|Introduction||Guidelines for PhD Research and Supervisors|
|You and your Supervisor||Taught Courses|
|Timetable for a PhD||Study Room Allocations|
|English language proficiency||Research Student Travel|
|Log Book||Common Room|
|Research Plan (1st deadline)||Staff/Student Committees|
|Draft Transfer Report (2nd deadline)||Teaching available|
|MPhil to PhD Transfer (3rd deadline)|
|Transfer Report Prizes||Telephones|
|Part-time Students and Timeline||Stationary|
|3rd Year and beyond||Out of Hours Access|
|A Research Community||Safety Information|
Welcome to the Department of Computing. We hope that you will find the next three years studying for your PhD degree stimulating and enjoyable. Research work can form the basis of a very rewarding career and a successful PhD is the ideal way of starting out. Computing is one of the most rapidly developing disciplines with plenty of opportunities for innovative and original work. The Department is pre-eminent in many of the new and exciting areas of development.
The following notes have been put together to assist you in planning and organising your work and to introduce you to the facilities available. We hope you find them useful and that you will be able to play your full part as a member of the academic community. If, at any time, you have any doubts or queries feel free to raise them with the appropriate person.
Any expanding scientific discipline looks to its PhD students to provide a rich source of new ideas. We are sure that you will enjoy your time here and will contribute substantially to this developing subject.
The primary responsibility for organising your research work lies with you. However it is your supervisor's responsibility to guide your research, point you in interesting directions, monitor your progress and generally provide moral and technical support. Supervisors differ in their methods but you should normally expect to see your supervisor at least once a fortnight. Feel free to contact him/her at any time if you have a problem or are unsure how to proceed.
You will find that you can obtain the most benefit from meetings with your supervisor if you prepare some material for him/her to read or formulate some specific questions you would like to discuss. Early on in your career as a PhD student your supervisor should appoint a second supervisor. Please remind them to do so. The role of the second supervisor is to give help when your supervisor is unavailable and generally to keep in touch with your progress.
PhD students are a vital part of a flourishing research community. You should do your best to participate as fully as possible in the academic life of the Department. You will find that informal discussions with your colleagues play a large part in your education.
You should work hard to build up a good relationship with your supervisor but it may happen that you find it impossible to work with him/her. Or your research may lead you into avenues that are outside your supervisor's areas of interest. In such circumstances a change of supervisor is appropriate and can be arranged. Discuss it first with your supervisor if you can, and then involve the Postgraduate Tutors and any other potential new supervisors.
It is difficult to set out a fixed timetable for PhD work, as there are so many variables involved but however it is structured; it is essential that some planned programme of work be followed. Failure to complete a PhD is often not due to lack of talent, but more to do with a failure to plan work sensibly and tackle the more mundane activities, such as writing up.
The Department and College impose certain formal milestones, which are outlined here, but much self discipline and monitoring is required if the work is not to drag on past the allotted three years. The Department of Computing strongly advises students to plan for a three year PhD and only under extremely exceptional circumstances should it go beyond that time. By three years we include the writing up period. Should you be worried about your progress, talk to your supervisors or the Postgraduate Tutor.
The formal time-line for reporting can be found here. However, the general PhD timetable is as follows:
· Familiarisation with the research area, reading papers, identifying problem areas, formulating tentative solutions/advances.
· At the end of your first year you should have identified quite closely the area you wish to work in and have developed some ideas on which your thesis could be based.
· Carrying out the bulk of your research or innovative work. Developing solutions, establishing primary results, writing implementations or applications. Drafting substantial parts of your thesis.
· By the middle of your second year you should know what your thesis will contain and be able to draw up a plan for the remaining time that will demonstrate that you can complete everything, including writing up, by the end of your third year.
· Completing your research and writing up. Even if you have been very successful in accumulating material the final production of your thesis is going to need at least four months of dedicated effort.
· Writing up your thesis is a substantial task. It always takes longer than you imagine and can be a daunting and depressing activity if you leave it all to the last moment. It is vitally important that you get into the habit of writing things down as you go along. This will help to clarify and communicate your ideas and build up a file of material that can be incorporated into your final thesis. If you enter the third year without such a source your chances of successfully writing up are very low. You will find that once you start to try and write down ideas you thought were fully worked out, clarification or expansion is required; the sooner you discover this the better.
