Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Graduate training

The Department offers a wide variety of training for all graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, to support your research work, help you develop a range of academic skills, and increase your employability.

They are given by all the Department's core teaching officers and are supported by a range of resources on this page. The Graduate Training Officer welcomes suggestions for additions and improvements.

Most workshops are held on Friday lunchtimes. Feel free to bring food and eat as you work.


TermFor everyoneFor Part IIIs & MPhilsFor PhDs onlyFor PhDs and postdocs
Michaelmas 10, 17 Oct: Research Topics and Resources I & II
28 Oct onwards: Aims and methods of histories of the sciences
5 Nov onwards: Science in print
8 Nov: Working with rare books in HPS
29 Nov: Managing your academic life online
18 Oct: How to research and write a Part III/MPhil essay
1 Nov: How to apply for a PhD
  11 Oct: How supervisions work
18 Oct: How to supervise Part IB and Part II essays
25 Oct: How to supervise examinable coursework (postdocs only)
Lent 20 Jan onwards: Philosophy of chemistry
31 Jan: E-resources demystified: Q&A session
7 Feb: How to give a research talk
18 Feb onwards: Clouds and climate change
7 Mar: How to make the most of conferences
21 Feb: How to prepare a Part III/MPhil dissertation 17 Jan: How to get a PhD
14 Feb: How to beat the mid-PhD slump
24 Jan: How to supervise examinable coursework (repeat; postdocs only)
28 Feb: How to write a book proposal
Easter 25 Apr: How to publish an article
2 May: How to get a job in academia
  16 May: How to finish your PhD 23 May: How to apply for a research grant
All three terms Wednesdays: CamPoS Seminar, HPS History and Philosophy Workshops
Language training
    Fridays: Supervisors' coffee mornings and jobseekers' coffee mornings

Training workshops for all graduate students and postdocs

4pm, Thursday 10 and 17 October: Research Topics and Resources I & II (Anna Alexandrova, Hasok Chang)

HPS encompasses a bewildering range of topics. These seminars cannot hope to give you a complete overview of the field and how to research it, but they will introduce you to some basic topics and methodologies, stimulate you with lively examples of work by fellow graduate students and postdocs, and inspire you to carry out original and insightful work of your own. These seminars are complemented by an online guide.

Session 1 (chaired by Hasok Chang):
Matthew Lane: Research skills training offered by the School of Humanities and Social Sciences
Patricia Fara: Scientific images
Jonathan Birch: Naturalistic Philosophy
Nick Jardine: Brief overview of HPS research resources

Session 2 (chaired by Anna Alexandrova):
Anna Alexandrova: Introduction to research resources for philosophers
Josh Nall and Seb Falk: Researching in the Whipple Museum
James Poskett: Global histories of science
Dmitriy Myelnikov: Researching the history of 20th-century biology

NEW 1pm, Friday 8 November: Working with rare books in HPS – collections and resources (Will Hale (University Library), Anna Jones)

Cambridge libraries are rich in printed and manuscript sources for the study of HPS, from the medieval period to the present day. This session will highlight some of the most notable collections, and introduce some of the standard secondary resources (in print and online) for research in this area. Relevant to anyone thinking of working with historical material and looking for a dissertation topic, as well as to those with more experience.

NEW 1pm, Friday 29 November: Managing your academic life online (Anna Jones)

Life without the web as a constant source of information is unimaginable, but it can also seem overwhelming. This session will look at some ways to keep track of the flow from the blogs, Twitter feeds, journals, people and conferences you may be following for your academic work, and suggest some tools to lighten the load. Please bring your own suggestions to share with others.

NEW 1pm, Friday 31 January: E-resources demystified: Q&A session (Anna Jones)

Cambridge subscribes to a lot of quality material online, but it's not always easy to find, and still less to access. This session aims to address some of your questions/puzzles/frustrations, and make the experience more rewarding.

1pm, Friday 7 February: How to give a research talk and chair a session (Simon Schaffer)

Most of us in HPS are much more skilled at research and writing than we are at talking about our work in public. So we spend a lot of time giving and listening to research seminars that could easily be much better. Here is a chance to share ideas about how to give a good talk. This workshop will help you reflect on the ingredients of a good presentation, from planning the content and preparing visual aids to delivering a clear, engaging performance and handling awkward questions with aplomb. It will also cover how to chair a conference or workshop session.

