Who are we looking for?
At the CityU auditory neuroscience group we are always open to consider applications from prospective PhD students, but be aware of the following:
- The type of work we do straddles the fields of systems, computational and cognitive neuroscience, and psychoacoustics. These disciplines are quantitative. If you do a PhD in my lab you will be spending a lot of time on a computer, crunching numbers and writing code. We are therefore particularly interested in applicants who can bring quantitative or computing skills to the table. I tend to get a lot of applications from people with a molecular genetics background. Please be aware that in my lab, knowing how to run an ELISA or how to extract RNA is not a skill that you would use.
- In terms of empirical methods we use, currently they include behavioural measurements in rats, human psychophysics, electrophysiological measurements in rats (recordings from the cortical surface and multiunit recordings from cortical and subcortical brain regions), and electroencephalography (EEG) in humans. We are planning to add eyetracking (in humans) and calcium imaging (in rodents) to this repertoire within months. If you have experience with some of these methods, it will definitely be an advantage.
- Given that we are a (predominantly) auditory lab, a background in hearing research, neuroscience, audiology, physiology, pre-med or biology is of course an advantage, but it is not essential. We are also happy to consider applications from students whose first degree is in any area of science, and in particular maths, physics, computer science, statistics, engineering, psychology or linguistics.
- However, it is absolutely necessary that students who want to do a PhD in my lab either have, or somehow demonstrate an ability to acquire, computational and number crunching skills. You will need to develop at least some basic skills in at least some of the following disciplines: writing code in Python or Matlab, linear algebra, statistical modelling, digital signal processing. Obviously if you already have some of these skills, that would be a great advantage. If you do not, then you will somehow have to persuade us that you have the ability and the desire to learn these skills quickly. Your application should indicate in some way how you can meet this essential quantitative/computational skill requirement.
- You will also need to be able to write clear English prose, because all graduate students need to write research articles and a thesis in English.
- Also be aware that about half of the work we do is with volunteer human subjects, and the other half does involve working with laboratory animals. Depending on your project, you may be able to work entirely with humans or entirely with animals or, ideally, a mixture of both. Of course, when we do work with animals we make sure that our work meets high animal welfare standards. Nevertheless, some people object completely against all use of laboratory animals in research as a matter of ethical principle. They are entitled to their opinion, but if that is your position, then please do not apply to my laboratory. It is perfectly OK for students of mine to have a personal preference not to work with animals and to work only with human volunteer subjects instead. But it is decidedly not acceptable for students in my laboratory to think and to act as if their lab colleagues who do work with animals are doing something unethical. They are not.
- Finally, there are of course general entrance requirements set by the University which you must be able to meet. Further information about university formalities can be found here. However, note that there is little point in applying formally to the university to join my lab unless you have first interacted with me and I have indicated to you that I would support your application.
What sort of research projects can I pursue in my doctoral work?
Typically, your PhD project would need to relate to some of the externally funded projects we pursue in our laboratory, just to make sure that your research is adequately resourced. You can see a list of some of our recent projects here.
When can I apply?
While new graduate students would typically apply be December for admission the following September, be aware that it is often possible to "fast track" applications. It may therefore well be possible for you to apply any time, and, if your application is sufficiently impressive, to be offered a place in a matter of weeks. If you are an overseas applicant who does not already have a right of abode in Hong Kong, you will need to obtain a student visa before you can start. Our admin people will help you get a such a visa and the process usually takes 6-8 weeks. In other words, if you are a really good candidate, you might be able to start within a couple of months from today...
Can I get a stipend if I join your lab as a graduate student?
Yes. There are multiple funding sources and stipend schemes available - some of them might involve an additional application (e.g. the HKPFS scheme), others might involve additional teaching assistant or research assistant duties, but we can find a suitable solution.
What is the next step?
If this information hasn't put you off, then write me an email (email@example.com). What your email should do is explain your motivation for doing a neuroscience PhD in my lab. Please list relevant skills, and/or explain how your previous training would be useful in the context of our research. Also, please avoid totally generic statements about how you"looked at my research profile and found that it matches your interest", unless you can actually back that up with a specific example or two. If there are aspects of our research that caught your eye, then be specific, otherwise it sounds insincere. (You can find a list of some of our recent research here.)