PhD Interview tips

PhD Interview tips

It’s not uncommon now for Masters or Undergraduate students to present some data or data that they produced during their research for a PhD interview process. Sometimes this can be in front of the potential lab, the Professor or the department interview panel that is assessing candidates. The aim of this is to understand what basic skills and understanding the potential PhD candidate already has about the field or a scientific topic in general. For many this is a great opportunity to impress and may allow applicants to rise above competing applicants that may have been grades on paper but do not have the drive, experience or skills to carry out a PhD in a specific lab. To help you get through this interview process here are some tips for your PhD interview presentation:

  1. Read as many papers as you can about the topic. For PhDs looking for post-doc positions in fields outside of what they carried out their PhD in, it’s recommended to read up to 100 papers to have a decent understanding of the topic and have an intellectual conversation with the Professor you a applying to. For an undergraduate or Masters student I would recommend reading 20-30 papers on the topic of interest of the lab. I know this might seem like a lot, but it will show you dedication and enthusiasm for the field.
  2. Don’t use Wikipedia as a reference. Hopefully after reading your papers you will have a good enough understanding of the topic to present primary research papers or reviews on the topic. Using Wikipedia as a reference is a big “”No-No”” and wont look good.
  3. Find a good review on the topic. Sometimes reading one good review will give you all the figures and information you need for the presentation. Check out journals like Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology or Nature Reviews Cancer for some great in depth reviews with great figures that will look good in your presentation.
  4. Make the presentation as simple as possible. The last thing you want to do is stress yourself out about the presentation because you don’t know the minute details of the figures. If possible, keep the presentation as simple as possible to 4/5 figures that you understand and can answer questions on.
  5. Have acknowledgements. If you are presenting your undergraduate or Masters work thank the previous labs that you were working with.
  6. Mention that you have a publication: If you are lucky enough to have published with the lab you did your research in, dont be afraid to talk about the paper and highlight how you contributed to the publication.
  7. Give a short Bio of you career or successes to date. The interview panel might have read your CV, but giving them a short one slide update on your education and achievements can look good.
  8. Dont go over time! If you are given 15 mins to talk, take 15 mins! There’s nothing more frustrating then presentations dragging on!
  9. Good luck!
10th Mar 2021 Sean Mac Fhearraigh

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