Finding a PhD program in Europe

In summary, the speaker is seeking a PhD in Europe due to personal life choices and a preference to be close to their home country of Serbia. They have a strong academic background in quantum field theory and gravitation and are looking for a mentor who is working on interesting research in this area. They have considered looking at high ranked universities, but have decided to focus on finding a mentor who aligns with their specific interests. Their background is in Poincare gauge theory, but they are interested in expanding their knowledge in loop quantum gravity and string theory. They are seeking advice and potentially contacts for finding a suitable PhD position.
  • #1
Antarres
200
99
Hello everyone,

I am currently working on finding a PhD in Europe. I have nothing against America or Canada, but due to some personal life choices I also have to make along with this PhD, I prefer to move into a country close to my own(Serbia), which means anywhere in Europe. I have recently finished master studies specializing in quantum field theory and gravitation, and I have no grade issues, I think(my GPA is 9.63/10 during bachelor's and 10/10 during master's). I was pretty much one of the top two or three students in my generation.

However, I have some trouble finding the mentor I would work with, which is the main goal for finding the PhD. My first point of view regarding the PhD was looking for universities which are ranked high on those lists of universities in physics, but I've come to a conclusion that being accepted to a high ranked institution isn't necessary the goal, since that rank may be based on quality of research in some area I am not interested in(e.g. nuclear physics or material science or idk). So I figured it would be the best to get in touch with some researchers who are working on something very interesting in the area of gravitation or quantum field theories, quantum gravity, quantum foundations, etc.
So then the next idea was to look up papers in those areas in search for interesting groups that work on that. But as you know, there are many different approaches to quantum gravity in particular, and most of those papers were not readable at my level(it was the end of bachelor's then), so I could not judge on the content of those pretty much. So I decided to work on my own foundations the best I could, getting advanced courses in QFT, GR etc, and reading material on that above the university level.

Regarding my background in quantum gravity, my best choice at an institute close to my faculty was to work in Poincare gauge theory. So that's what I did for master's thesis, and hopefully I will get some papers published out of that this autumn/winter. But this theory is kinda niche, and I don't seem to find too many people working on it in Europe. Also, I would not like to stick to one theory for a long period of time, since that would occupy a lot of my time solving different models which(as we know), might not be measurable or give any more fundamental answers than the ones I'd find by reading texts of the founders of the theory. Those models are generally functioning(from my experience) like proposing certain mathematical hypotheses, that could possibly(?) work out in the end, but without much motivation on the choice of the approach. I have no background in loop QG, string theory etc.(those are PhD level subjects at my university, and weren't the area of my thesis), but I would obviously like to get it. I would like to have a broader view of QFT/QG theories by the time I finish PhD so that I can have some sort of a trace which would guide my further carrier towards something interesting hopefully. Maybe this is optimistic, but I am not so ready to give up that point of view, I guess my experience so far doesn't allow me to do so.

So, maybe some people here have been or are in contact with interesting senior researchers that could be good PhD guides, or have information that would help me direct my sight on some particular groups. I kinda feel like that despite me having advanced knowledge for my age, it is immeasurable(a lot of people could have my grades or better out there) and therefore irrelevant to anyone who has been in the area for a much longer time than me. So they would probably look at my papers, but I don't know how relevant those would be since they are master's/phd level in not so popular theory, so therefore they could only indicate my ability to learn and perform research in some area, but they wouldn't be considered important papers(I guess that's reasonable too). Any advice regarding my situation will be gladly appreciated.

Regards!
Antarres
 
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  • #2
Hi Antarres,

since I work in a different field, I cannot help you directly. But what I would suggest is that you discuss these things with professors of your faculty in areas close to your interests, or your Master thesis advisor. They probably go to many conferences and know some good groups, taking into account your interests as well as if they have (not unimportantly) a reputation for being pleasant coworkers. They could even be a reference, so that your future mentor knows your strengths before hiring you.

good luck!
 
