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These questions are answered by our current students. 

If you cannot find the answer to your question here, the Postgraduate Admissions Office have a facility where applicants can chat virtually with current students. They will be student ambassadors from around the University and won't be specific to the Department of Chemistry.  

How did you find progression and "finding your feet" in the first year. I've heard that the first year can often feel quite difficult in terms of feeling like you are making progress. Do you have any tips about this?

The first year can definitely be an adjustment period, but I don’t think this should be a cause for concern. A PhD isn’t all about getting good results – problem solving and learning new skills are also important components; the support provided by your group and by the department helps to makes this period a lot easier. My advice would be to not worry too much about slow progress – the difference in your independence from the beginning to the end of your first year is large and things will start to move quicker as you become more confident.

Please talk about your experience in applying to Cambridge and the challenges you faced in doing so. The timeline you went through: when did you contact the supervisors and how early did you submit your applications before the deadline?

I contacted my supervisor around a month in advance of the deadline and submitted my application around a week before. However, I’m aware that some of the RIGs are doing early interviews this year, so it might be best to submit your application as soon as you can. The application can seem lengthy; just make sure to give yourself enough time to complete the application, as well as ensuring your referees submit their references on time.

Can you tell us more about your interview experience and the initial contact you had with prospective supervisors?

I emailed my supervisor prior to my application, to show motivation and interest in their group for a PhD. It doesn’t have to be a long email, it’s just important to be on their radar. My interview was held in early January for around an hour with my supervisor and another professor. The interview content will depend on the RIG you apply to, but from my experience, it was an academic interview, testing my chemistry knowledge and skills, whilst also discussing my motivation to do a PhD.

What kind of previous research experience did you have before applying for your PhD? How did you decide on/make suggestions for the research proposals for your project?

I had completed a 6-month research project as part of my master’s degree, and then worked in another research lab as a research assistant for a year. For the research proposal/ research interests, I discussed work that interested me from the group I was applying to. In my experience, my supervisor wasn’t expecting a complete research proposal – just to show interest in their work and motivation to do a PhD.

Did you apply for more than one group? If so, how did you make your application specific to each group if they have slightly different research so the application doesn't sound generic?

I only applied to one group, but you can definitely apply to more than one! At the point of applying for a PhD it’s likely that your research interests still remain broad – just make sure to sound interested and enthusiastic about the work from the groups you are applying to.

Do you feel that you have access to a good level of mentorship through the start of your PhD?

I felt really supported throughout my first year and still now. My supervisor is a great mentor and is always on hand if I have any issues. I also had a more senior PhD student within my group as my day-to-day supervisor, which was really helpful. In addition, you are assigned an ‘Academic Mentor’ within the department, who is usually another PI. They are there to support you if you have any issues you would like to discuss and they can also be a helpful person to discuss your PhD work with, to gain an alternative perspective.