I'm going to apply for a PhD in Mathematics in Europe with my BSc and MSc in Mathematics and Applied Mathematics (respectively), from two top-tier (say, top 10-20) US universities with advanced courses, and good GPA. Neither of my BSc and MSc had a thesis component though, and a capstone project wasn't available to me.

I do have some research experience, but my research mostly involved computational programming and data analysis, not serious Mathematics. More importantly perhaps, none of my research experiences were independent research, meaning that I was working on a project defined by my supervisor and my work was pretty much directed by my supervisor.

I'm aware that the norm in Europe is that students write a substantial thesis for their Master's degree, and possibly for their undergrad too, and then they'll apply for PhD. I did want to do a 2-year Master with a substantial research project, but since funding was an issue, I went with the 1-year MSc program that would fund me, and that one didn't have any thesis.

Given this situation, I'm looking for a way to fill that gap in my resume to make myself competitive for a top-tier PhD in Mathematics (or Applied Mathematics) in Europe.

First - do you think I'd have any chance without doing some sort of independent research before applying to a PhD?

Second - do you have any suggestion on how I can fill that gap?! I thought of doing an MPhil or an MRes in the UK, but financing is an issue for those programs (I'll apply for scholarships, but chances are high that I won't get one). Is there any sort of program where I can just spend some time doing a self-directed, but supervised, research in Math and get paid for that?

Edit: As for the specific countries in Europe I'm looking for, my top choices are Germany, Switzerland, UK, and France, but I'm open to other options if I find a good opportunity.

  • Regarding the study in Europe, you cannot enter a PhD program without a thesis in your Masters in prominent universities. There are 1.5 years thesis based degrees also. One option seems to be to get into a tuition-fee free university. Another option is to get into a structured PhD program. But, that won't be good for your future career. – user84565 Aug 10 at 6:24
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    Europe is a big and diverse place. Do you have specific countries in mind? E.g., for Germany, you should first check if your master actually qualifies you for a PhD position. E.g., I just quickly checked for Heidelberg University (picked at random) and they require that you do courses from their Master's program during your PhD if you have a one-year master instead of a two-year master. I didn't see a hard (or any) requirement of a Master's thesis. – Roland Aug 10 at 6:25
  • @Roland, Heidelberg Uni doesn't have PhD in Math. – user84565 Aug 10 at 6:27
  • @yahoo.com Maybe not in pure maths, but mathinf.uni-heidelberg.de/promotion.html – Roland Aug 10 at 6:30
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    @yahoo.com I'm not even sure what you are talking about. A PhD in Germany is generally not a "course". I'm not aware of any university where speaking German is a hard requirement for becoming a PhD student (with the obvious exceptions such as German language studies). – Roland Aug 10 at 6:40

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