The Department and the College are coming under more and more external pressure to ensure that PhDs are completed in their allotted time. Failure to meet these deadlines, more and more, brings financial and research rating penalties to the Department. It is inevitable that some of this pressure will be reflected on to you. For these and many other reasons there is a formal review procedure for all research students. The milestones are listed below in more or less chronological order. For EPSRC-funded students the College has an obligation to report annually to EPSRC on progress. The studentship can be withdrawn if that report is not satisfactory.
Standard procedure in the College is that research students register initially for the MPhil degree (and Diploma of Imperial College, DIC). Research for this qualification must be completed within 15 months, however in the Department of Computing we transfer between 9-12 months. The minimum period of study is 24 months.
The majority of research students will wish to progress to the PhD degree, PhD registration is automatically backdated to the date of initial registration for the MPhil degree. There are two formal review points for all research students. The first takes place in the first year, approximately nine months after initial registration and concerns the preparation of a Draft Transfer report and viva examination. If successful, this automatically leads to the second and is the formal MPhil/PhD transfer. Each student is allocated a team of reviewers consisting of the supervisor, the second supervisor, an independent assessor, and another members of the academic and research staff to oversee 'fair play'. All students submit a written report and deliver a twenty-minute oral presentation ('seminar') with 10 minutes for questions. The seminars are open to all members of the Department.
Aims of the reviews are:
Receipt of progress reports is logged by the Department and filed in the student's records. Students who fail to submit such reports, without good cause, will be reported to the Head of Department and will receive a formal warning. Students who repeatedly fail to submit reports, or who consistently fail to meet other prescribed deadlines, will be required to withdraw.
Please note. Since September 2003, full-time research students failing to submit within 48(72) months of registration should not be permitted to enter the research degree examination. The examination has to be effected (form of entry submitted) no later than 40(68) months after initial registration and preferably earlier or you may be refused submission.
All students are required by the College to have a Mentor. This person cannot be involved in the assessment of the student and so cannot be on the Assessment Team (see later). Therefore Heads of Sections will be the mentors for students within that section. Where the Head of Section is your PhD supervisor, he/she will allocate a further person within the section as Mentor for his/her PhD students. Please discuss this with your Supervisor at your initial meeting. There will be no requirements for the student and mentor to meet unless initiated by the student. Furthermore, he PhD Tutor and Deputy remain available to the students should they require advice.
From October 1998, all students whose native language is not English will be required to take a compulsory test devised by the English Language Support Programme. Depending on their performance, they may be asked to take some further courses in English. This is for your benefit and free. Students who have a UK undergraduate degree are exempt from this as is a number of other students. Special cases can be made to the PG Tutor via the PG Administrator.
Students are required to keep a log book of major activities. There are no prescribed formats and the student can use anything reliable from a blog to a good notebook (this a suggested format - but you know best). As of 2003 the QAA recommended that all research students keep log books (see QAA section 17). In the Department of Computing we advise that you keep an 'event based' log rather than a dairy so that its maintenance is lightweight. The log book is a good way to keep track of supervisor meetings especially recommendations and actions that were agreed. It also allows you to see your progress as you tick off your 'To Do' lists accordingly.
At this point you may decide which bibliography system you may use e.g. bibtex, endnote etc. Your supervisor will advise you, also speak to other students to see what they found to be the best mechanism.
All research students are required by the College to draw up and agree a formal research plan with their supervisors within the first three months of registration (aka 3-month report). Forms for this are DOC1 and can be found at: pdf, word.
With this form, all first-year research students, part-time as well as full-time, must submit to the Postgraduate Tutor, via the PG Administrator, a short (minimum of two pages) project description defining the project's working title, objectives, research plan and milestones. This document should be prepared by the student and signed by the supervisor.
This is a short report to ensure you and your supervisor are engaging in an initial programme of work. It also allows the PhD Tutor to monitor your initial study. This report asks you to calculate your current month. Most students will have begun their programme in either October or April please keep in mind your current month (minus any formally agreed breaks such as interruption of studies, internships etc) as many of your formal deadlines are dependant on that.