1pm, Friday 7 March: How to make the most of conferences (Richard Staley)

Attending a conference for the first time can be a daunting and exhaustive experience. This workshop will help you choose which sessions to attend (you don't have to go to them all!), how to introduce yourself to useful and interesting people, and how to get maximum benefit from the ideas and information presented and discussed.

1pm, Friday 25 April: How to publish an article (Hasok Chang)

Your supervisor or examiners may have suggested that an essay of yours might be a good basis for a published article. What better way to spend your summer? This workshop will talk you through the reasons for publishing; where and when to publish; how to transform a good Part III/MPhil essay or PhD chapter into a publishable article; how to respond to editors' queries and referees' reports; and how to submit the final version and deal with page proofs.

How to publish an article

1pm, Friday 2 May: How to get a job in academia (Liba Taub)

Student life can't last forever... This workshop will give you lots of practical advice on how to make yourself employable; where to look for suitable jobs and fellowships; how to prepare job applications and cover letters; how to find referees; and how to plan interview and job-talk tactics.

How to get a job

Graduate seminars (intended particularly for graduate students, open to all)

11am, Mondays from 28 October (6 sessions): Aims and methods of histories of the sciences (Nick Jardine)

These workshops are for discussion of the identity, aims, methods and problems of the history of science. In the first, NJ will give an overview of the formation of history of science as a discipline. In the second, we shall discuss problems of anachronism. Possible subsequent topics include 'sociological approaches to the history of science', 'Big Pictures versus microhistories', 'histories of the circulation of scientific knowledge', 'the purposes of the history of science'. Suggestions for topics and readings will be welcome as will volunteers to introduce topics.

NEW 11am, Tuesdays from 5 November (5 sessions): Science in print: understanding book production from the sixteenth to the nineteenth centuries (Roger Gaskell, Anna Jones, Jim Secord)

Understanding the book as a physical object is a vital complement to the study of its contents, helping to locate its economic and social context, its audience, and ultimately its historical significance. Using examples from the Whipple Library's rare book collections and the University Library's Historical Printing Collection, this workshop series will explore some bibliographical techniques to identify and describe the structure and production of printed material from the hand press (16th–18th centuries) and mechanized (19th century) periods. Particular attention will be given to illustration processes. Sessions will be organised thematically as follows, and can be attended individually, but participants will benefit from attending the whole series if possible:

5 NovemberSurvey of the hand press period
12 NovemberBook production in the hand press period
19 NovemberField trip to UL Historical Printing Room to see hand press in action*
26 NovemberAnalysis of hand press period books
3 DecemberNineteenth-century book production

Please contact Anna Jones (ahr23) to register your interest as places may be limited to ensure all have full access to the examples.
* This session will take place in the Historical Printing Room at the University Library – booking compulsory (via ahr23).

NEW 5pm, Mondays 20 January, 3 February, 17 February and 3 March (4 sessions): Philosophy of chemistry (Hasok Chang)

This series is intended to provide an introduction to key issues in the philosophy of chemistry, especially for those whose primary interests are in related fields such as the history of chemistry, the philosophy of physics or biology, and chemistry itself. Philosophical issues will always be formulated and illustrated through episodes from the history of chemistry, especially from the 18th century onward. Topics treated will include: reductionism and the chemistry-physics relation; realism in chemistry; the nature of the chemical bond; and explanations in chemistry. The following questions will provide running themes for all sessions. How do general epistemological and metaphysical issues in the philosophy of science apply to chemistry? How does chemistry relate to other sciences? How can the history and the philosophy of chemistry interact productively?

NEW 2pm, Tuesdays from 18 February (4 sessions): Clouds and climate change (Richard Staley)

This workshop follows both clouds and the science of climate change through nature, laboratory, computer representation, policy and public engagement, examining revealing episodes from the 19th century through to the present which have often turned on arguments about both the distant past and near future. Our dual focus will allow us to tackle issues critical to current understandings of the sciences, and to explore some of the key virtues and limitations of the historiography of the physical sciences. Particular themes will include politics and infrastructural sciences, and the early anthropogenic hypothesis.

