Department of History and Philosophy of Science

Graduate and postdoc training programme, 2014–15

The Department offers an extensive programme to help the academic development of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. Visiting students, visiting scholars and members of other Cambridge departments are also welcome to attend various parts of the programme, space permitting.

All sessions in this programme are given by the Department's core teaching officers, or other leading experts. The Graduate Training Officer (Anna Alexandrova) welcomes suggestions for improvements. Additional sessions can be arranged by request, during the current academic year as well as in future years.


Start-of-year induction sessions

(1) MPhil and Part III students
Wednesday 8 October 2014, 2–5pm, Seminar Room 2

This induction will consist of two parts:

  • 2–3pm: General introductory meeting for new people
  • 3–5pm: Introduction to the master's programmes

The latter session will be conducted by the MPhil Manager (Helen Curry), the Part III Manager (Stephen John), and the Departmental Librarian (Anna Jones). Basic course structure and routines will be explained, and initial guidance will be given on how to get on with the first essay: choosing a topic, choosing and working with a supervisor, doing the research, and writing. There will be some specific guidance given on the Critical Literature Review for Part III students, and the first paper for MPhil students. Initial advice will also be given for those who are interested in applying for a PhD in Cambridge or elsewhere, to be followed up by an hour-long advice session later in the term. A brief introduction to the rest of the graduate and postdoc training programme will also be given. (This induction session will be followed, at a later date, by individual meetings with the MPhil Manager or Part III Manager. Later in the year, look out for the advice session on dissertation-writing.)

(2) New PhD students and new PhD supervisors
Wednesday 8 October 2014, 12–5pm, Seminar Room 1, except 2–3pm

This induction will consist of four parts:

  • 12–1pm: Welcome and introduction
  • 1–2pm: Buffet lunch
  • 2–3pm: General introductory meeting for new people (in Seminar Room 2)
  • 3–5pm: Getting started with PhD research

The first part, conducted by the Director of Graduate Studies (Nick Hopwood) will explain the basic structure of the PhD programme (including the annual reviews and the log book) and give advice on how to establish a working routine with the supervisor. Advice will be given about the support structures in the Department, the School and the University. The last part, chaired by the Graduate Training Officer (Anna Alexandrova) with the help of the Departmental Librarian (Anna Jones) and others, will give detailed advice on how to start researching for your PhD project and how to build the background knowledge and expertise to support that research. This will include a detailed introduction to the rest of the graduate and postdoc training programme, and other ongoing teaching, research and training programmes in the Department and elsewhere in the University.

(3) Second-year PhD students
Thursday 9 October 2014, 4–6pm, Seminar Room 1

This session will be conducted by a faculty member in the Department with extensive experience of PhD supervision (Lauren Kassell this year). A broad range of guidance will be given on managing the mid-stage of the PhD and maintaining the momentum of research and writing. This session will incorporate advice given in previous years in separate sessions under the headings of 'How to beat the mid-PhD slump', 'How to give a research talk', 'How to make the most of conferences' and 'How to publish an article'. Some preliminary advice will also be given on other aspects of career development, including the building-up of teaching experience. There will be a brief introduction to this year's graduate and postdoc training programme, and other ongoing teaching, research and training programmes in the Department and elsewhere in the University.

(4) Late-stage PhD students, and new postdocs
Thursday 9 October 2014, 4–6pm, Seminar Room 2

This session, for 3rd- and 4th-year PhD students and new postdocs, will be conducted by a senior member of the Department (Simon Schaffer this year). A broad range of guidance will be given on managing the final stage of the PhD, and the process of applying for academic jobs or developing non-academic career paths. This session will incorporate advice given in previous years in separate sessions under the headings of 'How to finish your PhD', 'How to give a research talk', 'How to make the most of conferences', 'How to publish an article', 'How to apply for a research grant' and 'How to get a job in academia'. Part of its aim is to highlight the existence of a large and congenial community of early-career scholars in (and around) the Department. Ways of encouraging mutual support within this community will be explored; for example, in past years people have enjoyed and benefited from the jobseekers' coffee mornings, which will be run by Clare Griffin this year.

Academic skills and career development

Building on the advice given in the start-of-year induction sessions, these meetings will focus on very specific tasks and skills. They take place on Fridays 1–2pm in Seminar Room 1, unless otherwise noted; feel free to bring lunch.

How do undergraduate supervisions work?
Friday 10 October 2014; Anna Alexandrova and Sachiko Kusukawa

All PhD students and postdocs are encouraged to supervise undergraduate students taking Part IB and Part II HPS courses. If you have never done supervisions before, this workshop is an essential prerequisite. It will explain the relationship between lectures and supervisions, departments/faculties and Colleges, and also cover practical topics such managing reports and payments through CamCORS.

