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Postgrad options in Europe

  1. Oct 2, 2014 #1
    Just started my final year of undergrad in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland. In the end I'll have a BA (Hons) in Mathematics, however I've taken a lot of physics classes. I want to go on to do a PhD in theoretical physics, most likely in string theory, in mainland Europe, probably Germany or Sweden.

    My first issue is that so many of the university websites have broken links in English and its very difficult to find any solid info. There's also the fact that many don't seem to have any actual doctorate programs.

    The next issue is that they seem to require a Masters degree first. While this is understandable, my undergrad course seems to have included every course the Masters programs contain. I have taken these classes (as well as other, less relevant ones) at the corresponding levels (i.e. the classes were based on these books)

    Classical Mechanics - Landau, V.I Arnold
    Electromagnetism - Jackson
    Quantum Mechanics - Sakurai, Merzbacher
    Statistical Physics - Huang
    Complex Analysis - Palka

    (Other classes included for completeness sake -
    Linear Algebra - Gelfand
    Calculus - Thomas
    Real Analysis - Spivak
    Calculus on Manifolds - Spivak
    Mechanics - Kleppner Kolenkow
    Group Theory - Durbin
    Rings, Fields, Modules - Durbin
    Metric, Normed, Topological Spaces - Sutherland
    Algebraic Geometry - Reid
    ODEs - Brauer, Nohel
    Lebesgue Integral - Bartle
    Number Theory - No book, pretty standard treatment
    Abstract Algebra - No book, covered Galois Theory)

    This year I am taking:
    Quantum Field Theory - Peskin & Schroeder, Schweber
    Differential Geometry - Dubrovin, Fomenko, Novikov
    General Relativity - Not sure what book yet
    Algebraic Topology - Not really based on any book, but Fulton has a lot of the stuff in it.
    PDEs - Strauss
    Functional Analysis - Conway
    I'm also doing a project worth 10 ECTS on scalar products relating to the algebraic Bethe ansatz in quantum spin chains.

    All the Masters programs I've seen would essentially have me repeating all of this.

    Are there any PhD programs in string theory I could get access to with the background I have?

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2014 #2


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    Could you give some examples of university websites which have broken links? I checked the U of Gottingen, and their website seemed to be functioning correctly (in English, no less). Do you really want to attend a university which can't maintain a website?
  4. Oct 3, 2014 #3
    Going back through all of my history to find them would take a while so here's the first one I could find. University of Hamburg. The link to Graduate School in Mathematics (...) doesn't work from this page http://www.uni-hamburg.de/forschung/nachwuchs/promotion/fakultaere-graduiertenschulen_e.html [Broken]. It also doesn't work when you try to access it from other pages. There was definitely a few more that I found.

    Anyway, to the main question at hand, does anyone know of PhD options in mainland Europe that would be suitable?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  5. Oct 4, 2014 #4
    Bumping this
  6. Oct 4, 2014 #5


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    Since you mention Sweden, let me give you a few insights to the situation here.

    The typical way of recruiting PhD students in Sweden is that a permanent faculty member has enough funding to hire a PhD student and makes an announcement (at my university, vacancies are posted at http://www.kth.se/en/om/work-at-kth/vacancies with five possible announcement calls for PhDs per year). Students are generally hired on a fixed term contract with full social benefits and relatively high salaries compared to the rest of Europe. This varies a bit from university to university, but the general trend is moving in this direction. Of course, this is good for the students, but at the same time means that there are less available positions and competition for them are typically very strong. The nominal time for PhD studies in Sweden is still four years, which may be extended to up to five years with 20% teaching or other departmental duties. PhD studies generally include a course part where you would take PhD level courses and a research part.

    As for the entry requirements, it is the director of doctoral studies that decides whether you fulfil them (again, at my university, but it is very likely to be similar at others). My university requires one of the following:
    1. Completed second cycle studies (i.e., a master degree)
    2. At least 240 credits out of which at least 60 at the second cycle level
    3. Acquired largely equivalent knowledge either in or outside Sweden
    Depending on how much you have studies, options 2 and 3 might still apply to you even if you do not have a master degree (I would suggest checking with the university before applying).

    Edit: I should also mention that it is very common that the faculty member hiring you will want to see an example of scientific writing on your part, i.e., a thesis (generally people would submit their master thesis) or a research paper, in the selection process.
  7. Oct 4, 2014 #6
    Here in the Netherlands, we are aware that other countries have different bachelor/master/PhD systems. We didn't have bachelor degrees until maybe 10 years ago. We only had Master degrees. Now, it is still quite rare that a student 'quits' with 'just' a BSc. Most universities will be able to tell you if your degree is equivalent to or accepted by the university as a dutch Masters degree. Maybe your own university can also give you such information.
  8. Oct 19, 2014 #7
    I think I will have to take a MSc before going on to PhD. Since you are working in Sweden, is it possible for EU students to get bank loans or some other kind of funding for their studies?

    I was looking at a very interesting MSc in the University of Humboldt, Berlin, but it required a 5 ECTS lab course to be taken, which I have not done.

    Does anyone else know of taught MSc courses in Germany, Sweden or elsewhere, where the emphasis is on QFT, strings, mathematical physics type stuff? The best option would be the Elite MSc in Munich I think, but I don't think my grades are good enough for that. The UK also has really good ones and only last a year, but that is very expensive.
  9. Oct 19, 2014 #8


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    Swedish students are generally paid a monthly stipend from the state for studies. This amount is of the order of 300 EUR and can be supplemented by an additional loan (making a total of around 900 EUR if I do not misremember). If I remember correctly, both the stipend and loan require that you have either lived in Sweden for 2 years or that you are moving together with your partner if he/she has a job in Sweden. In this latter case, you are required to have lived together with your partner for at least 2 years and your partner cannot have been working in Sweden for an extended period (I do not remember the exact time) during the last few years. In fact, my fiancee, who is not Swedish, used this last option when I moved back from my postdoc - but now she has been in Sweden for more than 2 years and could get the financial support even if I did not exist.

    An important aspect is that Swedish students do not pay tuition fees at universities but university education is free as long as you are admitted (Swedish universities are paid from the state based on the volume of education). Since any EU citizen should be treated in the same way, this also means that there are no tuition fees for EU citizens when studying at Swedish universities. However, you will have to find some means of covering your living expenses if you are not eligible for the stipend and loan I mentioned above. Non-EU nationals are required to pay tuition fees as the universities do not get funding from the state to educate them.

    As for private bank loans to fund your living expenses, I am unaware of whether there are such options or not. Mainly because I am a Swedish national and thus did not need to take a private loan due to the stipend.
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