Submission of this report either deadlines in December for April starters or June for October starters. During this time the student will have to present their work and be questioned on this. The talk will take 20 minutes plus 10 minutes questions. The first-year report should be written specifically for the purpose. There are no fixed limits on length but a report should not normally exceed about 30 pages. You may use any papers and technical reports you have developed over the year to develop the document. The supervisor will offer advice on content and structure. The report will normally include [most of] the following:
Examiners are well aware that results at this stage will be limited and ideas still at a preliminary stage. Students should not defer submission of the report because of a lack of results or because they have a paper deadline!!! Submit your report with the DOC1 form signed by your supervisors. They can be got from pdf, word.
Furthermore, your talk should consist of the following:
Your target audience should be DoC staff and the other Ph.D. students. Therefore, part of the presentation should be at a level accessible to a computing graduate. On the other hand, you should not hesitate to include a technical part, which might require specialist knowledge. You should expect to be asked lots of questions; about the choices you have made, related work, alternatives etc. You should also make sure that your talk does not exceed 20 minutes. Examiners are well aware that results at this stage will be limited and ideas still at a early stage.
Each student is allocated an Assessment Team at this time. This consists of the two supervisors, an ‘Internal’ (subject-expert typically drawn from the student’s research group) and a 'Neutral' person which can be any member of staff in the department. The latter’s responsibility is to ensure fair-play in the student’s assessment. Your mentor cannot be part of the Assessment Team. You should discuss the assignment of your Assessment Team with your Supervisor no later than month 7 so that all is ready for your viva.
The outcome of this ‘viva’ can be one of three basic recommendations:
The Assessment Team must list and feedback the recommendations to the Postgraduate Tutor, via the PG Administrator, within a week of the viva and this will be returned to you asap after that.
At 11 months (i.e. February and August) the reports will be recollected depending on the recommendations issued by the Assessment Team thus:
The Hilfred Chau Memorial Prize is awarded annually for the best MPhil/PhD transfer report. In order to recommend transfer to PhD registration, the examiners will need to be satisfied that you:
The transfer process is not intended to divert you from active research work. You should regard it as a natural part of the process and a milestone to help plan your work.
Part-time students are also required to submit the same 3-month progress report as full-time. Dates for Draft Transfer and actual MPhil/PhD transfer examination, and submission of thesis depend on weather or not your are a full-time Research Assistant or not. General guide is to double the first year deadlines. The Department of Computing assumes all RAs are registered as part-time PhD students. Where there is an 80%+ overlap between the RA work and PhD work you may wish to register as a full-time PhD student (you may wish to submit your thesis earlier for example). In this case your deadlines/milestones are much earlier than for part-time RAs (see main PhD page). However all part-time students must carry out a periodic report (DOC1) at the beginning of each academic year which is accessed by their Assessment Team and sent to PhD Tutor for review. The part-timer/RA time-line for reporting can be found here
During the first month of a student’s third year (October/April) you will be asked to submit a finalisation report. You are encouraged to do a presentation which can be open to the Department and is good for new PhD students to attend. Discuss this with your Supervisor as they organise these themselves with help from the PhD Administrator. The PhD Tutor and/or Deputy do not need to attend this but will view the report and the Supervisors’ comments regarding the report’s quality etc. The report consists of a cover form that can be obtained from the phd page (DOC2) and a snapshot of your thesis at this time. Please note this snapshot is expected to be in thesis format; papers (published or other) are NOT acceptable as a snapshot substitute.
Students who continue beyond the third year will be required to fill in a periodic report (DOC1) and attach their current draft of their Thesis. This will be examined by the Assessment Team (for Oct 06 starters and beyond) and problem students highlighted to the PhD Tutor.
All periods of absence from the College due to illness or for other reasons must be reported immediately. An application will be made to the Registry for approval of interruption of studies, with a case for a corresponding extension to the length of any scholarship or other supporting award. Any periods of study away from the College must also be recorded officially and in advance.
Periods of interruption of studies officially authorised through the Registry at the correct time will be taken into consideration in determining the deadline for submission of the thesis and dates for reviews.
All relevant forms are available from the phd page and Postgraduate Students Office.
One of your supervisor's roles is to offer help and support when you run into academic, personal or financial difficulties. You might also consider discussing such problems with the Postgraduate Tutors. Please note that the College provides a wide range of Health and Welfare services. Do not hesitate to make use of these. See notice boards for details. The Postgraduate Tutors will try to help and advise on any matter. Please feel free to see them.