  • #3
thephystudent said:
Hi Antarres,

since I work in a different field, I cannot help you directly. But what I would suggest is that you discuss these things with professors of your faculty in areas close to your interests, or your Master thesis advisor. They probably go to many conferences and know some good groups, taking into account your interests as well as if they have (not unimportantly) a reputation for being pleasant coworkers. They could even be a reference, so that your future mentor knows your strengths before hiring you.

good luck!
Obviously, I will get nice references from my professors, but so far they haven't pinpointed any locations where I could go next, that's why I asked here to see if someone has a good idea where to look. But yeah, I will talk to them more obviously.

Thank you!
 
  • #4
Maybe you can visit the sites of many departmemts and see the specializations of the faculty and email them if any has one that interests you. Consider too, other aspects that matter over the longer run ( if you have a choice): do you prefer larger cities/departments or smaller, etc.
 
  • #5
One good place to find out who is working on your area of interest is the preprint archive.

https://arxiv.org/

Once you have a few candidate names, it's time to start Googling. Find out who among them is a professor at universities that might be suitable for your needs. Find their email at university. Contact them directly. Let them know specifically that you are looking for a place to do a PhD. Offer to send them more information about you. If it seems possible, ask them about things you have concerns about. Ask them to let you know about anything you should know.

Once you have a potential faculty adviser, it's time to contact the university and find out about various mundane things. You will need to know application requirements, dates for various things, what you need regarding transcripts, reference letters, etc. Also, you should find out what scholarships or other financial support you can apply for. Many such things won't consider you unless you apply.

You should be very careful to be nice to the support staff. Clerks and secretaries can often be valuable sources of information that profs may or may not know, and may or may not tell you about. For example, if you have difficulty understanding what is required on a form, you probably want to ask the department secretary. That's the person who will have looked at many of these forms and will know what is good to put in the boxes. They will also be able to tell you about deadlines and which ones can be pushed and which ones really are final. And lots of other things.

Another place to look is magazines with titles like Physics Today, and various other "fluffy" subject-related magazines. Your university library will be able to make suggestions. The issue you want is to find out the "recent graduate" items. These will tell you things like where previous PhD students got jobs. If you are considering a prof as your adviser, and his previous students all got jobs that you would like to have, then that's a good possible adviser.
 
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  • #6
@WWGD @DEvens Thank you both for advices, it is greatly appreciated.
 
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Related to Finding a PhD program in Europe

1. How do I find a PhD program in Europe?

There are a few different ways to find a PhD program in Europe. One option is to search online for universities and programs that interest you. Another option is to attend graduate school fairs or conferences where European universities may be represented. You can also reach out to professors or colleagues who may have connections or knowledge about PhD programs in Europe.

2. What are the requirements for applying to a PhD program in Europe?

The requirements for applying to a PhD program in Europe may vary depending on the university and program. Generally, you will need to have a strong academic background, including a relevant Bachelor's and/or Master's degree. Some programs may also require standardized test scores, letters of recommendation, and a research proposal. It is important to carefully review the requirements for each program you are interested in to ensure you meet the criteria.

3. Is it necessary to speak the local language to attend a PhD program in Europe?

This depends on the country and program you are interested in. Some universities may offer PhD programs in English, while others may require fluency in the local language. It is important to research the language requirements for each program you are considering. If you do not speak the local language, you may also want to look into language courses or programs offered by the university.

4. How long does a PhD program in Europe typically take to complete?

The length of a PhD program in Europe can vary, but it typically takes around 3-4 years to complete. This may also depend on your field of study and the specific requirements of the program. Some programs may also offer the option to extend your studies if needed.

5. What is the cost of attending a PhD program in Europe?

The cost of attending a PhD program in Europe can vary greatly depending on the country and university. In some countries, PhD programs may be fully funded by the university or government, while in others you may need to pay tuition fees. It is important to research the cost of living and tuition fees for each program you are considering and also look into potential funding opportunities such as scholarships or grants.

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