postdoc position). Writing up a thesis
can easily take 3 to 6 (rather unenjoyable) months. Guidelines for
the format of the thesis can be found in the University's 'Notes for
Guidance of Candidates'. In particular, the thesis "may consist
entirely of published (or publishable) papers, prefaced by an
introduction, and literature survey followed by general
discussion". The thesis can be written in the style of a selected
journal. It should not exceed 50,000 words or 250 pages. A few months
before submitting your thesis you must notify the registry on a
form. This will lead to the nomination of a senior scientist from
outside the university and a member of the group being nominated as
external and internal thesis examiner.
Students should be prepared for questions relating to other areas of
astronomy (and possibly physics). The sort of questions you get will
strongly depend on the examiners, some stick to the topics covered
in the thesis, some range more widely. The regulations states that "an
oral exam on the subject of the thesis and on the general field to
which the candidates subject belongs is normally obligatory."
Ph.D Thesis Style Files
Example files for generating a Ph.D thesis can be found at the links
below. The files include thesis.tex (the actual thesis), two
style files (thesis_good.cls and reporteld.cls), which need to be in
the same directory as thesis.tex, an acknowledgments page and a
A helpful introduction to latex can be found in the
The not-so-short guide to latex.
September: Training for teaching (if relevant)
October: MPAGS programme starts
September (end of first year): Midterm thesis due
November: Midterm viva (ATFC students)
March-June: 2nd Year Seminar (on a Friday)
Plan to attend international conference
September: Apply to change of status to write -up; submit
intention of submission
March- June: Submission of Final Thesis
Life during and after being a postgraduate student
Take a look at
for general pearls of wisdom about what is expected of you while
you are a postgraduate student, and how to plan for an academic life
after your PhD.
(Maintained by Somak Raychaudhury)