If you prefer to discuss a problem with someone outside the Department then you should consider approaching the Registrar, Mr P.Mee, Sherfield Building, or the Student Counsellor, Mr D. Allman, 15 Prince's Gardens, Tel. 49430 or one of the College Tutors, Dr Gareth Jones, Blackett Lab, Physics, room 525, Tel 47805 or Dr Margaret Goodgame, Chemistry Dept, room 238, Tel 45722.
Research is a social activity. You will learn more by talking with people working in your area and attending seminars than you will by reading papers in isolation. Many of the best ideas spring from casual conversations or accidental meetings. The Department has several active groups that are well over the 'critical mass'. Furthermore, there are two Fiestas PhD students per year, and a 'Cakes' day in the 5th floor Common Room per week so that all students can to come together socially, discuss life and the universe and make friends.
There are frequent informal seminars to complement the official departmental seminars held mostly on Wednesday afternoons. These seminars are announced by email, and on the Department's WWW pages. As a PhD student you are entitled to attend these seminars and use any departmental facilities such as the Common Room. Try and maximise the opportunities this offers.
As well as attending seminars you should be prepared to give some. Most of the research group seminars are pitched at a very informal level to encourage the early dissemination and discussion of ideas. The sooner you get used to exposing your ideas to others the better; you will find the audiences sympathetic and constructive and it is always better to find holes in your arguments sooner rather than later.
Descriptions of the Department's research structure, listings of current research groupings, and staff research profiles may be found on the Department's WWW pages.
The following notes for PhD students and their supervisors were produced by Roberto Cipolla, Engineering Lab., University of Cambridge. They are reproduced here verbatim, with references to the University of Cambridge replaced by references to the University of London.
The University of London sets out the requirements of the PhD dissertation as follows:
"A thesis for the PhD must form a distinct contribution to the knowledge of the subject and afford evidence of originality shown by the discovery of new facts and/or by the exercise of independent critical power. A full bibliography and references will be required."
To achieve the PhD degree it is necessary to demonstrate that you have mastered the skills necessary to carry out research to professional standards. The point of the PhD is not to demonstrate your brilliance (although this might also occur), but to demonstrate that you have mastered a set of research skills.
Professional research standards means:
You have something to say: i.e. you are able to present a coherent argument and can tell a story that your worldwide peer group is interested to hear (the thesis).You are able to evaluate the worth of what others are doing.
Literature surveys should demonstrate that you have the maturity, critical and analytical skills to compare your work to previous and contemporary research and to point out the limitations.
You have the astuteness to discover where to make a contribution and the ability to evaluate and re-evaluate your contribution.
You can communicate effectively to the worldwide peer group by writing clear, precise, logical conference and journal articles and making presentations at international conferences, workshops and seminars. You can demonstrate the importance/interest of your research to expert and non-expert visitors.
You have mastered the appropriate experimental, mathematical and computational research skills. You are able to conduct literature searches, review conference and journal submissions.
You are able to formulate plans to meet short-term and long-term goals. You are able to meet deadlines. Professional means that you have the determination and application to work to the conclusion of what you set out to do. Plans and goals will of course change but make sure you address the underlying reasons.
The PhD dissertation aims to allow the examiners to judge whether the candidate has met the above requirements. It should not be a record of all of the student's work in the department. The dissertation should be structured to include:
Effective communication skills require the student to be able to write concisely, logically and in grammatical English. These skills are developed by reading journal articles and in discussion with colleagues. You are also encouraged to read as widely as possible outside your discipline and to discuss your research ideas with friends and non-experts. Illustrations can lead to dramatic improvements in the effectiveness of papers.
Currently, you are entitled to attend any lecture. This is a great opportunity and you should continue your education by taking advantage of it. Of particular interest to PhD students will be the Department's MSc in Advanced Computing. The topics covered in this represent the frontiers of work in the relevant areas and provide an ideal introduction for your research. Discuss with your supervisor which courses you should attend. Course syllabuses, readings lists and timetables are published in the Department's WWW pages. Classes are normally held between 09.00 and 18.00 except for Wednesday afternoons. If you plan to attend any lectures it is courteous to ask the lecturer beforehand as space and availability of handouts may be limited.
