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Course Structure

The structure of the programme.

The first year of the CDT is a materials modelling option within the MPhil in Scientific Computing (link opens in a new window) at the University of Cambridge and a range of additional training elements. 

The main aim of the first year is to provide education in Computational Methods for Materials Science of the highest quality at a graduate level, and so produce graduates of the calibre suitable for entering our PhD programme, who will be highly sought by industry, the professions, and the public service. It will also provide training for the academic researchers and teachers of the future and to encourage and pursue research of the highest quality in Computational Methods for Materials Science.

The MPhil is administered by the Department of Physics, but it serves the training needs of the Schools of Physical Sciences, Technology and Biological Sciences. The ability to have a single Master’s course for such a broad range of disciplines and applications is achieved by offering core (i.e. common for all students) numerical and High Performance Computing (HPC) lecture courses, and complementing them with elective courses relevant to the specific discipline applications.

In this way, it is possible to generate a bespoke training portfolio for each student without losing the benefits of a cohort training approach. This bespoke course is fully flexible in allowing each student to liaise with their academic or industrial supervisor to choose a study area of mutual interest.

An indication of the success of the MPhil in Scientific computing is that all of its past graduates to-date have been offered fully-funded PhD placements in this University and elsewhere.

In addition to the comprehensive set of Masters-level courses provided by the MPhil and across the University in the field, which will be available to the CDT students, it will also be possible for students to take supplementary courses (not for examination) at undergraduate level, where a specific need is identified, in order to ensure that any prerequisite knowledge for the Masters courses is in place.

Moreover, depending on their background and circumstances, students may be offered places in the EPSRC-funded Autumn Academy, which takes place just before the start of the academic year (two weeks in September).

By the end of the course, students will have:

  • a comprehensive understanding of numerical methods, and a thorough knowledge of the literature, applicable to their own research;
  • demonstrated originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field;
  • shown abilities in the critical evaluation of current research and research techniques and methodologies;
  • demonstrated self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and acted autonomously in the planning and implementation of research.

The final three years consist of a PhD research project, with student-led choice of projects from a large pool contributed by researchers associated with the CDT. However, there is a check point at the end of the MPhil whether students continue for PhD studies. In line with the arrangements of our existing programme, if the student gains a Distinction (i.e. an average grade greater than 75%), admission to the PhD programme is guaranteed. If, however, they are graded between 60% and 74%, their case will be reviewed by the CDT Academic Committee on a case-by-case basis. Grades less than 60% will not qualify for the PhD programme.

Based on their first year training and the outcome of examinations, the students will then choose a research project to continue a PhD from the start of the second year. This project may be based on the same topic as the preceding placement/project, or it may be different.

At the end of their second year (first year of PhD programme), students must submit a Certificate of Postgraduate Study (CPGS) dissertation (10,000 words) describing their progress, which is examined by two academics not directly associated with the project, who make a recommendation to the Board of Graduate Studies about whether the student should be allowed to continue with the PhD.

At the end of the third year (second year of PhD), participating Departments in CDT usually impose a requirement for student to present their research, either orally or by making a poster. Students will be encouraged to use these as a basis for making presentations at international conferences, such as one of the Materials Research Society or American Physical/Chemical Society meetings.