I'm an electronics engineering sophomore at an Indian university, particularly interested in quantum computing, quantum information theory and quantum engineering. However, the problem I'm facing is that we do not have the possibility to take up extra theory courses in computer science (e.g. complexity theory, analysis of algorithms) or mathematics (topology, differential geometry, discrete mathematics, etc). I feel these theory courses are extremely important to understand quantum computing properly (more so, with stuff like topological quantum computing and relativistic quantum information, coming up). By the end of the 4 years of my undergraduate course while I'll likely be having sufficient background for further study in the area of quantum "engineering", I feel I'll be lacking in the theoretical aspects. For the record, I do have some experience with research in the area of quantum computing (I'm currently pursuing a undergraduate research project at a nearby university in my city). Also, I've been trying to learn some of the mathematics and computer science topics on my own, using various online resources.

For that reason I was thought if it would be possible for me to apply for a masters degree in computer science/mathematics, after my undergrad, before directly applying for a PhD in quantum computing. I feel that such a masters degree focused on the theory would make my PhD application stronger. A course like the one offered by Oxford: MSc in Mathematics and Foundations of Computer Science would probably be perfect for me (at least that's what it seems from a reading of the course contents). But, I'm a bit worried because the acceptance rate in such courses is already very low (for example Oxford has only 17 places available in this course while on average 115 people apply for it per year).

So, in short my question is: Is it okay if I mail the head of the Math/Computer Science department head, asking whether they accept applications from electronics engineering students and what I can possibly do as an undergraduate, to improve my odds of getting accepted to such a course? (For example, the heads of activity of the Oxford's Quantum Group are listed here). Also, if yes, how should I frame my email? Suggestions are appreciated. Thank you.

2 Answers 2


There is nothing wrong with sending an email, but it should not be sent to the chair or head of the department. Instead, the relevant contact person is either:

  • the chair of the admissions committee, or
  • the head of the graduate studies program

Either of these officials in the department should be able to provide you with the requisite information. Sending it to the chair of the department is a waste of everybody's time.


I would advise against emailing them to ask this. The masters program has probably admitted EE students in the past, but their willingness to do so will depend on the specifics of the situation. They will likely be inundated with emails and may have to refrain from commenting on an individual case; they may or may not have time to answer your query about improving your odds.

Why don't you look at the descriptions of the courses in the masters program, including requirements of prior courses needed. If there are just one or two courses that you have not taken, you may be able to handle that. But if all the courses you mentioned are stated prerequisites, then you are unlikely to get admitted to this program. If the websites, application, and course descriptions do not provide clear answers about what courses are required prerequisites (or what is assumed incoming knowledge), then that may be a good, specific question for someone from the program.

Because you've already done research in this area, you may have a chance of admission. Good luck.

  • I feel that the linked website does not state the pre-requisites clearly. What exactly do you mean by "then that may be a good, specific question for someone from the program" ? Do you mean the students who are enrolled in that program? I don't think it is possible for me to contact them.
    – user66581
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 20:27
  • Also, I've not particularly done any research on mathematics or pure computer science as such. The project I'm participating in, is based on quantum computing.
    – user66581
    Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 20:29
  • The website does seem vague, but I think that is to your benefit: the subject of your degree should have "significant mathematical content." This probably also signals that they want to see you take and do well in a class that involves proofs. Also, the page has an email address for an MSc administrator, who should be your primary point of contact for questions like this. It's great that you're figuring this out early, so that you can plan your courses and/or outside research. Commented Apr 13, 2018 at 20:39

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