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A compulsory element of the course is a substantial research project, extending over two terms, which has been designed to develop a number of valuable and transferable skills. This is undertaken with the guidance of a supervisor with extensive experience in the field. The research project accounts for a third of the total marks available for the course and comprises of a written report (85%) and a formal oral presentation (15%) to the Part III/MASt Examiners.

The report should read as a self-contained document, presented in the style of a scientific research report or paper in a scientific journal. The main sections of the report will describe the work undertaken, the results obtained and an assessment of their significance. An Abstract, Introduction, Conclusions and References should also be included. Supporting Figures and Tables should be used both as an aid in presenting data and results and also to enhance the clarity of the submission. In some circumstances an appendix containing more extensive tabular material/results may be included.

The presentation should consist of a 20-minute description of the project followed by 10 minutes of questions to an audience including the Course Coordinator, project supervisors and UTOs. You are encouraged as fellow students to attend the other presentations where you are able.

Students must use Microsoft PowerPoint 365 for their presentations, a format which is approved by the University and compatible with the laptops used in the IoA for the practice oral project presentation in Lent Term and examiner assessed oral project presentation in Easter Term. All students have free access to Microsoft PowerPoint 365 purchased by the University as detailed here. Students are strongly advised to test their PowerPoint presentation using the online version of Microsoft Office 365 and a web browser.

Important Documents



Summer Vacation

Each year, the Institute produces a booklet containing descriptions of the individual projects available. Each entry contains a brief description of the background to the project along with a summary of the type of work involved and several references to where more information can be obtained.

The project titles represent the entire spectrum of the Cambridge Astronomy research, so we hope that everyone should be able to find a project that interests and suits them the best. It is impossible to form a clear opinion on a project without discussing it with the supervisor. Therefore, students are encouraged to contact the supervisors directly, using the contact details as stated in the project booklet.

Students will then be asked to identify their top ten Research Project titles. Details on how to submit these choices will be confirmed by early September and allocations will be made within two weeks of this date. 

Students will be offered the equivalent of 12 hours formal supervision spread throughout the academic year. To ensure you make good progress prior to the Christmas break, it is essential that you make contact with your primary supervisor as soon as the project allocations are made.

Michaelmas Term

An orientation course covering Linux, the Institute of Astronomy Science Cluster, LaTeX (text-processing facility) and information resources available on-line commences during the first few weeks of term.

An electronic PDF copy interim progress report must be uploaded to the Part III/MASt Astrophysics Moodle site no later than 12:00 noon on the last day of Full Michaelmas Term.

Lent Term

Practice oral presentations, consisting of a 20-minute talk followed by up to 10 minutes of questions, to an audience of Part III Astrophysics students, Project supervisors and the Part III Course Coordinator will be given on the last Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday of Lent Term. This practice presentation is not formally assessed but offers the opportunity to become familiar with the format of the presentation, to be assessed by the Part III Examiners in the Easter Term.

Easter Term

Students will be required to submit a draft of the final project report directly to their supervisor towards the end of the Easter Vacation. The draft will then be discussed during the last supervision, which will take place approximately 1 week later.

An electronic PDF copy of the final project report must be uloaded to the Part III/MASt Astrophysics Moodle site no later than 12:00 noon on the second Monday of Full Easter Term.

A formal, assessed, oral presentation to Part III Examiners will take place at times and dates to be determined by the examiners. Students will be informed by email of the timetable for presentations in the week prior to the project submission deadline.

Useful Links

Extension Requests and Illness

The Institute of Astronomy expects students to meet the advertised deadlines for the submission of all coursework, to ensure fairness to all students taking the course and allow prompt marking by the Department.  

Your Part III Project makes up one third of total available Tripos marks and is subject to special arrangements.  

The Final Report and Final Presentation Slides are linked with compulsory attendance at the Final Oral Presentation, as such, it is not possible for the Department to grant an extension of more than 48 hours. The following policy builds around point 7 of the University’s Dissertation and Coursework extensions policy. 

Extension Requests for the Final Report and/or Final Presentation Slides of up to 48 hours  

  • The student must apply to the Part III/MASt Course Coordinator via this form for an extension of up to 48 hours from the original deadline.  
  • Requests must be submitted no later than 7 days before the deadline to allow for potential amendments to be made to the Final Oral Presentation schedule, 
  • Late submissions must then be submitted via email to the Undergraduate Student Coordinator via your college Tutor.  

Extension Requests for the Final Report and/or Final Presentation Slides of over 48 hours  

  • Late submission of over 48 hours is a particularly serious matter, and will require your College to apply to the Examination Access and Mitigation Committee (EAMC) to seek permission for any credit to be allowed. If this is not granted, the late work will not be counted.  
  • The College must apply to the Secretary of the EAMC for an extension to a deadline and should not approach the Chair, Course Coordinator or Senior Examiner directly.   
  • Applications must be submitted no later than 7 days before the deadline to enable the Secretary to consult the relevant Chair of Examiners or, where applicable, the Senior Examiner.  

Illness during the Oral Presentations  

  • The department defers to University Policy with regards to illness during an examination, including the Final Oral Presentation.    
  • For full details, see the document entitled All student guide to examinations here.