The aim of this page is to provide a collection of useful information for incoming post-doctoral researchers at the Mathematical Institute.
Maths ECR Google Calendar
The Mathematical Institute's ECR Committee (see below) keeps a Google Calendar to record events of interest to Early Career Researchers in the department, located here.
MPLS Postdoctoral Website
The Mathematical Institute is a part of the Mathematical, Physical, Life Sciences Division (MPLS), which has its own website for new postdoctoral fellows, found here. There you may find information relevant to all postdocs in the MPLS division.
Many of us do not arrive in Oxford alone. While we hope that you will find your job at the Mathematical Institute satisfying and fulfilling, perhaps your family may need some guidance to fit in in Oxford. The Newcomer's Club is an organization made up of volunteers that helps spouses and other family members find their place in the city.
Colleges and ECRs
The collegiate structure is one of the defining features of Oxford University. The colleges are independent institutions but interact with numerous aspects of the University's life, from teaching to social activities, and to a lesser extent research. Many colleges have very long histories and attractive buildings. Every student has a college affiliation; postdocs, on the other hand, do not usually belong to a college. There are, however, different ways in which postdocs can acquire college affiliations.
- Stipendiary Junior Research Fellowships (JRF): These are full-time research posts funded by a college. JRFs are advertised in the university recruitment pages, as well as college websites. The fellowships usually include access to college facilities, membership in the Senior Common Room (SCR), meals and sometimes accommodation. Some colleges require their JRFs to be involved in college teaching. The Mathematics, Physics and Life Sciences Division maintains a list of fellowships here.
- Non-stipendiary JRFs: These fellowships are unpaid and typically offer membership in the SCR, free meals, and the opportunity to participate in college life. Like stipendiary JRFs, these JRFs are usually advertised in the Oxford University Gazette and often on the Mathematical Institute's website (see also the MPLS link above).
- Teaching: Colleges will often advertise short-term paid teaching positions (sometimes, confusingly, called college lecturerships, although no lecturing is involved) which usually include some access to college facilities. These positions will be advertised on college websites, as above and/or through departmental emails. In mathematics these positions usually involve teaching first and second-year undergraduates in tutorials (two or three students going through a problem sheet with a tutor). They may also include assisting with the undergraduate admissions process which happens each December. Before applying for such positions, you should check that your contract (and visa, if appropriate) permits you to undertake the required teaching outside the department.
- Common room memberships: Some colleges will allow postdocs (especially those with some link to the college, for example through their PI) to become members of their common rooms, providing access to some college facilities (although usually not for free).
- Oxford Research Staff Society: This is the main society for postdocs in Oxford, organising meetings and events. From a social point of view, it aims to be like "a college for postdocs".
- It should be noted that your university card will permit you to visit many colleges for free during visiting times, and that certain college dining halls are happy for outside visitors to buy meals there. For example, Balliol hall accepts non-members for lunch.
Teaching in the Department
There are several opportunities for ECRs to become involved in teaching in the department and they are encouraged to do so. Some postdocs may have a contract which requires them to offer a certain amount of departmental teaching each academic year. The main forms of teaching in which postdocs are regularly involved are intercollegiate classes, project supervision and summer research projects.
Intercollegiate classes: these are departmental classes which run in Michaelmas and Hilary terms in support of the third and fourth year undergraduate lecture courses; students attend a set of classes for each lecture course they take. Problem sheets written by the course lecturer form the basis of the classes, which are taught by a class tutor (usually a postdoc or faculty member), with support from a graduate teaching assistant. In Trinity term, drop in revision sessions called consultation sessions are provided. Further information about the class scheme can be found here.
Undergraduate/OMMS project supervision: there are several project options in the third and fourth years of the undergraduate degree, including Part B extended essays and Part C dissertations. The Part C dissertation is compulsory for students on the Oxford Masters in Mathematical Sciences (OMMS). The department produces a list of potential project topics and postdocs are encouraged to contribute topics for inclusion. Supervision takes place from late Michaelmas term through to the end of Hilary term; students typically receive 4-6 hours of supervision. For the Part C dissertation students may be supervised in groups of up to 5. For further information see here.
MSc supervision: most of the MSc courses in the department include a compulsory dissertation and students work on these under the guidance of a supervisor in Trinity term and/or the summer vacation. For each MSc course, the department produces a list of potential dissertation topics and postdocs are invited to put forwarded topics for inclusion. For further information see this link or contact the course administrator. In addition more experienced ECRs can act as joint supervisor to DPhil students, and the MPLS Division provides training for PhD supervision (further information).
Summer project supervision: the department is keen to provide opportunities for undergraduate students to obtain experience of mathematical research by undertaking summer research projects in the department under the supervision of a member of faculty or postdoc. Projects are usually 4–10 weeks in duration and the department can provide some funding to support students undertaking these projects. Further information is circulated to members of the department by email or in the weekly departmental bulletin.
To make it easier for ECRs to become involved in these areas of teaching, the calendar below shows when the various forms of teaching are organised. If you would like any further information about any of the events, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Request for intercollegiate class tutors circulated
Intercollegiate classes run
Week 1: Training session for new class tutors
Week 4-5: Call issued for topics for summer research projects
Intercollegiate classes run and supervision of undergraduate, OMMS and MTP projects/dissertations takes place.
Week 1: Training session for new class tutors
Weeks 6-8: Consultation sessions are arranged
Consultation sessions run and supervision of MSc dissertation takes place.
Week 4: Seminar on undergraduate project supervision
Week 5-6: Call issued for Part C/OMMS dissertation topics
Committees in the Department
The department has a number of committees; you can find their standing orders (description of what they are meant to do, how often they meet and so on) and membership on the website under 'governance' (PROVIDED that you are logged in as a member of the department):
These include the Early Career Researchers (ECR) Committee which has only been in existence since the academic year 2016-17. The ECR Committee meets informally once a term, and includes the ECR representatives on other committees, as well as the organisers of the North meets South Colloquia (see below) and a few others. It is co-chaired by an ECR and the department's Advisor for ECRs.
At 4pm on Friday afternoons in term time, the department runs a varied programme of sessions aimed in particular at graduate students and postdocs (though all in the department are always welcome). This is followed by Happy Hour (or equivalent) in the Common Room at 5pm. Typically twice a term there are regular departmental colloquia, and in addition around twice a term there are 'North meets South colloquia' when a postdoc from the AWB's north wing (which, very roughly speaking, houses pure mathematicians) and a postdoc from the south wing (home of applied mathematics) each give a short colloquium-style talk about their research area. The remaining sessions are quite varied, but include career advice and personal development as well as training aimed directly at mathematicians on writing and presentation skills, teaching and public engagement.