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Research Degrees in
Computing Science and Mathematics


How fast will an infectious disease spread? How can conflicting operational features of a telephone be reconciled? How can we use algebra to investigate networks? How does information flow in the brain? These are just some of the intriguing questions being tackled by members of Computing Science and Mathematics in the course of their research.

We offer MPhil and PhD degrees by research. In recent years, we have been very successful in attracting research funding and currently hold grants to a value of more than £1 million. Divisional research has attracted external support from EPSRC, DEFRA, the European Commission, the European Investment Bank, the Scottish Executive, The Royal Society, The Nuffield trust and other funding agencies.

Computing Science and Mathematics has scope for PhD studies in a number of areas, see the Topics tab above for more details.

Find out more about our research from the research web pages:

Aims and Objectives

The MPhil and PhD in Computing Science and Mathematics are research training degrees. At the end of the programme the student will be able to demonstrate, via a written thesis, a range of abilities including: making a critical overview of a discipline; development of that knowledge into one or more specialisms; designing and executing research, investigative or development projects to deal with new problems and issues, applying a range of enquiry techniques; developing creative and original responses to problems and issues; and, communicating at an appropriate level to a range of audiences in a variety of contexts and for differing purposes.

Study at Stirling

Our division is welcoming - staff doors are always wide open and you can be sure of a high degree of personal attention.

Computing facilities in the division, and the network infrastructure, are all state of the art and regularly updated. You'll make use of the University's workstations (mainly PCs), and divisional facilities (PCs running Windows 7 or Linux and Apple Macs), all linked to the campus network and beyond that to the Internet. You will be encouraged to take advantage of electronic mail and the World-Wide Web.

A further advantage is the campus itself: a beautiful, exciting and friendly place to be with facilities including the Sports Centre, complete with new Olympic-sized pool, the newly refurbished MacRobert Arts Centre, and the Students Union.

PhD Studentship Topics

The Division has scope for PhD studies in a number of areas, some of which are discussed below. Funding for studentships is available from time to time. The University is offering some studentships and we may be able to offer a small number of Divisional studentships. There are, in addition, some SICSA prize studentships available in Computing Science.

If you are interested in applying, please contact the person named in the particular proposal.

The list of PhD topics here is not exclusive. We also welcome proposals on other subjects related to research within the division. For more information about divisional research see You can contact the or individual members of staff if you have a particular idea you would like to discuss.

Select the appropriate link below to view each topic relevant to either Computing Science or Mathematics.

Computing Science Topics

Investigating Behaviour through Modelling, Simulation, and Virtual Experimentation
Superviser: Dr Savi Maharaj
Neural networks using three-compartment neuron models (two projects)
Superviser: Prof Leslie Smith
Second Life: Virtual and real world interaction
Superviser: Prof Evan Magill
An Individual Interactions Approach to Biology/Ecology/Immunology
Superviser: Prof Carron Shankland
Projects in Computational Neuroscience
Superviser: Prof Bruce Graham
Search Algorithms for Peer-to-Peer Overlay Networks
Superviser: Dr Mario Kolberg
Natural Computing / Computational Intelligence
Superviser: Prof Amir Hussain
Genetic Programming in Search Based Software Engineering
Superviser: Dr John Woodward

Mathematics Topics

Using Mathematical models to understand the Dynamics and Control of Wildlife Diseases
Superviser: ?
Using Mathematical models to solve problems in Aquatic Food Security
Superviser: Prof Rachel Norman
Evolutionary and ecological systems
Superviser: Dr Andrew Hoyle
Modelling and analysis of partial differential equations in structured population dynamics
Superviser: Dr Jozsef Farkas

Structure and Content

The programme is broadly the same for both the MPhil and the PhD degrees, with different goals and timescales. A full-time research degree normally lasts one year for an MPhil and three years for a PhD. An MPhil may be typified as taking existing research and applying it to a new area, while a PhD will tend to modify and expand the work of others to make a contribution to the research field. Each student and topic is unique, and the programme varies tremendously depending on those two variables; however, there are some general points to be made.

Each student is allocated a supervisor and a second supervisor. Students generally meet weekly with their supervisors to discuss progress. Support is also available from other researchers with the same research interests through the research group structure. Most groups have regular meetings throughout the semester. Peer support is available through the monthly Postgraduate Research Students group, PG Tips. The Postgraduate Tutor is available to give general advice to research students.

Most training is carried out relatively informally on a one-to-one basis between student and supervisor. To learn about specific subjects students may attend advanced courses in the division, or specialist schools outside the division. In addition to the Division's research training, research students have access to the Stirling University Graduate School. This offers research training on matters such as intellectual property rights, patents, technology transfer, information retrieval and communication skills. All students are encouraged to attend the UK GRAD programme courses, which offer transferable skills such as team building, networking, and career development.

Delivery and Assessment

A major challenge for students, especially in the PhD programme, is to structure their work over a long period of time. The Division requires students to meet regular milestones to help them focus on achievable short term goals, and to ensure adequate progress towards the final goal of submitting their thesis.

