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PhD in History and Philosophy of Science

The substantial, focused and independent theses that students write in history and philosophy of science help shape the future of scholarship in many different ways; and contributing to the development of knowledge in the University of Cambridge is a particularly rich and rewarding experience.

Working closely with a doctoral supervisor and advisor (usually both from the Department of History and Philosophy of Science, sometimes from other departments in the University), students will have the benefit of expert guidance and close consultation with experienced researchers in articulating, developing and presenting their own research. Usually that means meeting several times a term, often to discuss an outline, consider research findings or go over a chapter. Consistent review and attentive feedback are integral to the supervisory relationship built up over time.

Most students will have considered the research profiles and international reputations of our Department members in preparing an application to undertake doctoral studies here (it is often good to contact individuals directly). But the academic and social perspectives offered by joining a thriving research community are also invaluable. With around 45 doctoral students at any one time, a strong cohort of MPhil and Part III students each year, and postdoctoral researchers as well as Teaching Officers, the intellectual life of the Department is exceptionally strong. Sometimes you might wonder when you'll get time for your research or writing, for life in Cambridge has its seasons. Thriving reading groups, working groups and seminars provide a focus and in some cases allow scope for students to help set the agenda and present their own work amongst peers. Latin Therapy, the Cabinet of Natural History, and the reading group in philosophy and history of physics provide just a few examples of the kind of groups that meet on a weekly or fortnightly basis. Students are also supported with close attention paid to methodological development, research skills and career advice throughout their studies.

Most PhD students move from taking advantage of the learning opportunities provided in Cambridge to developing their own teaching skills by supervising appropriate courses. Some might also contribute to research and displays oriented around the holdings of the Whipple Museum of the History of Science. Students are also encouraged to participate in professional conferences and begin publishing their work. The Department's Whipple Library is an unparalleled specialist library in history and philosophy of science and medicine, while the University Library and College and department libraries provide access to archival and documentary resources invaluable for research on the sciences; for some students these might provide as strong a reason as individual Department members for studying here. Funding support is excellent also; whether applying from a Cambridge Part III, MPhil or from elsewhere, candidates should prepare appropriately and note deadlines for scholarships such as Gates Cambridge, Cambridge Trust and AHRC. The Department also has some funds at its own disposal. In addition to offering Rausing and Williamson Studentships it offers financial support for student research (as do many Colleges).

Opportunities to gain teaching experience

Cambridge offers PhD students unusually valuable teaching experience through the chance to give supervisions (tutorials) for undergraduates taking History and Philosophy of Science courses. PhD students are paid by the Colleges for this service. The University and the Department provide training in supervising undergraduates.

The next Cambridge Postgraduate Open Day will be on Friday 3 November 2017.


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