Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit


Frequently Asked Questions


What are the entry requirements? Do I need a Master's degree?

Applicants should have a strong analytical and mathematical background, a keen interest in neuroscience and/or machine learning, and a first degree in relevant fields such as Computer science, Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Statistics, Neuroscience, or Cognitive Psychology. Many applicants to our programme will have a Master’s degree, but this is not essential. Each application is assessed on its individual merits.

Candidates offered a place on our programme will be required to meet UCL's standard admissions requirements (including the English language proficiency requirements for international applicants). 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.

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.

Can I substitute employer references for academic references?

References are required as testament to academic excellence - a key component of our shortlisting process. Academic references are more beneficial to your application, as they are more helpful for us. We ask the referees specific questions and to assess your intellectual capability in relation to a typical PhD student in their departments.

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

Please scan/take a photograph and upload them. If this is not possible, you may post them. Please contact admissions@gatsby.ucl.ac.uk in advance to let us know; the documents must reach us by the application deadline.

Do I have to pay an application fee?

No. There is no application fee.

Can I edit my application or provide additional materials after it has been submitted on the online portal?

No. Once you submit the application from the Declaration page you will not be able to make further changes.

To be admitted, do I need to attend interview?

Yes. We do not admit students without interview. If you are shortlisted for an interview, you will have the opportunity to chat with current Gatsby students prior to your interview about their experience and ask them questions. If you require a visa to travel to the UK, we will provide the necessary documentation and reimburse any fees. We will accommodate any delays caused by factors 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 in-person interview, do you provide assistance with travel expenses?

Yes. We will either book travel on your behalf or reimburse reasonable travel expenses based on evidence of expenditure. All travel should be in standard/economy class. We will arrange hotel accommodation and contribute to subsistence costs. Assistance is provided for all shortlisted candidates irrespective of the distance to be travelled.

When will I find out the outcome of my application?

We aim to notify all applicants of the outcome by mid-March. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide individual feedback due to the high volume of applications.

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

No, you only need to apply to us via the Gatsby Recruitment Applicant Portal in the first instance.

Only after being offered a place on our programme, you would seek formal admission from UCL. Successful applicants will receive guidelines from us on how to do. Please note that 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 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 information on application and entry to UCL, including UCL’s entrance requirements and information for international applicants.

I want to apply to the ELLIS PhD Program with one of the Gatsby Unit faculty members as my primary advisor. Do I also need to apply to the Gatsby PhD programme? 

Yes. If you want to have one of our faculty members as your primary advisor (i.e., you will be mainly based in the Gatsby Unit during your PhD), you must apply to the Gatsby Unit PhD Programme in parallel by our deadline (note that this can be different from the ELLIS deadline).

Can I provide additional application materials such as additional references after the deadline has passed?

No. You are required to submit all application materials by the deadline via the application portal. Late information would not be considered, as this would make the process unfair to others.


What does the Gatsby Unit studentship provide?

The Gatsby Unit studentship covers the cost of tuition fees for both home and international students and provides an annual tax-free stipend of £26,500. 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?

The studentship is awarded for four years subject to satisfactory progression. Satisfactory progression includes passing all examinations in Year 1, successful upgrade from MPhil to PhD status, and a firm commitment to intellectual development, including active participation in our seminar series, journal clubs, and other unit-wide activities.


Can I start the PhD programme at any time of the year?

No. Students are admitted to our programme at the start of each academic year in September. The first year of the programme includes intensive teaching in theoretical and systems neuroscience as well as machine learning. There are also optional induction activities in September, and courses start in early October.

Are there any examinations for the first-year courses?

Yes. Students have examinations in the second term of the first year. Students must pass all examinations to progress to the next phase of the programme.

Can an honorary or affiliated faculty member be my Subsidiary Supervisor?

Yes. In principle, any honorary or affiliate faculty member of the Gatsby Unit can be your Subsidiary Supervisor if they are UCL-based. During your PhD, your Subsidiary Supervisor has an advisory and supportive role. Subsidiary Supervisors may provide scientific input, but this depends on how proactive students are in getting them involved.

How much interaction do students have with members of the Sainsbury Wellcome Centre for Neural Circuits and Behaviour (SWC)?

The Gatsby and SWC PhD programmes overlap extensively, allowing the students to build the foundations for long-lasting collaborations and friendships.

The first-year course 'Systems and Theoretical Neuroscience' is a joint course with the SWC, and you will have lectures and journal clubs with SWC students. You are also strongly encouraged to interact closely with the SWC community and actively participate in SWC activities (including SWC seminar series, SWC lab meetings and joint tea hours on Fridays). There are also joint Research Culture Working Groups, which you are more than welcome to join and contribute!