I receive a large number of enquiries from people who want to conduct a PhD under my supervision. To make it easier for you to find the answers to the most commonly asked questions I have listed these below. Working with PhD students and researchers on cutting edge topics is one of the best parts of my job. These questions are simply meant to help interested PhD students in putting together a competitive application, so please don’t be put off by them. Before you contact me please read and consider the following points:
Are you currently accepting new PhD students?
I want to study for a PhD with you specifically. What should I do?
Firstly you need to be sure that I am the right person to supervise your PhD. There are many talented academics within the School working on a diverse range of topics. My work focuses very broadly on distributed systems topics. Recently I have been engaged with research involving cloud computing, multi-cloud brokerage, workflow, monitoring, linked data, and web services choreography. In order to get a flavour for the sort of research I work on please take a look at some of my latest publications and take a look at my research group’s Web pages.
In particular if you are interested in cloud computing please read the following paper, which explains how academics can work on cloud computing, an area typically dominated by industry.
Do you have any funding?
I typically have no personal funds for PhD students, when I do I will advertise them. The School of Computer Science usually advertises PhD scholarships twice a year. These scholarships are very competitive so you will need to have a strong academic background (demonstrated by previous degrees, experience, maybe even publications) in order to stand a chance. Part funded scholarships (e.g., the School only pays the fees) can also be considered. If you are from outside the EU, note that it will be difficult for me to fund you. So please take the initiative and start investigating sources of funding by yourself.
What should I work on?
In order to apply you will need to agree a research topic with me. Therefore, before you contact me think about particular problems that you would like to work on, and some potential solutions to these problems. I will be far more impressed if you contact me with a draft research proposal, or at least by saying “I want to examine this problem…” rather than “I want to do a PhD – what should it be about?” I will ignore the latter (thanks to Tristan Henderson).
What should I include in my email to you?
Please include an overview of your proposed research topic (see above). It is also useful if you can demonstrate that you are capable of conducting research. So along with your research proposal please include your CV, links to previous papers (if you have any) and projects you have worked on, e.g., code repositories (GitHub etc.). In addition mention you have read these FAQs!
How do I apply?
Once you have agreed a topic with me you will need to write a research proposal, which provides a description of the problem you want to work on, possible (rough) solutions and a brief breakdown of potential tasks along with a timeline. You should mention on your application form that you want me to supervise your research.
You will need to formally apply to the University of St Andrews. Applications can be made online and detail the documents required by the University. Once you have applied your application will make its way to the School of Computer Science and you will be interviewed by at least two members of academic staff. After the interview you will then be accepted or rejected for a PhD place. If you are accepted you will then be considered for funding along with other potential applicants at a panel meeting.
What do you expect of me if I come to St Andrews
A PhD is a wonderful way to spend three years on a dedicated research topic, which specifically interests you, so firstly I expect you to enjoy it! A PhD is a minimum of three years of continuous research, with a write up period. You are expected to make unique contributions to a particular sub-field of Computer Science and enhance knowledge in the area.
If you are my student I would expect you to work typical office hours within the School, and collaborate with other researchers. I run my research group according to agile development principles, and apply Google’s Project Aristotle principles to Team meetings: psychological safety, friendly, open, non-hierarchical.
I typically run a standup or status meeting once a week with students and postdoc(s) – in these meetings everyone reports on what they have worked on last week and what they will work on this week. Longer, more detailed meetings to discuss research are then organised on-demand. Typically I meet my students for on-demand meetings every one to two weeks. I expect my students to publish research papers in leading systems conferences and workshops. Typically I will help write the papers in tandem with the student.
I want to join your research group as a visiting researcher, is this possible?
Yes this is possible and I am happy to accept visitors in order to work with my group. I typically don’t have funds to support your visit but visitors are a great way of fostering collaboration. If you would like to come to St Andrews as a Visiting Researcher please have a think about potential research topics, which we can work on together.
Do you have any postdoctoral positions available?
Sometimes I have postdoctoral positions available. When I do I will advertise them online, typically through jobs.ac.uk.
I look forward to hearing from you