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Postgraduate Admissions

Course closed:

Computational Methods for Materials Science is no longer accepting new applications.


The first year of the CDT has research as well as taught elements which leads to an MPhil degree. Students attend lecture courses during the first five months (October–February) and then undertake a substantial research project over the next six months (from March to the end of August) in a participating department. The research element aims to provide essential skills for successful completion of the PhD, as well as to assess and enhance students' research capacity. It is based on a materials science topic which is studied by means of scientific computation. Research project topics will be provided by academic supervisors or by the industrial partners. Most of the projects are expected to make use of the University’s high-performance computing service (for which CPU time for training and research has been budgeted for every student).

The taught element comprises core lecture courses on topics of all aspects of scientific computing, and elective lecture courses relevant to the topic of the research project. There is equal examination credit weighting between the taught and the research elements of the course, which is gained by submitting a dissertation on the project and by written assignments and examinations on the core and elective courses. Weighting of the assessed course components is as follows: dissertation (research) 50 per cent; written assignments 25 per cent; written examinations 25 per cent.

The core courses are on topics of high-performance scientific computing and advanced numerical methods and techniques; they are taught and examined during the first five months (October–February). Their purpose is to provide students with essential background knowledge for completing their theses and for their general education in scientific computing.

Appropriate elective courses are selected from master’s-level courses offered by the departments of the schools of Physical Sciences, Technology or Biological Sciences. The choice of courses will be such as to provide the students with essential background knowledge for completing their dissertations and for their general education in the materials science application of the project. They are decided in consultation with the project supervisor.

Depending on the materials science application of the research topic, students will follow one of the following two numerical methodology options: a) continuum methods based on systems of partial differential equations (PDEs, eg finite-difference, element or volume methods); or b) atomistic approaches, which can be based on classical particle-based modeling (eg molecular dynamics) or on electronic structure-based methods (eg density functional theory). Students who take the atomistic modeling options will attend a 12-lecture course before continuing to classical particle-based methods or electronic structure methods. Irrespective of the numerical methodology option, students will attend lecture courses on high-performance computing topics.

In addition to the comprehensive set of master's-level courses provided by the MPhil and across the University in the field, which will be available to the CDT students, it will also be possible for students to take supplementary courses (not for examination) at undergraduate level, where a specific need is identified, in order to ensure that any prerequisite knowledge for the master's courses is in place.

Moreover, depending on their background and circumstances, students may be offered places in the HPC Autumn Academy, which takes place just before the start of the academic year (two weeks in September).

The PhD project is research only. The CDT provides continued cohort training in years 2-4 via the development of skills in responsible research and innovation (RRI), workshops on software commercialisation and intellectual property, equality and diversity, and events linked with other CDTs such as hack-a-thons and University Away Days.

One to one supervision

Students are under the general direction of the MPhil course director; each is assigned a project supervisor who guides the student's choice of courses and provides supervision on request.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice for Master’s students which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

In the doctoral stage, the supervisory team consists of the principal supervisor (normally referred to as the supervisor) and an adviser. The supervisor is the main person appointed to oversee and help with a student's programme of study in the specific subject area of their doctoral research and an adviser is appointed to act as a second point of contact for academic advice.

The University of Cambridge publishes an annual Code of Practice for research students which sets out the University’s expectations regarding supervision.

Seminars & classes

The course has a seminar programme which invites academic and industrial speakers. The students also give presentations of their research work as a preparation for their mid-term assessment.


Students will take lectures, practicals and classes equivalent to around 70 contact hours in (for example) scientific high-performance computing and computational modelling, as well as lectures from other master’s-level courses across the University, on topics related to their research project.


The lectures on topics of numerical analysis and HPC are complemented with hands-on practicals using the Linux-based desktop-replacement laptops provided by the CDT, as well as on the University’s high-performance computing service.

Small group teaching

Small-group teaching (supervisions) is offered on the lecture courses; these include both one-to-one and group supervisions.


Literature reviews form part of the written assignments and the research project dissertation, and PhD thesis.


Students have to give presentations on their research project as part of their mid-term assessment and have to present a poster at their viva voce examinations.


Students have the opportunity to participate in an industrial internship programme in the second year of their PhD. These activities are highly valuable since they give students an opportunity to experience a commercial operating environment, develop some of their own industrial contacts, and potentially secure immediate employment post-PhD. 



Feedback on each student’s performance on their examination and on the written assignment results is provided by the course director; feedback on their research project progress is provided by their research project supervisor.


In the doctoral stage, supervisors report termly on the progress of their students and these reports are made available to each student.

Postgraduate students are represented on the Department's Postgraduate Student Consultative Committee, which normally meets five times a year, and consists of one or more student representatives from each of the research groups. The committee exists to enable discussion of any issues affecting postgraduate studies and students may approach any member of the committee to suggest items for discussion.


Thesis / Dissertation

The topic of the substantial research project (and hence the choice of supervisor) should fall within the research interests of the groups within the departments of the schools of Physical Sciences, Technology and Biological Sciences. The project is supervised by a member of the research groups of the departments of the School.

To gain examination credit for the research element of the MPhil in Scientific Computing (50 per cent credit towards the degree), students have to submit in August of the first year of the CDT a 15,000-word (maximum) dissertation on the substantial research project. The viva-voce examination of the dissertation will take place during September, conducted by two examiners and carried out according to the relevant University regulations. The assessment of the project is based on the candidate's understanding of the background literature, the commitment of the candidate to the project, the degree of originality shown in the research and the degree of rigour applied in justifying any conclusions.

The final PhD assessment will be of a submitted thesis and subsequent viva voce examination. The length and format of the thesis will be determined by the requirements of the department in which the student is registered for the PhD.

Depending on the department in which the student is registered, at the end of their second year (the first year of the PhD programme), students may have to submit a report describing their progress. This will be examined by two academics not directly associated with the project, who will make a recommendation to the Degree Committee about whether the student should be allowed to continue with the PhD.


The taught element of the MPhil is examined in part by means of written assignments amounting to six credit units (a 24-hour course yields four units, a 16-hour course 2.5 units, a 12-hour course two units, and a six-hour course one unit).

Written examination

The taught element of the MPhil is examined in part by means of unseen written examination papers amounting to six credit units (a 24-hour course yields four units, a 16-hour course 2.5 units, a 12-hour course two units, and a six-hour course one unit).

Key Information

1+3 years full-time

Doctor of Philosophy
Master of Philosophy in the first instance

This course is advertised in multiple departments. Please see the Overview tab for more details.

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Dates and deadlines:

Applications open
Sept. 1, 2020
Application deadline
June 30, 2021
Course Starts
Oct. 1, 2021

Some courses can close early. See the Deadlines page for guidance on when to apply.

Graduate Funding Competition
Jan. 7, 2021
Gates Cambridge US round only
Oct. 14, 2020

These deadlines apply to applications for courses starting in Michaelmas 2021, Lent 2022 and Easter 2022.

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