How to supervise examinable coursework (I)
Friday 17 October 2014; Hasok Chang

This session is required for first-time supervisors of examinable coursework (Part III and MPhil papers, and Part II dissertations and primary source essays), and optional for supervisors with previous experience. This workshop will give guidance on helping students choose topics, find and use good sources, plan and carry out research and writing, and 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!

How to supervise Part IB and Part II essays
Friday 24 October 2014; Anna Alexandrova and Sachiko Kusukawa

This is a continuation of the session 'How do undergraduate supervisions work?', but it is also useful for more experienced supervisors. It will provide guidance on effective ways to plan and deliver supervisions, with a particular focus on how to mark and comment on essays, based on real-life examples. There will also be a discussion of the pedagogical functions of supervisions.

How to apply for a PhD
Friday 7 November 2014; Nick Hopwood and David Thompson

For those considering doing a PhD, in Cambridge or elsewhere, deadlines will soon be looming. This workshop, run by the Director of Graduate Studies, will explain the Department's PhD admissions requirements and processes. More generally, advice will be provided on choosing places to apply to, finding a workable topic and appropriate potential supervisors, securing references, writing a convincing proposal, and applying for funding.

How to supervise examinable coursework (II)
Friday 16 January 2015; Hasok Chang

How to give a research talk and chair a session
Friday 23 January 2015; Marta Halina

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.

How to publish a book
Thursday 26 February 2015, 2pm

This workshop will offer advice on conceiving a book project (whether or not based on a PhD dissertation), writing a proposal, approaching publishers, and developing the project further in response to feedback. It will led by the Cambridge University Press editors Lucy Rhymer (History and Science) and Hilary Gaskin (Philosophy). Each will speak about what they are looking for in a book proposal and take questions from the audience.

Research focus seminars

HPS encompasses a bewildering range of topics and methodological approaches. These seminars will focus on some specific ones, offering lively examples of ongoing work by faculty and students as well as abstract debates and concrete advice on practicalities. These seminars take place on Fridays 1–2pm in Seminar Room 1, unless otherwise noted; feel free to bring lunch. They are open to all members of the Department, and Part III, MPhil and PhD students are particularly encouraged to participate in them. (They are complemented by a set of research guides, currently being updated.)

This is a new series. A few exemplars will be featured during Michaelmas Term. Sessions for the remainder of the academic year will be organised according to demand and interest. Please make requests to the Graduate Training Officer for any themes you would like to have covered.

Working with rare printed books and archives in HPS
Friday 31 October 2014, Whipple Old Library; Will Hale and Anna Jones

Special collections of printed books and archives are the primary sources of much research in HPS. This session will introduce some of the many significant collections in Cambridge, and discuss the tools available online and in print to help you identify, locate and compare relevant material further afield.

The session is stand-alone, but would serve as a useful prelude to the 'Science in print' seminar series starting in the Whipple on 4 November, which will focus on more technical aspects of book production and description.

Ethical issues on science and medicine
Friday 14 November 2014; Stephen John

Students from many different backgrounds often want to write papers on ethical and/or political issues arising in the practices and uses of various sciences and/or medicine. In this seminar, we will outline some of the difficulties of doing such work, identify some ways of overcoming these difficulties, and think about different ways of pursuing such work. In particular, we will focus on the tricky relationship between this kind of study and other HPS projects (including, but not only, work on the role of values in science and work in the sociology of science).

Researching in museums
Friday 28 November 2014; Josh Nall and others – meet by the information desk in the Museum’s Main Gallery

Why is there a museum inside the HPS Department? What does it collect and display, and why? And how can students use its diverse array of instruments, models and ephemera as part of their own research? Take a tour and get the answers to these questions and more from the Whipple Museum's Assistant Curator, Josh Nall. Then hear from HPS students and researchers about their own experiences of working with Whipple Museum objects.

Researching the history of 20th century science
Friday 30 January 2015; Helen Curry and Dmitriy Myelnikov

A session for all those writing about (or considering writing about) science and technology since 1945. We'll talk about how to find archival and other primary source resources, how to deal with living historical actors, how to avoid sounding or feeling like a journalist, and other concerns that arise when thinking about recent or even contemporary history.

Graduate seminars

The graduate seminars offer a sustained and systematic introduction to specific cutting-edge areas of research, led by faculty members who are leading experts in those areas.