Students are admitted initially for postgraduate study. A major milestone occurs 10 months into the PhD programme when confirmation to PhD registration is made. In addition, students must submit a report annually and be orally examined by a viva panel consisting of their two supervisors and one other member of the division. This provides valuable preparation for the final thesis and viva. A less formal milestone is the annual Student Talks Day, at which research students have the opportunity to present their work to a larger audience.

Funding Opportunities

The main source of research studentships in the UK is EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council). Funding may come via the EPSRC Doctoral Training Account, or from a specific project grant. Students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man may be funded by their respective education authorities. Another potential source is divisional funding.

Charitable organisations often award research studentships. Notably, there are the Carnegie Trust studentships which must be applied for by mid-March; these are intensely competitive. Research studentships may be offered by companies with large IT Departments, such as British Petroleum, British Gas and Shell. These companies should be approached directly by students seeking funding.

There are separate arrangements for overseas students. Universities UK supports Overseas Research Studentships, which make up the difference between the fee paid by an overseas student and that paid by a UK student. The British Council funds research students from most parts of the Commonwealth, but usually only for an MSc. The Royal Society also funds overseas research students. For some countries, such as China or Hong Kong, there are particular organisations which award research studentships (e.g. the Sino-British Fellowship Trust). In all cases it is advisable to make enquiries about studentships as early as possible directly to the sponsor.

A funding body pays the University's fees directly, and also awards a maintenance grant whose amount depends on the body. There are special studentships associated with companies called CASE (Cooperative Awards in Science and Engineering). CASE students receive a small additional sum from EPSRC, plus a supplement from the industrial sponsor. The company is expected to play a part in the research of the student, and will normally host visits by the student of four to six weeks per year. CASE studentships are mainly allocated to companies to whom the Division must apply for specific students. (Note: EPSRC are currently developing Knowledge Transfer Accounts which will take the place of CASE and other industry related studentships.)

Tutoring and demonstrating

Each year a number of paid positions as tutors and demonstrators are available to research students. Demonstrators are involved with laboratory work for more elementary undergraduate classes. Tutors have responsibility for a tutorial group of year 1 or 2 students. As well as providing a source of income, these duties can give valuable experience for those considering lecturing as part of their future careers. Interested students should discuss options with their supervisor and the appropriate members of staff as early as possible, and certainly before the start of semester. Funding bodies typically impose restrictions on the number of hours work a student can do. The Division restricts non-PhD work to a maximum of 6 hours per week for all full-time students during semester, with an annual maximum of 180 hours. If a student faces particular financial hardship within these limits, special arrangements may be possible and should be discussed between the student and the supervisor.

PG Tips

An important skill that all researchers require is that of presenting their work to others. All research students have to learn this skill and, in time, will be expected to give talks to specialist discussion groups within the division. PG Tips provides an opportunity for research students to make presentations to their peers. The meetings are organised and attended by research students (with staff present only by invitation). Meetings are normally held monthly, and each research student is expected to contribute one or more talks dealing with his/her own research. In addition to providing an informal atmosphere for presentation, PG Tips gives students a useful opportunity to learn something of the work of their fellow students and of other research groups. Attendance at PG Tips meetings is compulsory.

Student Day

Each year in the break between semesters mini-conference of research student talks is held. Usually this is in the last week of January. Each student contributes a short talk (first year students 15 minutes, others 30 minutes). All staff are invited to the talks. Attendance is compulsory for all research students.

The Research Student Talks (February 2015) illustrate the diversity of the student body at Stirling.

Career Opportunities

Our PhD graduates have gone on to a variety of senior posts, including university lectureships and research appointments in the University and Industrial sectors. Some have positions in industrial management, while others have set up their own company.

Further Information

Entrance Requirements

First or Upper second class UK honours degree in an appropriate discipline (usually Computing or Mathematics) or equivalent. Mature students with a lower class of degree may be accepted for research in Computing Science if they have substantial work experience of computing.

Duration and Modes of Study

MPhil in Computing Science and MPhil in Mathematics (typically 1 year of full time study). PhD in Computing Science and PhD in Mathematics (typically 3 years of full time study). Full time or part time study is available.

Course Start Date

Stirling Uni Library

Research degrees can start at any time, but usually start in October.

Course Contact

Prof Leslie Smith
Postgraduate Tutor
Tel: 01786 467435

Further information is available from:

Divisional Secretary ( Email: )
Computing Science and Mathematics
University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA   SCOTLAND
Telephone: +44 1786 467460     Fax: +44 1786 464551

This page is maintained by:
Computing Science and Mathematics
Faculty of Natural Sciences
University of Stirling, Stirling FK9 4LA
Tel: +44 1786 46 7421

© University of Stirling FK9 4LA Scotland UK • Telephone +44 1786 473171 • Scottish Charity No SC011159
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