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PhD Proposal Submission

Guidelines and Submission Dates Related to PhD Proposals:

Progression to the Neuroinformatics PhD is contingent on successful completion of the MSc by Research programme as well as the approval of a PhD Proposal.

Dates below have been updated to reflect the 2014 session for students who joined the MSc programme in September 2013 and will begin the PhD process in September 2014.

17th September 2014:

Meeting and Small Presentation

  • Student meetings will be held  to discuss your PhD Proposals. Students are required to give a short presentation (~10 minutes) describing your current thoughts related to your PhD proposal.  This should include a possible PhD topic and supervisor (within a few slides) as well as a back-up proposal (~1 slide outlining a different possible PhD topic and supervisor).  You are expected to have discussed the project with your proposed supervisor before this meeting, but it is fine to have some aspects not decided at this stage. 
  • You will be given individual feedback about your PhD proposals and told whether or not you can go forward with your proposed PhD topic (or whether the backup or another plan would be suitable).


10th October 2014:

Final Deadline Date for Submission of Full PhD proposal

  • Students are required to submit a full PhD proposal document of 2-5 pages, by email to neuroinf[a]  This should also be submitted to your supervisors.
  • The earlier your proposal is submitted, the more time you will have available for your PhD.  Reminder: You will only have funding for 3 years of PhD study – any time taken beyond this point will not be covered within your stipend and the DTC is unable to pay for continuation or matriculation fees for subsequent semesters. Only once the written proposal has been received and approved by DTC staff can we schedule the proposal meeting (below).

Proposal Meeting - to be scheduled as soon as possible after 10th October deadline; held 
before 7th November 2014:

  • Once the proposal document is received a meeting should be scheduled with your primary and secondary supervisors and DTC academic staff. This should be held prior to 7th November (at the very latest).  At the meeting, you will need to obtain agreement between DTC academic staff and your supervisors that your project can go forward.  If this is unsuccessful you will need to schedule another meeting for a revised project.
Items to note:
  • Projects must be approved by the 7th November 2014. 
  • Your PhD stipend funding is contingent upon meeting the 10th October and 7th November 2014 milestones for progression. 
  • You will be contacted when your project has been formally approved after your PhD Proposal Meeting. Once the project has been approved, you can move desks to the institute hosting your project if a space is available and start to spend money against the project budget. Please contact neuroinf[a]  to arrange this move once you have discussed it with your supervisor.
  • **Please be aware that your PhD completion clock starts at the beginning of September regardless of when the proposal meeting is held.  The University will require you to pay additional fees, which the DTC cannot reimburse, if you submit your thesis after the 31st August 2018.


Your full PhD proposal document will need to include:

  1. A primary and a secondary supervisor, both of whom have agreed to attend your proposal meeting and to supervise you if the meeting goes as planned.  In unusual circumstances a proposal meeting can proceed without a second supervisor, but this would need to be approved with DTC staff well beforehand.  The proposal should explicitly describe the roles for each of your supervisors (i.e., the aspects of the project for which each are responsible).

  2. The details of the project, similar to what you have outlined in the pre-proposal presentation but more concrete and specific, including both the overall goals and the methods by which they will be achieved.

  3. Enough review of related literature to show that you know the area and can demonstrate that your work will be novel and important.

  4. A rough timetable, saying what you plan to have achieved in each year, including both research and dissemination plans (e.g. publications and conferences planned). DTC students are encouraged to spend a 3 - 6 month period in an institute outside Edinburgh that has collaborative links with their supervisor's laboratory.

  5. A budget listing the resources needed, including estimates for any special equipment, supplies, software, or other costs expected.  Allowable costs are listed under Expenses & Budgets.

    Additional tips:
    • Include any external resources you require even if cost is not involved, such as datasets from collaborators. Please note the DTC can only fund marginal costs for experimental projects, such as materials and animal costs; we cannot pay for capital equipment, lab refurbishment, etc.
    • Everyone will be provided with a standard DICE workstation and access to ECDF servers. (Compute time at ECDF and on the DTC Jupiter cluster is already paid for; you should not include that in budgets, but you should mention elsewhere that you plan to use these resources).  Any other computational equipment required should be justified explicitly.  Due to the very wide range of costs for laptops, and the high likelihood that students already have laptops when they arrive, students are expected to purchase the laptop of their choice out of their stipend if they want to get a new one.  Budget items are only approved for laptops if there is a specific and documented special case showing that a particularly high-spec or otherwise unusual laptop is needed just for this project.
    • All projects will have a standard conference travel budget of £1500/year to cover one EU and one international conference per year; you only need to make a specific justification if you anticipate needing substantially more or less.  (E.g. more is approved for specific extended lab visits or if you can show that in your interdisciplinary field you'll need to present at multiple international conferences in different areas in the same year, though this is usually not recommended due to the amount of time required for those trips).  See Conference Travel for further details.
    • Publication costs should not be included in this budget as they will be paid for separately by the grant, unless unusual costs are anticipated for this particular project. 
    • Any other items need to be justified explicitly -- why are they needed for this particular project?  Don't just list them, tell us specifically why you need them and what would happen if we didn't fund them!
  6. A description of any special arrangements necessary for the project, such as plans for external lab visits, working arrangements with collaborators, industrial involvement, etc.

  7. A brief discussion of the most significant risks involved in this project, and how these will be mitigated or what contingency plans are in place to handle them.  Examples:
    1. If the project requires access to an external set of data, describe how much the project would need to change if that set of data does not become available on time.
    2. If the bulk of the project depends on the results found in the first year of work, describe what will happen if the results don't turn out as anticipated.
    3. If the project requires learning new experimental techniques, programming in new languages, using new types of maths, etc., try to convey how confident you are that such competency can be achieved in a reasonable time, and what to do in case of serious difficulty.