Graduate Life

Our graduate students are the lifeblood of our research groups, providing ideas, manpower and enthusiasm.  Graduate projects frequently result in publications, often first-author papers in prestigious journals.  Graduates are encouraged to expand their academic networks by attending departmental seminars, group talks, and brown bag lunches, by collaborating with other departments in the University, and by attending international meetings and conferences.

Graduates share offices in the department, usually with students from different research groups, at different stages of their DPhil, allowing for cross-pollination of ideas and ensuring that the whole graduate community is cohesive and close-knit.  Our first year graduates run the weekly Happy Hour bar, and are responsible for departmental events such as the Graduate Mini-Conference in January, and the Christmas Party which all staff and students attend.  Staff and students also meet at 11am every morning for coffee in the common room.

Graduates benefit from close contact with their project supervisor(s) and it is expected that you will have at least two substantial supervision sessions each term .  They also choose a mentor who can provide additional support.  The Academic Administration Office provides support for the key milestones during the DPhil, and some research groups also have access to an administrator to assist with things like travel arrangements for fieldwork and conferences.  Within the department, graduate students are eligible to apply to the Burdett-Coutts Fund, which supports fieldwork and conference travel.

Employment can be found within the department by tutoring undergraduates or working in practicals as demonstrators.  Demonstrators are also required for the undergraduate field teaching programme, which offers trips to Scotland, Wales, Spain, Greece, and Bermuda.  There are also plenty of volunteering opportunities within the department’s outreach programme, either by going out to local schools, providing demonstrations for groups visiting the department or helping out at the Museum of Natural History.

Lucy Kissick, a former graduate student on the DTP programme, talks about opportunities and challenges for graduate students in her YouTube Channel ‘The PhDiaries’:

Milestones in the career of a research student

Further details can be found in Earth Sciences’ Graduate Handbook, but a summary of the key stages in the graduate student career are detailed below.

Transfer of Status

Research students are registered as Probationary Research Students (PRS) for the first year of study, after which they must apply to transfer their status to either Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) or Master of Sciences by Research (MSc(R)). In most cases students will apply for Transfer of Status during the fourth term of study (usually Michaelmas Term of the second year), and will then give an oral presentation and attend an interview with a departmental panel.

Following the interviews students will receive feedback from their assessors to give an indication of areas for possible further study and development.

Confirmation of Status

All DPhil students must apply for Confirmation of Status before they submit their thesis for examination. Confirmation of Status is intended to provide a check that their work on the thesis continues to develop and progress satisfactorily.  In most cases students will apply for Confirmation of Status during the seventh term of study (usually Michaelmas Term of the third year).  Each student will give an oral presentation about their research and will produce a poster to communicate their research to the wider department.  An interview based on a progress report, the poster, and the oral presentation also forms part of the Confirmation process.

Following the interviews students will again receive feedback from their assessors.

Viva voce

After a thesis has been submitted, there will be an oral examination (viva voce) that typically lasts between 2-4 hours. Students are typically examined by one internal and one external examiner.  After the viva, the examiners will submit a report and make a recommendation on the outcome of the examination which is considered by the Board.  The examiners have a choice of several predetermined outcomes that can include corrections being required before leave to supplicate is recommended and granted.

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