Institute of Astronomy

Researcher Development

Being a research student in Cambridge offers all kinds of opportunities to build skills towards becoming a professional researcher.  There are plenty of skills you can gain during your time here which can also be applied in non-research situations, relating for example to personal effectiveness, communication and working with others.  As a graduate student in the Institute you are expected to undertake at least 10 hours of formal researcher development courses each year during the lifetime of your PhD course.  There’s a wide range of courses to choose from, including some offered by the IoA.  You will need to keep a log of all your activities and hand it in to the Graduate Administrator at the end of Easter Term each year.  You can download a log at the bottom of this page:

Courses offered locally by the Institute:

Essential training - First year
Introduction to computing (5 hourly sessions)
Introduction to Outreach
Introduction to Researcher Development
Communications Workshop

Strongly Recommended – First year

Weekly Journal Club sessions
Weekly Presentation Practice sessions

Strongly Recommended – First and Second Years
Astro Nuts and Bolts (1 hour each) (previous topics covered/run bi-annually):
 * Research
 * Where the Money Comes from
 * Journals
 * Building a career
 * Grant Applications
 * Working in a National Research Lab.
 * Facility Applications


University Researcher Development Programme

The University has a whole Researcher Development Programme (RDP) for Research Students with which you are strongly encouraged to engage.  You can find information about it here:  A good place to start is with the Skills Analysis Survey (, but you can see information about all the courses offered under the RDP here:

You will find the RDP site will provide a log of all training you have completed under their scheme (see the link on the right of this page:


How to start planning your training

If you’re not sure where to start, have a look at the PhD Training Pathways here for inspiration:   You could easily start with the Core Skills Training Programme which is open to all first year PhD students and run by RDP for STEM students.  You can find out more from the IoA Student Administration Office (Ho6) in the Hoyle building.


Foreign Languages

If you find you need foreign language skills the School of Physical Sciences provides funding for Language courses and researchers can apply online by following this link:

Library research skills

The Library has now STEM Library courses that are specifies for researchers in STEM disciplines. These cover topics from managing your research data effectively to copyright, presentation, referencing, publishing and more.  You can see the list of courses here:

General IT skills

Of course the University Information Service has a wealth of courses that students can chose from, and more you can see here:

Furthermore, the Office of Scholarly Communication offers a wide range of courses covering everything from Open Access to publishing effectively:


Moving on

Ultimately any training will help you towards your future career, and it’s never too early to start thinking about the next step.  The Careers Service ( will be very pleased to see you right from your first year – they’re a great resource so don’t overlook them.


RDL October 2019-20.doc57 KB
Page last updated: 14 July 2020 at 12:14