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Postgraduate Lectures

A key aspect of the IoA is the breadth of research undertaken and the familiarity of individuals with astrophysical topics that extend well beyond their own specific research specialities. Maintaining a broad overview of astrophysics as a whole has been key to the success of the IoA and, for PhD students and young postdoctoral researchers, resisting the all too common move to over-specialise has tangible benefits for future careers.

The IoA, in collaboration with Cavendish Astrophysics, has a first-year programme of short, normally 8-lecture, courses designed to give IoA postgraduate students both a background knowledge of fundamental aspects of the subject and an introduction to a selection of highly topical research areas in astrophysics. Attending lectures will also help you to make the most of the weekly seminars and colloquia at the Institute which you are expected to attend.

You also have the option of taking some of the Part III Mathematics courses provided in DAMTP, a number of which are given by IoA Staff. These (typically) 24-lecture courses require a significant commitment in terms of both time and effort. However, particularly for students embarking on certain theoretical PhD topics, attendance at the right course can provide an excellent grounding, of direct relevance to their research.

You are expected to attend the IoA courses, as these will provide essential skills for your PhD studies and beyond. If you would like to attend other courses or have any questions, talk to Paul Hewett soon after you arrive.

Mandatory sessions include:

  • The Journal Club
  • Presentation Practice sessions
  • Introduction to Research Computing

Academic Events

The IoA attracts many distinguished speakers from around the world to talk about their particular areas of expertise. In addition there are a great many resident experts who are often all too happy to share their vast wealth of knowledge with the rest of us.

The main academic events in the week are the departmental colloquia and seminars. These are separate from the postgraduate lecture series, and are open to anyone who wants to listen. It is strongly recommended that students attend (in fact, you’ll be frowned upon if you don’t). One of the things of which you will constantly be reminded is that you should not just follow one narrow line of research, neglecting all other fields of study. This leads to a fairly naïve view of the subject as a whole, and will certainly put you in a very weak position when it comes to your viva exam and when applying for postdoctoral positions.

Wednesday Seminars | HLT | 13:15

These consist of a couple of short (half-an-hour maximum) talks given by resident and visiting astronomers on their current research starting at 13:15 pm. They are accompanied by a bread and cheese lunch at 12:30 pm. Look out for details in your inbox about signing up for a lunch platter, these are currently free but need to be ordered in advance!

During your time at the IoA, you will be required to give a Wednesday seminar about your work. It is expected that you will do this at some point during your second year, and again in your third year. You may also find it beneficial to present some results in your first year—this is good practice for conferences.

Thursday Colloquia | HLT |16:00

On Thursday afternoons are the (more formal) astrophysics colloquia. The colloquium takes place in the Hoyle building lecture theatre at 16:00 pm after afternoon Tea, followed by wine, fruit juice and a selection of nibbles. There is a rota system in place to help with the serving of wine and washing/clearing up afterwards, please make sure that you sign up to help at least once a term. Often, the visiting speaker is taken out to dinner at one of Cambridge’s restaurants in the evening, and you are encouraged to go along (and even bribed with a subsidy!) Thursday colloquia generally only run during Full Term. There will also be the opportunity to Meet the Speaker before the talk is given. Please look out for details of this, you will get weekly emails. It is expected that all first year students attend Meet the Speaker Sessions.

Cosmology Meetings

There are regular Cosmology talks & meetings. Details of these can be found here.

DAMTP Astro Mondays | Zoom | 14:00

Astro Mondays run every Monday during term time at 14:00 and feature prominent astrophysicists from across Europe and the rest of the world. these.

PART III AND PHD STUDENTS ARE ENCOURAGED TO ATTEND : We require speakers to pitch their talks at a level that Part III students will learn something!

Data Intensive Science Seminar Series

A selection of data intensive talks from academia and industry, organised by the Centre for Doctoral Training in Data Intensive Science. Click here for more details.

Student Seminars

In addition to the large departmental talks, there are lots of smaller, less formal discussion groups and talks which are held at varying times during the week. One lunchtime a week (during Term) is usually set aside for student journal club, to which only the postgraduate students are invited. Part way through the year, first-year students give a brief presentation on their work to the existing students at journal club.

Journal Clubs/Group Meetings

Depending on what area you find yourself working in, there are also other journal clubs and meetings focused on one particular area of astrophysics. Most of these are relatively informal meetings, often involving food of some kind to stimulate the discussion process.

New meetings and journal clubs are always springing up and in general people are very welcome to attend these, although asking the meeting chairman first is always best! The locations tend to vary, so it may be best to check these with existing students before the meeting.