Gatsby Computational Neuroscience Unit


Programme structure

Year 1

Our PhD programme starts with a year of intensive courses in research and techniques in neuroscience and machine learning. New students are admitted at the start of each academic year in September.

All students begin by attending Boot Camp, a three-week course covering the fundamentals of neuroscience and technology. Students will then take core courses in systems neuroscience (taught with SWC) and machine learning (incl. probabilistic machine learning and approximate inference as well as Kernels) in term 1 and theoretical neuroscience (TN) in term 2. See Teaching for more information on the courses. Students are expected to achieve a passing mark on both coursework and exams to progress to the next phase of the programme. After completing the courses, students will start developing their thesis project under the guidance of their supervisor.

Year 2

Students will work on their thesis project. They will also need to carry out a 2-month rotation project in a field different from the field of their PhD thesis (for example, if the thesis project is on TN, the rotation project should be on experimental neuroscience or ML).

At the end of Year 2, students are expected to start writing their MPhil/PhD upgrade report and schedule to give an upgrade presentation to the whole unit.

Year 3 and 4

Having passed all the upgrade assessments, students will transfer from MPhil to PhD status and devote their remaining tenure to research. (Occasionally, some students may opt to only do an MPhil.)

At the end of Year 4, students will transfer to Completing Research Status (CRS). Thesis should be submitted no later than six months into the CRS period.

Across years

We foster a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary research environment. Although each student works primarily with one supervisor, we strive to avoid boundaries between groups and promote an open research culture where regular unit-wide events allow everyone to get involved in everything and be aware of what others are doing. Students thus have ready access to all members of the unit. Our external seminar series provides an opportunity to meet eminent speakers and external attendees. During their PhD, students are expected to attend all unit-wide events, including research talks, tea talks, one of the journal clubs and external seminars.

Students are encouraged to network with peers at SWC, CSML and other UCL departments (such as Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, Institute of Neurology, Experimental Psychology; Neuroscience, Physiology and Pharmacology; Statistical Science) and attend relevant conferences such as COSYNE, ICML, NeurIPS and ICLR.

We are committed to support the career and professional development of our students. Students develop communication skills by writing scientific publications and giving regular internal talks and presentations in conferences. Critical thinking is further developed through weekly journal clubs and lab meetings. Students are expected to teach during the second year of the programme and act as a mentor to junior PhDs. In addition, students are encouraged to take advantage of the wide range of research and transferable skills courses available through the UCL Doctoral School and engage in outreach and public engagement activities (often jointly with SWC).