Graduate training workshops particularly for Part III and MPhil students

1pm, Friday 18 October: How to research and write a Part III/MPhil essay (Stephen John)

As you embark on your first piece of coursework, you probably will have a plethora of questions to ask; most people do. What's my supervisor for, and how do I make the most of her? Where do I find the resources I need? How much can I say in 5000 words? What are the parameters of good academic style? How do I manage my time so that I'm not still writing a draft 24 hours before submission? How do I cite my sources? An experienced Part III/MPhil supervisor will reveal the secrets of how to get an excellent essay in on time without too much loss of sleep or fingernails.

How to plan and write up research

1pm, Friday 1 November: How to apply for a PhD (Nick Hopwood, David Thompson)

Whether you are considering applying for a PhD place in Cambridge or elsewhere, deadlines will soon be looming. Prepare yourself by coming to this workshop, run by the Director of Graduate Studies. It will cover topics such as choosing a workable topic; writing a convincing proposal; looking for sources of funding; and the Department's PhD admissions requirements and process.

1pm, Friday 21 February: How to prepare a Part III/MPhil dissertation (Lauren Kassell)

Although your final submission date is still months away, now is a good time to start planning what your finished dissertation will look like. In this session the MPhil Manager will take you through the qualities that examiners typically look for in a high-quality piece of work and – equally importantly – the sure fire ways to lose marks too. It will also cover formalities such as word counts, appendices and bibliographical style.

Graduate training workshops particularly for PhD students

1pm, Friday 17 January: How to get a PhD (Nick Hopwood)

As a PhD student at the end of your first term, you're beginning to find your way around the Department and your research topic. Now it's time to start thinking ahead. This session will describe the formal requirements for your PhD, help you plan your work, explain what to expect at your Annual Review, and advise you how to make the most of your PhD log book.

How to get a PhD

1pm, Friday 14 February: How to beat the mid-PhD slump (Helen Curry)

It's the tail-end of winter, you haven't seen the sun in months, and you want to throw your half-finished PhD out of the window... Believe it or not, this is absolutely normal. Come and share your woes, and find out how to get motivated again, in this workshop packed with practical advice on keeping your research and writing moving along.

1pm, Friday 16 May: How to finish your PhD (Simon Schaffer)

Come along to this workshop to discuss your experiences of PhD research so far, and to find ways to manage the last stages of your project. Topics will include reviewing work done so far, assessing and prioritising remaining work, realistic time management, and the formal requirements for PhD submission. It's never too early to start finishing!

Graduate training workshops for PhD students and postdoctoral researchers

1pm, Friday 11 October: How supervisions work (Anna Alexandrova)

All PhD students and postdocs are encouraged to supervise undergraduates in HPS. If you have never supervised before, this workshop is an essential prerequisite. It will explain the relationship between lectures and supervisions, Department and College, and cover practical topics such as managing reports and payments through CamCORS.

1pm, Friday 25 October, repeated 11am, Friday 24 January: How to supervise examinable coursework (for postdocs only; Lauren Kassell)

Supervising a piece of research work over several weeks or months takes a rather different set of skills to supervising undergraduate essays. In this workshop a senior UTO will lead discussion on helping students to: choose viable and worthwhile topics; find and utilise appropriate resources; plan and carry out their research and writing; manage the constraints of deadlines and word limits. We will also consider strategies for coping with various problem scenarios: how and when to ask for help; questions of confidentiality; and how not to end up doing all the work yourself! Whether you've been supervising MPhil essays and Part II dissertations for years, or are likely to be taking on research students for the first time this year, do come along to share your experiences, concerns and questions. This workshop is only for postdoctoral members and affiliates of the Department.

1pm, Friday 18 October: How to supervise Part IB and Part II essays (Anna Alexandrova, Jonathan Birch)

This workshop builds on the session 'How supervisions work' (11 October), but is also useful for more experienced supervisors. It will cover more theoretical issues such as the pedagogical functions of supervisions and effective ways to plan and deliver them. There will be a particular focus on how to mark and comment on essays, based on real-life examples.

