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Course content


The development of new materials lies at the heart of many of the technological challenges we currently face, for example creating advanced materials for energy generation. Computational modelling plays an increasingly important role in the understanding, development and optimisation of new materials. This four year Doctoral Training Programme on computational methods for material modelling aims to train scientists not only in the use of existing modelling methods but also in the underlying computational and mathematical techniques. This will allow students to develop and enhance existing methods, for instance by introducing new capabilities and functionalities, and also to create innovative new software tools for materials modelling in industrial and academic research. The first year of the CDT is a materials modelling option within the MPhil in Scientific Computing (please see the relevant entry) at the University of Cambridge and a range of additional training elements.

The MPhil in Scientific Computing is administered by the Department of Physics, but it serves the training needs of the Schools of Physical Sciences, Technology and Biological Sciences. The ability to have a single Master’s course for such a broad range of disciplines and applications is achieved by offering core (i.e. common for all students) numerical and High Performance Computing (HPC) lecture courses, and complementing them with elective courses relevant to the specific discipline applications.

In this way, it is possible to generate a bespoke training portfolio for each student without losing the benefits of a cohort training approach. This bespoke course is fully flexible in allowing each student to liaise with their academic or industrial supervisor to choose a study area of mutual interest.

See the website http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/pcphpdcms

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students will have:
- a comprehensive understanding of numerical methods, and a thorough knowledge of the literature, applicable to their own research;
- demonstrated originality in the application of knowledge, together with a practical understanding of how research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge in their field;
- shown abilities in the critical evaluation of current research and research techniques and methodologies;
- demonstrated self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and acted autonomously in the planning and implementation of research.


The first year of the CDT has a research as well as a taught element. The students attend lecture courses during the first five months (October-February) and then they will undertake a substantial Research Project over the next 6 months (from March to the end of August) in a participating Department. The research element aims to provide essential skills for a successful completion of the PhD, as well as to assess and enhance the research capacity of the students. It is based on a materials science topic which is studied by means of scientific computation. Research project topics will be provided by academic supervisors or by the industrial partners. Most of the projects are expected to make use the University’s High Performance Computing Service (for which CPU time for training and research has been budgeted for every student).

The taught element comprises core lecture courses on topics of all aspects of scientific computing, and elective lecture courses relevant to the topic of the research project. There is equal examination credit weighting between the taught and the research elements of the course, which is gained by submitting a dissertation on the project and by written assignments and examinations on the core and elective courses, respectively. Weighting of the assessed course components is as follows: Dissertation (research) 50%; written assignments 25%; written examinations 25%.

The core courses are on topics of high-performance scientific computing and advanced numerical methods and techniques; they are taught and examined during the first five months (October-February). Their purpose is to provide the students with essential background knowledge for completing their theses and for their general education in scientific computing.

Appropriate elective courses are selected from Master’s-level courses offered by the Departments of the School of Physical Sciences, Technology or Biological Sciences. The choice of courses will be such as to provide the students with essential background knowledge for completing their theses and for their general education in the materials science application of the project. They are decided in consultation with the project supervisor.

Depending on the materials science application of the research topic, students will follow one of the following two numerical methodology options: a) Continuum methods based on systems of partial differential equations (PDEs, e.g. finite-difference, element or volume methods); or b) atomistic approaches, which can be based on classical particle-based modelling (e.g. molecular dynamics) or on electronic structure- based methods (e.g. density functional theory). The students who take the atomistic modelling options will attend a 12-lecture course before continuing to classical particle-based methods or electronic structure methods. Irrespective of the numerical methodology option, students will attend lecture courses on High Performance Computing topics and elements of Numerical Analysis.

In addition to the comprehensive set of Masters-level courses provided by the MPhil and across the University in the field, which will be available to the CDT students, it will also be possible for students to take supplementary courses (not for examination) at undergraduate level, where a specific need is identified, in order to ensure that any prerequisite knowledge for the Masters courses is in place.

Moreover, depending on their background and circumstances, students may be offered places in the EPSRC-funded Autumn Academy, which takes place just before the start of the academic year (two weeks in September).

Funding Opportunities

Studentships funded by EPSRC and/or Industrial and other partners are available subject to eligibility criteria.

General Funding Opportunities http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/finance/funding

Find out how to apply here http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/pcphpdcms/apply

See the website http://www.graduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/directory/pcphpdcms

Visit the EPSRC CDT MPhil in Computational Methods for Materials Science page on the University of Cambridge website for more details!





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