On undertaking a PhD under my supervision

I am frequently contacted by students interested in doing a PhD, therefore I thought it may be worth clarifying a few things. This should help potential candidates prepare a good application, while understanding why some never receive a reply –it’s likely not #3 as in the PhDcomics cartoon below.


If you came across a PhD opening under my supervision through various websites, mailing lists, or adverts posted by the University of Edinburgh on social media, this means there is some funding available in the School of Informatics and a rigorous selection process has been put in place. Read the adverts carefully, check the eligibility criteria, and  prepare a CV and a clear research proposal. You should be able to learn a little about my research through my website, but I also need to understand your background, your research interests, and how you plan to pursue these, in order to be able to work together. Therefore, you should send:

  • An up-to-date CV;
  • A research proposal;
  • Copies of your academic transcripts;
  • The names and contact details of two referees.

If you are unable to provide the above information, I will not respond to your email. The same holds if you have your own funding, but do not send me these details.

Likewise, if you plan to pursue a PhD in an area that is only marginally related to my research or you are applying to multiple universities, but did not take the time to write a brief enquiry email that is addressed to me instead of someone else, you will not receive a response. I cannot supervise on topics on which I have limited expertise, while if you aspire to study at an university that is not Edinburgh, you should apply there.

We do not offer feedback to unsuccessful candidates who have not been invited for an interview. However, you will receive a notification email to let you know of the outcome of the first stage screening.

You should avoid the following things, which certainly will not help you build a stronger case:

  • Do not send reference letters. We will contact your referees as appropriate;
  • Do not send copies of your MSc thesis or publications you co-authored, unless we have explicitly asked for such documents;
  • Do not send me an excessive number of emails if you did not receive a response. Make sure there is an opening (or you have your own funding) and you fulfil the eligibility criteria.

If it turns out you are the best candidate for the post, it is very likely that you will receive an offer. I appreciate if you respond to offers promptly, to ensure other candidates can benefit from the available funding, should you change your mind.

Best of luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *