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Kathryn Dodds

When did you start thinking about doing a PhD?

Probably the summer between third and fourth year when I was doing my Pt III Project at UCSC, California. Really enjoyed what I was doing and had not really found anything through careers' events etc that I thought I'd prefer doing. Spoke to my DoS about it and decided to see what projects were being advertised this year and see if there was one that I knew that I'd 100% want to do. If there hadn't been anything this year, I was going to take a year out after graduating then apply to the States (probably to my Pt III supervisor) as well as taking another look at the UK unis.

Where did you apply, and why did you apply there? How did you go about applying?

Cambridge and Imperial. Was also considering applying to the States but because applying for a PhD was quite a late decision, did not have time to take the GRE this year before US applications were due (late Nov/early Dec).

Cambridge - applied for a project called "The evolution of the early solar system and early Earth inferred from paleomagnetism" with Rich Harrison and James Bryson. I met with them both a few times throughout Mich to discuss the project and found these discussions really interesting. It was a very open project proposal and the group they're part of is pretty impressive. Application is through the university grad admissions system - they want a CV and a transcript. Easiest (and cheapest) way to get your transcript is to ask your college tutorial office for one and then they give you one with an official-looking stamp as well. The NERC ESS DTP website (which is the funding you'll be applying for) gives good advice for what to put in each of the sections (there are sections on what research you'll be doing, any research experience, future career goals, etc).

Imperial - applied for a project called "Can early solar nebular magnetic fields be recorded through impacts?" with Adrian Muxworthy. Skyped him to talk about the project and decided I wanted to apply for it. Slightly different application process - you apply to the department instead of a DTP. Website is less clear on what funding you should be applying for so I just put down everything and let them sort that out. Again, CV and transcript but they also wanted proof of an English qualification. I gave them my IB transcript but GCSE or equivalent is fine. Had to write a personal statement as well, which was nearly as much fun as it was the first time for UCAS...

What prep did you do for the interview(s)?

Made sure I'd done the primary reading for the projects, revised the relevant material we'd had lectures on up until this point, and looked over my Pt III project as they will ask you about this in interviews - made sure I was confident to explain what I did in this to a non-specialist. Also did a bit of reading around the subject.

What were the interview(s) like?

Imperial - one 25 min interview with a panel of two - head of grad admissions and a geodynamicist. Questions on why I wanted to do a PhD and why the project I'd applied to. They asked me to explain my Pt III project and then asked questions about that, including about the coding I had done for it. The department also organised lunch with everyone there for an interview with some current PhDs. We also got a tour around the department and campus and I met with my potential supervisor after the interview to talk about the project.

Cambridge - met with potential supervisors first for a discussion of the project. This sort of turned into a supervision and discussing more theoretical aspects of dynamo generation in asteroids. Enjoyed this. Then 25 min interview with a panel of three (Alex Copley, Helen Williams and Teal Riley from BAS). Who's on the panel depends on what you're applying for so climate and paleontology things have different panels. Questions about my Pt III project and the PhD project I was applying for. Questions were definitely harder than Imperial and much more academic. They also asked about how I had made an input to where the research for my Pt III project had gone as well as things like the relevance of the project to Earth Sciences as a whole and the risks involved in it.

When did you hear back from the interview(s)? When did you accept your offer?

Imperial - two days after interview.

Cambridge - following week.

So I had the Imperial interview a week before Cambridge and they gave me all of 8 days to make a decision (as a point, unis are not meant to pressure you into accepting/declining an offer). I asked if I could have until I heard back from Cambridge (basically another week) but they did not reply so I 'accepted' their offer initially so I didn't have to gamble anything on the outcome of my Cambridge interview. Got the Cambridge offer, accepted that shortly afterwards and wrote to Imperial to pull out of theirs, explaining why I was pulling out and why I had felt compelled to accept in the first place.

Example documents


Imperial personal statement

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