As a research student you will be allocated a working space in a room shared with other research students. When you arrive you will be told where this will be. Office keys are obtainable from the Department General Office . A deposit is urually required.
It is Departmental policy that all research students have, at the very least, their own PC or terminal, with appropriate word-processing software, access to printers, archive and back-up facilities, email, and networks. Most students will have access to more sophisticated computing equipment in addition, as required by the nature of their research. Research students may also borrow laptops and portable computers from the Department. If you want to learn about our Department's Computing Support, or if you have problems with hardware or software, you should contact Computing Support, preferably by mailing help. Any emails are logged and you should be able to follow the progress of faults.
If you have a computer and Internet at home it is possible to connect to the computers; see the CSGabout how to do this.
Much useful information can be accessed via either the Department or the College webpages. Most information is disseminated by email: there are mailing lists for PhD-list, academic-list, all-students etc and research groups also maintain lists. You should check your email regularly, as important things may turn up.
All research students are entitled to a certain amount of photocopying, either in the department or in the central library. For photocopies in the library, students can ask for a "pink form" from the library, and hand it to the Departmental Financial Officer 9room 438) to authorise. The department will not refund you for cards directly bought from the library.
The Department sets aside funds specifically
for the support of research student travel. Priority is given to students who
are presenting papers at international conferences and workshops.
Approval must be obtained before the trip.
In order to allow the department to support as many student trips as possible, PhD students must try to minimize costs. Therefore, PhD students are expected to:
· investigate the possibility of cheaper flights
Research students in the Department of Computing are entitled to use the Maths/Computing common room in the Huxley Building (fifth floor). It is open from 8.30 to 5.30 and serves tea, coffee, sandwiches etc. There is a microwave oven you can use. To be just that little bit more eco-friendly bring your own mug.
The PhD Committee is the forum for general discussion of issues that affect the research students. It consists of the the Postgraduate Tutor, the PhD Admissions Tutor, the Deputy Postgraduate Tutor, and the representative elected by the research students. It meets informally at least once a term, and more frequently on demand.
The PhD Committee is not the appropriate forum to raise or solve specific problems affecting one or two individuals. It is the place to discuss persistent or widespread problems, or general points that affect all students. Positive suggestions are welcome naturally. Approach any member of the Committee, or send an email message, if there is an issue you would like to raise.
Many research students undertake teaching work, largely tutorial support, marking and helping in lab sessions.
Students must provide both their term-time and home addresses upon registration at the start of each academic session. It is essential that any subsequent changes of address are notified to both the Registry and the departmental admissions secretary immediately. Change of address forms are available from the admissions secretary, room 437.
You must read your electronic mail (email) every day. This is the normal means of informing you of changes to the PhD program, deadlines etc.
Research students' mail is put in pigeonholes in room 439. All student mail should be addressed as follows:
PhD student or Research Assistant --- whichever is applicable
Department of Computing
180 Queens Gate
London SW7 2AZ
The address MUST contain the designation "PhD Student" (or "Research Assistant"); otherwise post may be delivered to the wrong pigeonholes. Students should check their pigeon holes daily.
All research student offices have telephones that can dial internal numbers (see the department phone list or the somewhat inaccurate college directory). Please tell Anne O'Neill if your phone number (or office) changes. Most offices also have a phone that can dial external local calls: dial 7 for personal calls and 9 for work related calls to get an outside line. If personal calls come to more than about 5 pounds a month your office will get a bill (this rarely happens). If you want to dial long distance from the college phone network, you can get a calling card and you will be billed. If you can work out the access codes you might also be able to call other UK universities directly too, and do all sorts of complex things such as call diversion.
For someone outside to dial in prefix the extension number with (0207) 59, for example 48251 is 0207 594 8251. This only works with extensions starting with 4. The dialling code for the UK is 44.
You can get any stationary that you require from the General Office (438), such as overhead projector slides and pens, hanging files and so on.
Normal College hours are between 08.30 and 18.00, Monday to Friday. The times outside these hours are known as 'out of hours' periods. Students are permitted to work (not eat, play or sleep!!) in some parts of the Huxley Building for parts of the out of hours periods. Entry to the building will not be permitted after 22.00 and all students must leave the building by 23.00. All students must carry their swipe card to be allowed out of hours access. The Security Guards hold a list of groups of students showing for which rooms and times out of hours access is permitted.
