Happy Friday everyone!
So since several people have asked me this question, I thought why not do some good and put it in the blog so that others can learn as well. Honestly I thought I have blogged about it before, but after I checked, I just blogged about my interview experience, and nothing on the application process.
So my dear friends, here you go. Oh btw, this is application process for UK universities :)
1. Where do you start? How do you find projects?
There could have been so many different ways, but it's only fair I share what I've experienced. When I started applying early 2011, I did it in two ways.
I came across this useful website, findaphd.com. At first I thought it's an unreliable website, but it turned out pretty reliable. Professors/supervisors will 'advertise' their available projects through the website.
When you get into the website, type in your field of interest, and voila!, there you a list of available projects, together with the supervisors contact details, funding information and other details. Easy peasy lemon squeeeezy!
My second method was to go directly to the university's website, and see if they advertise there. Nottingham doesn't do this, but Manchester does! (I applied to these two only :P) *click picture to see larger image*
It's just an example. Other universities might have different ways to put the projects in their website, so look hard!
2. How do you approach the professors/supervisors? What do you say in your e-mail?
So after you've picked the project you like the most, start e-mailing the professors/supervisors to ask if the available project (on the website) is still available. Give a little bit of background of yourself, mention your interest and then wait for reply.
My very first e-mail to my now supervisor.
The changing of e-mails takes quite sometime because it's the 'sesi suai kenal' between you and your potential supervisor. They will ask so many questions, and hey you should too! You want to spend 3/4 years doing things you like with people you can easily approach, so it's crucial to get your questions, (and theirs) answered. And as you already know, they are busy people, so they don't attend to every e-mails every single day. Patience is the key!
3. What's next?
The process for US and UK application is quite distinct. I think for US, you find the program you like, apply online, interview, and wait for the decision. You don't get to choose your specific project just yet. You'll spend the first 2 years of your PhD doing lab rotations, and the end of that you choose which lab you'd like to work in and work on your project.
For UK, you choose your specific project right away. No lab rotations, you go straight into the lab and start working. That's why PhD in the UK is shorter than in the US.
At some point of your e-mail changing, the professors/supervisors will ask for an interview to be held. Remember, at this point you haven't officially applied to the university yet. More on interview in this entry. After the interview, they will give you sort of verbal confirmation (usually very prompt) that you may now apply through their online system. Then, you wait. Dup dap dup dap dup dap
I hope this helps, if not a lot, just a little tiny bit :P I could go on talking about funding or other related issues, like choosing your supervisor (of course in another entry) if you want me to :)