Aims and methods of histories of the sciences
Nick Jardine, with Hasok Chang and Cristina Chimisso; 6 sessions; Mondays 11am–12.30pm; 27 October, 3, 10, 17, 24 November, and 1 December 2014

These six workshops are for discussion of the history, aims, methods and problems of the history of science. In the first Nick Jardine will give an overview of the origins of the discipline and its current problems and prospects. Topics to be discussed in subsequent meetings include Hélène Metzger and French historiography of the sciences (10 November, introduced by Cristina Chimisso, Open University) and the relations between history of science and philosophy of science (17 November, introduced by Hasok Chang). Suggestions for themes and readings for the remaining sessions will be welcome as will volunteers to introduce topics.

Science in print: understanding book production from the 16th to the 19th centuries
Roger Gaskell, Anna Jones and Jim Secord; 5 sessions; Tuesdays 11am–12.30pm; 4, 11, 18, 25 November and 2 December 2014, Whipple Old Library, except 18 November – see below

Understanding how the book is made is vital 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 handpress (16th–18th centuries) and mechanized (19th century) periods, and consider the uses and abuses of online derivatives. Although the focus will be on scientific texts and illustrations, these sessions will be of interest to book historians in all disciplines, and all are welcome.

4 NovemberSurvey of the handpress period
11 NovemberBook production in the handpress period and bibliographical analysis
18 NovemberThe technology of book production in the handpress period (this session takes place in the Historical Printing Room at the University Library)
25 NovemberThe production and analysis of images in handpress period books
2 DecemberBook production in the 19th century

For further information and to book a place, please contact Anna Jones (ahr23).

Philosophy of chemistry
Hasok Chang; 4 sessions; Mondays 5–6.30pm, fortnightly from 26 January

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?

Further details (AD HOC website)

Science and technology in the context of international expositions
Miriam Levin and Richard Staley; Easter Term (from 6 May)

These four workshops will be devoted to discussing the history, aims, methods and problems of studying international expositions from the perspective of the history of science and technology. We will consider four different expositions, each from a different perspective based in part on themes emphasized by organizers and on the historical import of the exhibitions themselves. Each workshop will have a designated reading for discussion, accompanied by suggested ancillary readings and image sources. The four are:

  1. The Great Exhibition of 1851. Stuff and Knowledge: The Great Organizing Project (Wed 6 May)
  2. Paris 1900. Modernity and War (Tue 12 May)
  3. Saint Louis 1904. Exhibiting Exhibitions; Exhibiting People (Tue 19 May)
  4. Brussels 1958. Cold War Ideologies of Science and Technology (Tue 26 May)

The workshop meets on Tuesdays, with the exception of the first meeting on Wednesday 6 May; all meetings take place at 11am–12.30pm in the New Gallery, Whipple Museum. Readings are available in the Whipple Library.

Other events and resources

Undergraduate courses

Graduate students and postdocs in HPS are encouraged to benefit from any undergraduate (Part IB and Part II) courses that they consider useful. They can provide systematic introductions to subject areas that are new to you, and point to research topics and reading materials even in areas you are reasonably familiar with.

HPS Philosophy Workshop
(seeking volunteers to organise)

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.

HPS History Workshop
Fortnightly, Wednesdays 5–6 pm, from 15 October, organised by Andreas Sommer and Seb Falk

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.

CamPoS Seminar
Weekly, Wednesdays 1–2.30pm

The Cambridge Philosophy of Science (CamPoS) 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 7 November, organised by 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.

Jobseekers’ coffee mornings
11am on alternating Fridays, from 17 October, organised by Clare Griffin

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 help

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. The Greek Therapy group is run by Liz Smith and will meet at 5.30pm on Wednesdays in the Lodge. Latin Therapy, organised by Tillmann Taape and Natalie Lawrence, meets on Fridays at 4pm in the Lodge. 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 departmental Language Officer (Helen Curry).

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.

Travel and training grants

Tiny travel grants: Graduate students on the Register in HPS can apply for up to £150 a year to help with the cost of travel to conferences where they are giving a paper (not for attendance only). Submit a request to the Secretary of the Trust Fund in advance of the conference to ask for permission to use these funds. Once you have received confirmation you can claim reimbursement by submitting an expenses claim form with receipts. Funding for conferences is sometimes available through Colleges, and students should check with their College first before drawing on this funding. Tiny travel grants are primarily aimed at PhD students but are sometimes available to support MPhil students.

Tiny training grants: If you have a particular training need that is not catered for here, the Department may be able to give you financial assistance towards it. You should submit a request to the Secretary of the Trust Fund.