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Research training

Internal training and development


We expect all students to attend the following events, regardless of whether or not they are presenting:


First Year talks

All first year students must make a research presentation to complete their probation. This will normally happen in May. The format will be 12 minutes + 3 for questions. This would be a typical talk length for a PhD student at a conference.


Second Year Journal Club talks

All second year students will be required to complete a journal club. This will involve presenting the background and results from a paper related to your subject. The format will be 25 minutes (including 5-10 mins of background) + 5 for questions. These talks will normally take place at 1pm on Tuesdays.


Three Minute Thesis

All third year students must make a three minute thesis presentation, in which they will explain the content of their thesis in just 3 minutes. This event is normally held in May. Examples of this kind of presentation can be found here:


Third Year seminars

All third year students will present their research in seminar slots from January to gain practice with longer presentations. Format will be 25 minutes + 5 for questions. A schedule will be sent round separately. These will normally take place at 1:30pm on Tuesdays.


SPS weekly seminars

Seminars on a variety of topics are scheduled most Thursday afternoons in SPS and on other days as visiting researchers are available. You may also be interested in the Mathematics seminar on Tuesday afternoon at 3pm, LHCS seminar Tuesday noon and the EEES seminar at 11:15am, also on Tuesdays.


Poster training / competitions

Poster presentation is a common format for PhD students presenting their work at conferences. Poster training will be provided. Additionally, we recommend participation in the annual OU research poster competition and/or the SET for BRITAIN event at the Houses of Parliament.


Research discipline and group meetings

Many research disciplines run additional meetings, which students should attend as appropriate. These may include discussions or presentations about ongoing research, developments at conferences and presentations on new and relevant papers.


Other SPS training seminars

A range of training seminars on general research skills will be provided. These will normally take place on Tuesdays at 2pm. A schedule will be provided separately. Previous training has included:

  • Statistics
  • Introduction to Mathematica
  • Time management
  • How to be a third-year student
  • How to use the observatory
  • Publishing scientific papers
  • How to write a research proposal
  • Using Linux and the cluster
  • Producing a research poster
  • Nuclear astrophysics
  • Quantum field theory



SEPnet is the South East Physics training network ( Sepnet consists of University of Herfordshire, The University of Kent, The Open University, The University of Portsmouth, Queen Mary, University of London, Royal Holloway, University of London, The University of Southampton, The University of Surrey and The University of Sussex in association with University of Oxford, The University of Reading and Rutherford Appleton Laboratory.


GRADnet is the graduate school focusing on professional development for PhD students within SEPnet. Details of the training within GRADnet can be found here:

All 1st year students should attend the induction day.

All 2nd year students are encouraged to attend the moving on day in London.

There are / have been residential schools on astrophysics, condensed matter, particle physics and planetary sciences.

Some costs of attendance may be met by GRADnet and others by SPS. So please be aware of such costs when deciding on attending, and consult with your supervisors.

GRADnet may also offer:


Mentoring: Students frequently benefit from the support and guidance of a mentor: someone who went through the system just a few years before them. GRADnet maintains a pool of physicists ready to act as mentors and is able to put students in touch with them for anything from “quick advice” to a longer term relationship.

Placements for researchers: Popular options include a short spell undertaking research with an organisation where they can apply their skills and knowledge and where their PhD research may have real impact or after submitting their thesis and while waiting for their viva - just as they start to think about what to do next.

Connecting Industry with Physics Researchers: An evening event where PGRs and industry meet to explore research and business ideas and discuss potential career opportunities.

Organise your own conference: Many students welcome the chance to share their research at a conference that is just right for them and their colleagues. GRADnet provides practical support and training as well as funding to help you make your conference a reality.

Develop online learning resources: GRADnet provides the means to make a permanent legacy through on-line student created learning modules for those that come next. Existing modules are on the VRE.

Entrepreneurship: GRADnet occasionally runs entrepreneurship competitions, inviting teams of PGRs from the SEPnet partners to put up ideas to commercialise outputs from their research in a “Dragon’s Den” format.



DISCnet is a data intensive doctoral training centre funded by STFC (for details see DISCnet offers several residential schools (typical 3 days each). All DISCnet students should attend the residential schools. DISCnet students will also do have least 6 months of industrial placement, nominally split between 1st and 3rd years. DISCnet will provide funding for all events and help with placements.

Other students who are members of GRADnet (i.e. all SPS PhD students) should be able to sign up for DISCnet schools at a slightly discounted rate. Opportunities will be advertised by e-mail for time to time. Please discuss suitability with your supervisors.


OU Graduate School training events

Full details and dates of face-to-face and online OU graduate school training events can be found at:

The following face to face events are probably most relevant to SPS PhD students:

Career Development
CV, Application Form Checking or Interview Practice Clinic

Information and Digital Literacy

  • Introduction to Reference Management tools

  • Getting to grips with Research Data Management

Doctoral Training Workshops

  • A Research Student’s Guide to Intellectual Property Rights

  • Preparing for Probation, PhD and MRes Viva

Engaged Researcher series

  • Would you like to gain some teaching experience, supporting sixth-formers as they conduct research?

  • How to Enhance your Research and Academic Profile

At the start of the PhD, the following online courses are likely to be useful:

  • ‘Organising your research’ which covers the Skills Audit, Research Data Management and Time Management.

  • ‘Professional Conduct’, which covers Health and Safety, Ethical Review and Risk Assessments. All of which a student is likely to need to know about during the 1st 6 months of the PhD.