Propose a PhD project
Who can submit a proposal?
A PhD project can be proposed by any academic researcher authorised/habilitated to supervise PhD students and belonging to a university or affiliated institution in one of the ILL's Associate or Scientific Member countries. If the PhD proposal is selected, the main proposer generally becomes the academic PhD supervisor in whose university/institution the PhD student will be enrolled.
On what topic?
Proposed PhD-projects should be linked to fields of science covered by ILL research, which for our PhD program is divided into 6 fields:
MAG Magnetism & Superconductivity
MAT Materials Science
SCM Soft Condensed Matter
B&H Biology & Health
NPP Nuclear & Particle Physics
IME Instruments, Methods & Engineering
Our most important criterion for selection is the quality of the PhD project.
The 2022 autumn Call for PhD-Project proposals is now OPEN. The deadline for submission is midnight Friday 21 October.
There is usually one Open Call for PhD-project proposals per year, in the autumn. Proposed PhD projects satisfying the criteria for the academic in-house mission of the ILL's PhD programme are put into competition via a transparent selection process. PhD proposal selection is a two-stage process involving evaluation by in-house review panels and decisions by the ILL directors. Proposers of short-listed PhD projects are notified around mid January following the Open Call. The corresponding ILL supervisors are then invited to present their PhD projects during the Final Selection meeting, generally taking place around mid February.
By sending the the application form (docx - 499 Ki) along with the signed Terms of Agreement (ToA) (docx - 1.28 Mi) electronically to: PhD@ill.fr. Please download the current application form and ToA document from the above links -- do not use previous versions that you might have in your possession. If the PhD project is successful in being selected, the main proposer should send additionally a paper copy of the signed Terms of Agreement (ToA) document to the ILL's recruitment service.
In addition to the documents above, you must also enclose as main proposer your curriculum vitae as well as details of your research proposal (i.e. the scientific case) -- see instructions below and in the application form.
Finally, a student candidate may be proposed for the submitted PhD project, in which case the candidate's CV and cover letter should be attached to the email along with the other application documents. Although NOT a prerequisite for a valid PhD proposal, a strong student candidate would be an advantage, albeit not a guarantee, for acceptance of the PhD project. Full consideration will given to PhD proposals not containing a student candidate according to the criteria listed below.
Proposal content and selection criteria
The scientific case of the PhD proposal must provide scientific and technical information on the research to be performed: the state-of-the art of the research topic, any preliminary work already carried out, the project's objectives and experimental plan, and information on the access required to ILL beamtime and instruments. The text of the scientific case should comprise between 2 and 4 pages.
The assessment criteria for proposals are:
- Scientific quality of the project,
- Quality of the proposed student for the project (in the case that a student is proposed),
- A detailed and realistic work plan for the 3 years of PhD work, as written up in the scientific case, including the anticipation of milestones to be achieved at appropriate dates.
- Opportunity for collaboration between ILL scientists and external researchers,
- Development and training possibilities of interest to the ILL,
- If relevant, complementary use of ILL support facilities (Sample Environment, Deuteration laboratory, Partnership for Structural Biology, etc).
An offer to co-finance the project costs would be very welcome but is not a prerequisite. If you wish to propose a co-financing of the project, please refer to this document (pdf - 74 Ki) to determine its amount (50%, 30%, ..).
The selection process
The incorporation of a PhD project into the ILL PhD Programme involves two separate steps: 1) Selection of the PhD project, 2) Selection of the PhD student for the selected project.
1- Project selection
PhD projects satisfying the criteria for the academic in-house mission of the ILL's PhD program are put into competition via a transparent selection process. Project selection involves evaluation by in-house review panels and decisions by the ILL directors. Initially shortlisted PhD projects are then defended by their ILL supervisors as part of the final selection.
Scientific excellence is the main selection criterion. However, other criteria also play a role.
The mission of the ILL PhD programme is to enhance the academic life of the ILL while at the same time training future experts in neutron science.
The PhD programme is in particular intended to help ILL scientists to strengthen their scientific profile by establishing close ties with the user community.
Therefore the ILL supervisor of a PhD proposal is expected to play an important role in the definition of the project.
In addition, ILL Management tries to maintain a suitable balance, among the accepted PhD projects, over scientific themes, instrumental techniques, and nationality of universities.
Finally, a student candidate may be proposed for the submitted PhD project, in which case the student's CV and cover letter should be attached to the email sent to phd(at)ill.fr along with the other application documents. Although NOT a prerequisite for a valid PhD proposal, a strong student candidate would be a plus, albeit not a guarantee, for acceptance of the PhD project. Full consideration will be given to PhD proposals not containing a student candidate according to the criteria listed above.
