I am soon attending a PhD Interview (Condensed matter Theory). The interview is divided in two steps: a first interview with a selection comitee, where I have to prepeare a presentation 6 minutes long, and a second, 1.30 hours long interview with possible PIs.

The short (6' - 5 slides) presentation is supposed to deal with:

  • Academic Background
  • Previous Research Experience
  • Presentation of Master Project/Thesis
  • Motivations for this application
  • Career goals in your future

Slides are explicitly required.

My questions are:

  1. I do not feel confident prepearing a slide on "Motivations for pursuing a PhD" or even future goals. I have very strong reasons, but writing those down seem... childish/stupid to me. Should I just not make slides about those things, but nevertheless talk about them? (The field use a very flexible framework that can be applied to many other problems. This means that even if I focus on one problem I can always talk about much more... I was a RA for the last 6 months and lived with other PhD students, so I know a bit already what it is like...)
  2. I want to do 1 slide on my B.Sc. Thesis and one on my M.Sc. thesis. Of course I will be briefly presenting the kind of work I did, and tools I used, but what should I put along a short list in the slide? The fancy graphic from my thesis that I'll have no time to explain? The hamiltonian that I was studying? Or a nice drawing giving a divulgative, simplistic picture of the process I was studying? Or make them smaller and all of those 3? (they would fit)

About 2.: Since I will have almost no time to explain much about the details of my previous work, intuition tells me I would be better dropping drawings/graphs out. Yet, since I am trying to "sell myself" to the comitee, those things might be fancy and nice to add.

Any suggestion would be very welcome.

  • 1
    The presentation is a chance to make a personal connection. Don't fill it up with details that can easily be read from your application/CV. Personally I think your motivations and career goals are the most important to this. This is your chance to show your passion and dedication.
    – user24098
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 11:49
  • If asked for specific things by people who can do something for you, provide those specific things in a way that makes them identifiable as such. You were given five slide headings; use them!
    – Bob Brown
    Commented May 16, 2016 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


1) Remember working on a PhD is a commitment and there will be times when you will want to give up so the question is "What will keep you going?"

Motivation is a key factor in whether or not we stick to a task. This is the reason why they are asking you for this slide in particular. As an interviewer, I would like to know first if your motivation is intrinsic or extrinsic and then what specifically moves you to progress through a task or pursue this field.

2) Presenting in front of an audience when "something is at stake" can be nerve-racking. Your slides should be a way to quickly remind you what you need to discuss in case you block out. However, for the viewer the slides must be engaging and informative but not overwhelming. Even your thesis slides don't need to be overly technical because the interviewers are interested in whether you can present your findings to both technical and non-technical audiences, alike. I would recommend providing a high level overview first sprinkled with some technical terms but no details then as time permits elaborate increasing the technical level and vocabulary as you progress.

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