Finding a supervisor depends on which PhD route you're taking:

  • you’re applying for a funded research project (studentship); or
  • you're putting forward your own research proposal.

If you’re applying for a studentship, your supervisor will usually be the academic who made the funding application for the research project.

If you’re proposing your own PhD project, you will need to do some research to identify potential Imperial supervisors whose research interests align with your own. 

To do this, we recommend first researching on the websites of appropriate Imperial departments, centres and institutes to see which areas of research they cover. See an A–Z of our research groups.

Once you've identified an appropriate research group, you'll need to explore which academic staff are open to supervising students. This is often noted on the website.

This is an important step as you will need to find out whether they have an appropriate supervisor. You will also need to discuss your research idea before you apply.

When applying, you will need to provide details of your proposed supervisor and a proposal of your intended research.

If the department indicates that you don’t need to identify a supervisor before applying, you can submit your research proposal as part of your online application.

Contacting a supervisor

Once you have identified a potential supervisor,  the best way to move forward is to contact them by email. 

This should be a formal email, which shows that you have done your research into their particular research expertise and past research work. 

Expectations and supervisory style

Once you have discussed the research project with your supervisor, you may wish to discuss other aspects of Imperial and supervision which will contribute to your overall experience.

For example, you may wish to ask:

  • how many other research students they are supervising?
  • how often you can expect to meet with them?
  • what role postdocs and other members of the research group play?
  • does the research group interact with other labs/groups in Imperial and other external research groups?

Discussing these topics with your prospective supervisor will give you a sense of what it will be like to work in the lab and/or research group and whether this will suit you.

For more information, see Imperial's Success Guide, which has guidance on working with your supervisor.