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Postgraduate Study in Mathematics


Information for External Applicants to the PhD

Every year DAMTP receives a large number of applications for PhD places in the High Energy Physics (HEP) and General Relativity & Cosmology (GR) research groups. In recent years the number of students admitted to these groups has fluctuated between eight and twelve depending on the number of available supervisors. There are typically over ten applicants for each available place.

In these subject areas, a large majority of successful applicants will have first taken Part III of the Mathematical Tripos (MMath/MASt). This is a one year graduate-level course offering lecture courses in a wide range of topics in mathematics and theoretical physics. For more information about Part III please see the course webpage.

There are two reasons why most of our PhD students come through Part III. First, Part III provides the necessary preparation for research in theoretical physics at a level matched by only a few other courses worldwide. Starting PhD students are expected to have covered all the material in those Part III lecture courses which are most relevant to their research project. A description of the content of each Part III lecture course can be found in the Guide to Courses.

Second, the Part III class typically provides fifty or so well-qualified applicants for the available PhD places. Many of these applicants were at or near the top of their undergraduate class at their previous university. Performance in Part III allows us to rank these candidates accurately. It is much harder for us to rank external applicants. For these reasons, if you are interested in doing a PhD in theoretical physics in Cambridge we would strongly encourage you to consider applying for Part III first.

Ultimately, the decision to accept any applicant as a PhD student is made by the faculty member who will become their supervisor. The HEP and GR groups cover research in a wide range of areas and the precise requirements of individual supervisors may vary. In particular, we continue to admit a few students (one or two per year) who have not taken Part III. These admissions are usually in areas which could be loosely described as being “less formal” such as lattice field theory, particle physics phenomenology and cosmology. Successful external applicants often have relevant research experience in one of these areas.

Deadlines and Offers

Applicants to the HEP and GR research groups should note that we anticipate making some offers to outstanding candidates in February/March – for full consideration you should submit your application to the Postgraduate Admissions Office by 15 December 2023 for full consideration (this arrangement applies equally to UK, EU and Overseas applicants). These offers will be made on the basis of academic track record, and the applicant may also be invited to an interview and/or asked to sit a written admissions test. However, it is also expected that some of the PhD places in the HEP and GR groups may be offered in June once the Part III Mathematical Tripos results are available.

Current PhD opportunity (closes 15 December 2023): Newnham-DAMTP PhD scholarship for Women

Please note that if you wish to be considered for funding from the University Postgraduate Funding Competition you must apply by the relevant date (Gates US: 11 October 2023; all other funding: 4 January 2024).

More information about applying can be found on the DAMTP PhD Opportunities webpage.