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Postgraduate Study in Mathematics

This is a three year research programme culminating in submission and examination of a single research thesis.  Students joining the course will often have completed prior study at a level comparable to our Part III (MMath/MASt) course and many have postgraduate experience.  Our students therefore begin their PhD research with a good understanding of advanced material, which they build on in various ways throughout the course of their PhD studies. Our PhD students might have written several papers before they submit their dissertation, and can go on to win academic positions at leading institutions around the world.

Structure of the PhD

Students are required to undertake a minimum of nine terms of research (i.e. three years). Students are not registered for the PhD in the first instance but are instead admitted on a probationary basis. All students are assessed for registration towards the end of their first year of full-time study (usually June). This assessment is based on a short written report submitted by the candidate for review by two assessors. In the fifth term there might also be a further assessment of progress, for which students submit a longer piece of written work and receive an oral assessment.

Research areas

The topic of the research thesis may be chosen from the wide range of subjects studied within the Department. It is expected that applicants to the PhD course will investigate the research interests and expertise of academic staff within DPMMS prior to making a formal application. This should be done by consulting the dedicated page on finding a supervisor, as well as research pages of our website, and individual profiles of our academic staff.

Additional training and opportunities

Whilst there are no mandatory taught components to the PhD degree, students may wish to undertake specific courses or further training to expand their knowledge, either for personal interest or to directly assist with their PhD research. All students are encouraged to participate and attend the wide range of lectures, seminars and events on offer within DPMMS and the Centre for Mathematical Sciences.

Many students submit a prize essay at the beginning of their fifth term. The best essays each year are of a scale and quality already adequate for a PhD dissertation, incorporating work already, or about to be, published. We intend that our students publish their work in leading journals. Our PhD students might have written several papers before they submit their dissertation, and can go on to win academic positions at leading institutions around the world.

DPMMS also promotes and encourages researcher development and transferable skills training. This can take the form of assisting with Part III catch-up lectures, attendance at skills based training sessions, or presenting their work at seminars and conferences. The University also offers training via the Researcher Development Programme.

There is no requirement for PhD students to teach but there are plenty of opportunities to do so, such as offering supervisions for third year undergraduates (this involves the supervisor sitting with a pair of students for an hour, discussing their work). PhD students might help too with running examples classes for Part III students.

Academic entry requirements

The usual minimum entry requirement is a first class honours degree, awarded after a four-year course in mathematics or mathematics/statistics, or a three-year degree together with a one-year postgraduate course in those areas. Part III (MMath/MASt) of the Mathemtical Tripos provides such a course and most of the PhD students in DPMMS have come through this route. The others have usually completed at least a comparable four-year undergraduate course, and many have postgraduate experience. Entry is competitive and a higher level of preparation may be required.

Funding opportunities

Applicants will be considered for Department funding. This may include a Research Council or Heilbronn Doctoral Partnership award. Receipt of this funding is not guaranteed and all applicants, irrespective of fee-status, are expected to apply to other funding schemes for which they are eligible. Applicants are advised to investigate potential sources of funding as early as possible.

Students should consult the Postgraduate Admissions website for details of the University Postgraduate Funding Competition. Other University wide funding opportunities can be found via the Funding Search Tool.

How to apply

All applications for postgraduate study must be made via the University’s Postgraduate Admissions Office and details on the process for application and the supporting documentation required is provided on their website. It is important that applicants read all the relevant information and collate the necessary supporting documents prior to starting the application process. 

Students who are currently or have previously undertaken the MASt (ie. Part IIII students who came from outside Cambridge) should apply as a student for continuation/readmission. All other students (including those on the MMath) should apply for admission as a postgraduate student. If you are an MMath student you should include one reference from your College Director of Studies.

The University values diversity and is committed to equality of opportunity. The Department would particularly welcome applications from women, since women are, and have historically been, underrepresented in our student cohorts.

Please ensure that you use the correct course code when making your application: MAPM21

Finding a supervisor 

The topic of the research thesis may be chosen from the wide range of subjects studied within the Department. It is expected that applicants to the PhD course will investigate the research interests and expertise of academic staff within DPMMS prior to making a formal application. This should be done by consulting the dedicated page on finding a supervisor, as well as research pages of our website, and individual profiles of our academic staff.

Applicants are encouraged to make informal contact with potential supervisors prior to making an application. Applicants should clearly state in the 'Proposed supervisor' field of the application form the name(s) of those member(s) of academic staff with whom they wish to work, and provide a clear indication of the areas or topics in which they intend to undertake research in the 'Research Summary' field. We do not currently require submission of a separate detailed research proposal.

Application and funding deadlines

We strongly encourage all applicants to apply by 12:00am (midnight) UK time on 5 January 2023.  Anyone wishing to apply after this date should contact the DPMMS Course Administrator before submitting an application. Students wishing to be considered for Departmental funding, or as part of the University Postgraduate Funding Competition must apply by this deadline. If you are a USA citizen, resident in the USA, and wish to be considered for Gates funding, please note the deadline for applications is in October.

Selection process

After the January closing date, we will review all the applications received and contact those who have been shortlisted to invite them for an interview. Space limitations may mean that late applications cannot be considered.

Interviews take place either in Cambridge or online. During the interview, the panel will try to ascertain the extent of the applicant's mathematical knowledge and experience. We aim to contact all interviewees within a week or two of the interview with a provisional outcome. It is important to note, however, that formal offers of admission can only be made by the University’s Postgraduate Admissions Office.

Applicants should expect to receive a decision within twelve weeks following the submission of their completed application and required supporting documents.  Applicants should check the Applicant Portal for formal notification of the outcome of their application.

Postgraduate open day

Click here for further information on the Postgraduate Open Day.

Enquiries

Please read our PhD applicant Frequently Asked Questions. For any enquiries not covered by the FAQs, you can email us on purephd@maths.cam.ac.uk.