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Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit

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Frequently Asked Questions

What qualifications do I need for admission to your programme?  Do I need a Master’s degree?

Minimally, entry to UCL requires a relevant first degree awarded with first or upper second-class Honours or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard. Where the US/Canadian marking scheme is used, a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.3 is required. As entry to our programme is highly competitive, successful applicants have typically achieved higher marks than indicated by UCL’s minimum requirements. Many applicants to our programme will have a Master’s degree, but this is not essential. Each application is assessed on its individual merits.

How strong should my mathematical foundation be? 

Our research relies heavily on mathematical analysis, so a solid foundation in mathematics is essential. Successful applicants usually have first degrees in mathematics, physics, electrical engineering or similar fields, but some may have demonstrated their analytic skills by undertaking a mathematically intensive research project.

What should my research statement include?

You should identify one or more problems of interest in machine learning and/or neuroscience, explain why you find them interesting, why you think they are important, and how they align with research in the Unit. We are not looking for a detailed project proposal — your thesis project will be developed in consultation with your supervisor towards the end of the first year of your PhD — nor do we hold anyone to the areas identified in their statements if they join us. The statement is to help us gauge your motivation and evaluate the depth of your thought about problems in machine learning and/or neuroscience.

Can I substitute employer references for academic references?

Academic references are more useful to us than employer references and are thus more beneficial to your application. We ask the referees very specific questions and to assess your intellectual capability in relation to typical PhD students in their departments. Academic excellence is a key component of our shortlisting process. References are required as testament to academic excellence.

My transcripts are not available in electronic format. Can I send these by post?

Please scan and upload them. If this is not possible, you may post them, but please contact admissions@gatsby.ucl.ac.uk in advance to let us know. Posted documents must reach us by the submissions deadline.

Do I need to apply to the UCL Registry at the same time as applying to the Gatsby Unit?

No. Initially, you need to apply only to the Gatsby Unit.  If offered a place on our programme, you would then need to seek formal admission through the UCL Registry. At the formal UCL admission stage, all candidates will require official transcripts (in English) and international students will need to meet and provide evidence of meeting UCL’s English language proficiency requirements. Translations of transcripts must be verified by the issuing university, a solicitor or official translation service (e.g., the British Council service) and must be accompanied by a certified copy in the original language. See here for detailed information on application and entry to UCL, including UCL’s entrance requirements and information for international applicants.

To be admitted, do I need to attend interview?

Yes. We do not admit students without interview. If you require a visa to travel to the UK we will provide the necessary documentation and reimburse any fees, and we will accommodate any delays that are outside your control.

It is as important for you to meet us as it is for us to interview you.

If I am invited for an interview, do you provide assistance with travel costs?

Yes. We will reimburse (against evidence of expenditure) reasonable travel costs based on economy air/rail travel and airport/station transfers. We will arrange hotel accommodation and contribute to subsistence costs. We provide this assistance for all shortlisted candidates irrespective of the distance to be travelled.

When can I expect a response to my application?

We start reviewing applications as soon as our submission deadline is passed. We expect to contact all candidates no later than late January.

What does a Gatsby Unit studentship provide?

Our studentships cover UCL tuition fees (at either the home or international fee rate) and provide a tax-free stipend (£24,000 per annum). Each student also receives an annual travel budget to be spent in consultation with their PhD supervisor.

Does the studentship cover all four years of the PhD programme?

Subject to satisfactory progression, the studentships is awarded for four years of study. Satisfactory progression includes passing all examinations in Year 1, successful upgrade from MPhil to PhD degree, and a commitment to intellectual development including active engagement with our seminar series, journal clubs, reading groups and other unit-wide activities.

Can I start my studies at any time of year?

No. Students can be admitted to our programme only at the start of each academic year in September. The first year of our programme involves intensive courses in theoretical/systems neuroscience and machine learning. There are also induction activities in September and courses start in early October.

How much interaction do students have with the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre?

The first year of the PhD programme is taught with SWC, so you will have lectures and journal clubs with the students from the SWC PhD programme. You are strongly encouraged to interact closely with the SWC community and participate in SWC activities (including the weekly external seminar and lab meeting as well as the joint Tea hour every Friday).

Are there any examinations for the taught courses? 

Yes. All students have examinations in the second term of Year 1. Students must pass all examinations in order to progress to the next phase of the programme

Can an honorary or affiliate staff member be my subsidiary supervisor?

Yes. In principle, any honorary or affiliate member of the Unit can be your subsidiary supervisor, as long as they are based at UCL. The subsidiary supervisor has an advisory and supportive role during your PhD. Subsidiary supervisors may provide scientific input, but this depends on how proactive the student is at getting the subsidiary supervisor involved.

What happens if I miss the submission deadline?

If you miss the November submission deadline, your application will be held until all applications received by the deadline have been assessed. It is very likely that all available positions will be filled by then.