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Postgraduate Admissions


‘The university careers service is a huge benefit, and the network of alumni is extraordinary’

Huijie Zhang, from China, is a PhD candidate at Trinity College. Based in the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy, her research focuses on myocardial regeneration

I clicked with the professors here – that’s why I chose Cambridge for my PhD. I had considered a lot of universities in the application phase; I already had a research programme in mind, so I looked at different research groups in similar fields and talked to them. I wanted to find out which one I would enjoy the most, and it was Cambridge.

It only takes 3-4 years, ideally, to finish a PhD programme in the UK, which is shorter than most countries. I also wanted to live in the UK and experience the culture. I already had some friends studying here, and when I asked them about their experience they said the main concern was the weather! Cambridge is a big name in the world, it’s one of the top ranked universities and has an incredible reputation. Stephen Hawking is my favourite scientist of all time, and you only need to look at all the Nobel Prize winners who were at Cambridge to know it’s a special place.

When I was applying to study at Cambridge, the first thing I looked at was the university website, and the links to pages specifically for postgraduate programmes. There’s a lot of information about what the requirements are, and the documents you need to submit, and most importantly the deadlines for submitting them. I also emailed the department and the admissions team with some questions and they came back to me quickly.

As an undergraduate I studied Engineering, specialising in Materials Science, at Central South University and Monash University. My PhD at Cambridge focuses on myocardial regeneration. There is a lot of support in my team and in the department. People are really friendly, and there’s no such thing as a silly question. You don’t have to be perfect; the most important thing is to take the initiative and not be afraid to reach out. You just need to be ready to contribute and discuss, and have ideas.

I’m funded by the Cambridge Trust, which pays for my University fees, and the China Scholarship Council, which pays for my living costs. My advice would be to secure your funding as soon as possible, because there are deadlines and it’s quite competitive.

Cambridge is a lovely city. Most of my social life revolves around my college and I’ve been taken really good care of.  If you keep your eyes open there are lots of opportunities – there are Formals [traditional dinners] every week, and it’s a good break from the lab and a chance to chat to people from different departments, including students and Fellows. There are bar nights and cycle trips to Grantchester. I’ve also joined the Cambridge Union and have enjoyed the debates. That’s the thing I love about Cambridge – all these little traditions that I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to experience. It’s a lot of fun.

I stayed in college accommodation during the pandemic lockdown, and there was a lot support and help, such as a ‘buddy system’ for those who needed to self-isolate. Plenty of safety measures have been put in place so I feel safe here. The department I work in has also introduced layers of precautions. 

Cambridge opens up so many possibilities. The university careers service is also a huge benefit, and the network of alumni is extraordinary. There are opportunities to attend workshops to explore your future career options, to modify your CV for specific job applications, and to even do mock interviews if you wish.