2- Student selection
Any students interested in any of the selected PhD proposals may apply, and there are no a priori restrictions on the candidate's nationality. Note that if a potential supervisor has a suitable candidate in mind, he/she can enclose the student’s application when submitting the PhD proposal. As mentioned above, PhD proposals including a strong student candidate are favorably seen in the selection process.
It is the role of the external and ILL supervisors to select one candidate from among the applicants, e.g. via zoom interviews with short-listed candidates.
The student selected will then be invited to the ILL for an interview. The interview is held in English and lasts around one hour. About twenty minutes of this time will be devoted to a presentation of the student's diploma/master studies and an assessment of the PhD project. The rest of the time will be devoted to questions from the members of the interview panel. During the course of the day, the student will also meet one of the ILL directors privately, a member of our HR Service and some of our current PhD students. He/she will also be given a short tour of the relevant experimental facilities. Lunch will be provided and the ILL will reimburse the student's travel expenses.
The overal selection process is shown graphically (pdf - 1.51 Mi) and described in more detail in these notes (pdf - 135 Ki).
What if the PhD proposal is successful?
The academic supervisor of a successfully selected PhD project should send a paper copy of the signed Terms of Agreement (ToA) document to our recruitment service.
The selected PhD projects looking for a student are advertised as "OPEN" on the "Open PhD positions" webpage, which includes links to the application instructions and contact persons, the latter being in general the academic and ILL supervisors.
It is their task to select a suitable student who is subsequently interviewed here at the ILL.
Student candidates interested in any of the open positions can apply by contacting the relevant academic supervisor and/or ILL supervisor. The ILL can offer students an internship related to the selected project if they need to complete an internship before preparing their PhD (as is the case for French students).
The supervisors (ILL and academic) of a selected PhD project have a maximum of 1 year, counting from the successful selection of their proposal in February, to select a suitable PhD candidate for an interview at the ILL, which is not a simple formality. If the supervisors already have a suitable candidate in mind at the time of project submission, they can enclose his/her application (consisting of a CV and cover letter) with their PhD proposal. As mentioned above, the inclusion of a strong student candidate as part of the PhD proposal is an advantage for project selection but not a prerequisite for submission.
Note on individual applications
The status of the ILL does not authorise it to award academic degrees. Students can only be assigned to an accepted PhD project proposed by an academic institution. PhD proposals from individual students cannot be accepted.
How will the PhD work be organised?
Supervision of the thesis
Besides working with the external academic supervisor identified in the proposal, each PhD student will work with an ILL supervisor. The ILL supervisor will be responsible for ensuring that, from a practical and technical point of view, the thesis progresses under the appropriate conditions during the student’s stay at the ILL. He/she shares responsibility for the scientific aspects of the student's work with the academic supervisor. The academic supervisor has ultimate scientific and administrative responsibility for the submission of the thesis.
Thesis work at the ILL
Thesis work should be carried out primarily at the ILL. The thesis student will be given the opportunity to conduct experiments on scheduled instruments, within the limits of accepted experimental proposals, and can process the data and results at the ILL. In addition, the thesis student may be involved in the technical development of instruments or infrastructure.
As far as co-funded projects are concerned, part of the thesis work may be carried out at the student’s home university or laboratory. This and other specific arrangements may be specified in the contract.
PhD students are employed for a period of up to three years, subject to the probationary arrangements of the university involved. They receive a gross salary of around 2400 €/month, together with other benefits depending on their marital and family status. No additional funds are provided for fees or the cost of consumables at the host university, but students can apply for support for travel to conferences and other activities associated with their research during the time they are at the ILL, as well as for consumables at the ILL.
What the ILL pays for
The ILL will pay the student’s salary (only partially in the case of co-funded PhDs). No additional funds will be provided to cover (enrollment) fees or the cost of consumables at the host university. However, students can apply for support towards the cost of travel to conferences and other activities associated with their research during the time they are at the ILL, as well as for consumables at the ILL. The ILL will allow students to teach a reasonable number of hours at the host university, but will not cover the associated travel expenses.
What the ILL can offer
The excitement of working at a large-scale facility in an international environment on a multi-institutional scientific campus.
Unrivalled hands-on experience leading to future employment opportunities in some of the world’s leading research centres.
The attractions of living in the heart of the French Alps, with excellent opportunities for skiing and other outdoor activities, one hour from Lyon, and only three hours from Paris, the Côte d’Azur and Provence.