When using the Huxley Building out of hours, you must
If you wish to stay in the department after 11pm (or before 8am), you need to get your swipe card authorised. The General Office does this and you need your supervisor's signature. Many rooms have security keypads, which are set at weekends: get the number from someone else in your room or the General Office. You should also have a key to the research student rooms on your floor (which also opens lecture theatres and seminar rooms), which you also get from the General Office, after a deposit of £5.
Everyone in the department is required to have an identity card. Members of staff in the Security Section will take photographs for these. Please see the Admissions Secretary for details. You will also need to have the identity card before you can register with the College library.
The Imperial College lending and reference library is the Central and Science Museum Libraries where you will find copies of recommended texts and journals. Once you have registered with the libraries, you may borrow items there and then. When registering as a borrower, please take your swipe card, as proof of identity is required. In addition, there is the Haldane Collection on Level 1, which has fiction and general non-fiction books, newspapers, magazines, and music CDs and cassettes. Information about the library, opening hours, can be found from the library's web page.
Located on Level 3, East, is the Computing Collection. This collection holds books, conference proceedings, periodicals, and reports in the subject of computer science and multiple copies of your textbooks. The Computing Collection staff is there to help you make the best use of the Central and Science Museum Libraries' resources. The librarian welcomes suggestions for new books. in the Huxley building, on the fourth floor.
The general safety policy of the department is described here. Specific points concerning safety in the computer areas will be covered in the lectures associated with the laboratory.
Fire Alarm Signals
The General alarm signal is a continuous ringing of the fire alarm bells This is a signal that the Huxley Building should be evacuated immediately.
On leaving the building keep clear of the exits to avoid impeding the fire brigade. Report to the assembly point, which is outside the main entrance in Queen's Gate, but well away from the entrance. Do not re-enter the building until you are told it is safe to do so.
If you discover a fire
Give the alarm immediately by breaking the glass in a corridor or room fire alarm. This will sound the alert signal. If you are unable to set off an alarm ring 4444 (four digit emergency number). If you hear talking on the line decide whether the same emergency is being reported, if not, interrupt with details of the emergency
Try to extinguish the fire by using the nearest extinguisher or hose reel but do not take any personal risks.
Shut all doors, and if possible, the windows, of the room in which the fire is discovered. This will prevent draughts and reduce the risk of the fire spreading.
Telephone the Messenger/Security Guard (58907 or 4444) or go to the main entrance and give him/her the details. The Messenger/Security Guard will call the Fire Brigade to the Huxley Building.
Green ‘Fire Escape’ signs posted in the building mark escape routes. These are not always at the bottom of the stairwells (for instance it is necessary to exit at level 2 for the main stairs in Huxley). It is important that you are aware of the escape routes near the place you are working so check these whenever you move your workplace, before any emergency occurs.
Remember NOT to use lifts in emergencies - the power may be cut off abruptly. In addition, short-circuits can cause lifts to stop at the level of a fire.
There are Department of Computing Fire Wardens on levels 2, 3, 4 and 5. When an ALERT signal sounds it is the duty of the fire warden to check their area, then action should be taken as described above. When the GENERAL ALARM sounds, it is the duty of the fire warden to ensure that the area for which they are responsible is vacated and that all persons in the area make their way out of the building by means of the nearest escape route. In level 1 lecture theatres the lecturer has the responsibilities of the fire warden.
If a Fire Warden instructs you to evacuate, you should follow their instructions quickly and quietly, even if there is no other warning.
From time to time a fire drill will be organised. Please follow the standard procedures for evacuating the building.
In the event of an accident or sudden illness, call a first-aider. The location of the nearest first-aider is shown on green notices on each floor or your can contact the College Health Service on tel. 49400 during normal hours (Monday to Friday, 09.00 to 17.00, except when the College is closed). Give emergency details. If this fails dial 4444 and ask for an ambulance.
In the event of a bomb warning, the evacuation signal may or may not be used. Security staff will have been alerted to ensure that sensible exit routes are used and you should follow their instructions. You are advised to stay clear of the campus for at least one hour after the alarm. Any assembly point could itself be the location of the bomb.