1pm, Friday 28 February: How to write a book proposal (Hannah Newton)

So you want to transform your PhD into a book. Or you want to write something completely different. How do you persuade a publisher to offer you a contract? This workshop will discuss good strategies for approaching publishers, how to present your proposal effectively, and what to expect in return from the publisher.

How to write a book proposal

1pm, Friday 23 May: How to apply for a research grant (Tiago Mata)

Research fellowships and postdoctoral grants are not prizes for writing a splendid PhD. How do you convince a college, university or funding body that your proposed research is worth funding – and that you are the person that should be funded to do it? This workshop will give you lots of practical tips on writing a succinct, engaging and convincing research grant application.

How to apply for a research grant

Events and resources for everyone, every term

HPS History Workshop and HPS Philosophy Workshop (alternating Wednesdays, 5pm)

The HPS History Workshop is a seminar group, run by and for graduate students and postdocs, devoted to peer discussion of work in progress on the history and historiography of science, for example PhD chapters, dissertations, articles intended for publication or conference papers. The seminar aims to provide an informal arena for the exchange of ideas among students of the history of science in HPS and elsewhere, but philosophers, sociologists etc are very welcome too.

The HPS Philosophy Workshop is a fortnightly peer group seminar devoted to the discussion of on-going work by graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in philosophy. Short papers will normally be circulated by email one week in advance of each meeting, where the author will give a brief synopsis. The aim of the seminar is to provide a forum for informal, constructive interaction amongst those currently engaged in philosophical research.

CamPoS Seminar (Wednesdays, 1pm)

The Cambridge Philosophy of Science Seminar is a weekly seminar devoted to the discussion of on-going work by invited scholars, graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. It is held jointly by HPS and the Philosophy Faculty and serves as a common forum for all scholars interested in philosophy of science. Students are invited and encouraged to participate and to present.

Supervisors’ coffee mornings, 11am on alternating Fridays, from mid-November (Andrew Buskell)

Once your formal supervisor training is over, who do you turn to for continued support? Your fellow supervisors, of course! The College Liaison Officer can also be very helpful when disciplinary matters arise. Come and chat over coffee to other Department supervisors about how it's going, share the successes of good supervisions and seek advice over trickier issues. The College Liaison Officer will not attend every week, but will field queries by phone or email.

Jobseekers’ coffee mornings, 11am on alternating Fridays, from mid-November (Magali Krasny and others)

This group offers informal support and advice for those who are applying for jobs, any jobs, inside or outside academia, or somewhere in between. We discuss the uses of Careers Services, how to draft a cover letter, who to ask for references, how to pick jobs to apply for, and many more. Come by to share your successes and failures, both are inevitable!

Practice job talks and mock interviews (Anna Alexandrova)

If you have a job talk or an interview coming up, the best preparation is to practise it. The Department can help arranging either. Ask your supervisor or Anna Alexandrova. Postdoctoral jobseekers can (and should) also make an appointment with Steve Joy at the Careers Service.

Language training

The Greek Therapy and Latin Therapy groups each offer informal weekly sessions, led by an expert tutor, to help you improve your reading skills in these languages.

English language support

If English is not your first language and you find yourself struggling to read, write and communicate effectively in an academic environment, come and talk in confidence to the MPhil/Part III Manager or Director of Graduate Studies. The Department can offer a range of 1-1 support for you, tailored to your needs.

Externally provided courses and resources

All graduate students and postdoctoral researchers are encouraged to attend relevant training courses offered by other bodies, most of which are free to members of the University. There's now a central University of Cambridge Training website where you can sign up for any course. Here are some particularly noteworthy:

The University's Skills Portal also lists a lot of useful courses and resources for graduate students and research staff.


Tiny travel grants

A small number of grants for travel to conferences is available for graduate students giving papers at conferences (not for attendance only). Ask the Department Administrator for details.

Tiny training grants

If you have a particular training need that is not catered for here, the Department may be able give you financial assistance towards it. Ask the Department Administrator for details.