Interested in Ph.D. studies?

  • What is the difference between graduate and postgradual studies?
  • What is the difference between industry and academic career?
  • What to expect and what not to expect from Ph.D. studies?
  • Can you earn a decent salary while doing your Ph.D. studies?
  • What research topics can you work on during your Ph.D. studies at D3S?

If you are puzzled by these or similar questions, please talk to us. We will be happy to answer all your questions.

There is also a comprehensive document (in Czech) summarizing many formal and practical aspects of Ph.D. studies at Charles University.

Ph.D. studies in general

What is it about?

To make the long story short, during Ph.D. studies you attend MFF for (other) four years, do research, work on projects, publish papers, teach, do some paperwork, write a thesis and finally get awarded the Ph.D. title.

Well, to be a little bit more informative, the Ph.D. studies are about depth. This is in contrast to the master studies, which are about breadth, gathering information from different fields (usually in the mass lectures). During Ph.D. studies, you study a very narrow field and try to make a real contribution, i.e. advance the state-of-the-art in the field (have a novel idea, create a proof-of-concept implementation, publish it on workshops and conferences, and write a thesis about it). Given the narrow focus, the number of lectures a student attends is minimal, usually restricted to the ones closely related to the chosen field.

Typically, a student starts by studying the related work (books, papers and articles from known conferences and journals). This is very important, since one have to be aware of the work of others in order to come up with a novel idea.

After getting familiar with the most recent related work, one should have a coarse idea what his/her contribution is going to be – have the concrete topic of research – and start working on it. When some results are ready, the student write papers and try to get them published on (preferably international) workshops and conferences. Having some publications, you start writing your thesis. It is similar to the master thesis, but the quality standards are higher, namely when it comes to related work and scope. It should in more depth present your contribution already published in the papers.

Roughly in the middle of your studies, you have to pass the Ph.D. comprehensive exam, which is of about the same complexity as the final master exam, but is slightly more focused on the concrete field.

What to expect?

Career track

As the main features of the doctoral studies are active creative work and team work on projects trying to come up with novel results, a holder of a Ph.D. degree is therefore typically welcome where in-depth knowledge and broad understanding, ability to innovate, and professionalism are required (as opposed to mere knowledge of a specific technology and routine work).

To give just a rough picture, some of our (D3S) 30 recent Ph.D. alumni work(ed) as:

  • Software Engineers and Site Reliability Engineers at Google (US, Ireland, UK, Switzerland)
  • Program Manager with Distributed Systems Group at Microsoft
  • Vice-President for Engineering at GoodData
  • Memeber of NetBeans Development Team at Oracle
  • Software Engineer, Kernel Engineer and Product Manager at SUSE
  • Flight Software Systems Manager at European Space Agency
  • Software Architect at Systinet
  • Software Engineer at HP
  • Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Jlizard's Logentries
  • Software Engineer at
  • Research Manager and Research Team Leader with IBM T. J. Watson Research Center
  • Researcher at Purdue University and Northeastern University
  • Research Fellow at University College Dublin
  • Department Chair at University of West Bohemia in Pilsen

We are, however, not seeking people for upper management positions. We want people who are willing to work themselves hard, and thus obtain skills necessary for advancement.


Do expect quite a lot of work. Unlike master studies, Ph.D. studies are hard to finish with a limited effort. Moreover, expect some additional work (service for the department) not completely related to the studies themselves: paperwork, communication with foreign partners, writing/correcting grant proposal, making paper reviews, and teaching. Typically, you will work on research/industry projects of your research group. On one hand, the projects can help you determine your research topic (such projects typically reveal problems, which can constitute a topic for you). On the other hand, they amount in quite lot of extra work.


One of your responsibilities as a Ph.D. student is to write and publish papers on international workshops and conferences. Thus you can also expect to travel to these workshops/conferences. At D3S, there is usually no problem with money for such kind of traveling. Attending a conference comprises public presentation of your work there (which is also an important experience).

It is also possible to attend summer schools, which (among possibility to travel a bit) help in getting familiar with your field from a different point of view and meeting other people working on similar topics.


As a part of the pay-off to their alma mater, Ph.D. students have to help with teaching the mass courses (C/C++, student projects, databases, ...). Despite taking some time, this is in fact a valuable experience, since it helps students with their speaking and presentation skills (the common flaw of us, the IT guys).


Staying alive is also one of your duties as a Ph.D. student. Therefore you have to be provided with a means to achieve this goal – money. The stipend (approx. 5.500 Kc = base & 600 Kc = accommodation) is money you can trust. The stipend rises in the second year and there is an extra raise after passing the Ph.D. comprehension exam and English exam. Moreover, it is also very common, that you are awarded significant money from group projects based on your activity, and you can get even a part-time job at faculty. However, this highly depends on the actual group and the advisor you chose. So you have to ask and take nothing for granted.

The next steps ...

So are you interested but confused about what to do next? Just read on.

1. Talk to people

Probably the best way to get more information is to ask. Don't be afraid and talk to people. If you are not sure whether to continue in your studies or not, talk to the current Ph.D. students. They are usually quite friendly (when food-saturated) and communicative, so take the opportunity and ask them to get the first-hand experience. They will surely share their enthusiasm as well as possible disappointments they have faced during their studies.

Talk to the senior staff (lecturers, professors) as well. They can help you find a suitable topic or at least describe the topics they work on in their groups. Last but not least it is also important to make them aware of yourself. But please, respect that those people have usually little time to spare, so don't spam them. Particularly, sending the same template e-mail to evryone on the faculty is not a good start. It is generally better to talk than to e-mail, so probably the best way is to send an e-mail containing information about you, description of what would you like to discuss, and your time constraints.

2. Find your advisor (topic)

The best way to find an advisor is to talk to you master thesis advisor. Depending on the area you would like to do your research in, your advisor should be able to recommend you an appropriate colleague (including himself). In any case, you can always talk to us and we do our best to help you!

3. Apply!

In order to become a Ph.D. student, you have to apply. The deadline for application is 30th April 2016, so hurry up! More information can be found at the faculty official page (deadlines and requirements). You will need letters of recommendation, but don't be afraid. Anybody who knows you (lecturers, project and master thesis advisors, ...) will most probably write you one, if politely asked to. Passing the entrance exam is then typically not even a slightest problem (there is no point in refusing students with an advisor who agreed to accept them – persuaded about their capabilities). Please note, that you only have to apply till 30th April, but the final master exam can be passed later, even in September!

Ph.D. studies at D3S

At Department of Distributed and Dependable Systems (D3S), the Ph.D. studies are mainly based on our projects. On one hand, this means that you can be co-funded from the projects and that you can also find your research topic during the work on them. On the other hand, this also constrains the research topics to ones closely related to our current projects.

As a part of our effort to stay familiar with the recent related work and to train our English language skills, the Ph.D. students are expected to take part in our English-only group seminar. English language skills are of key importance. This is the language of the majority of workshops, conferences, and summer schools. Moreover, we cooperate with a number of foreign institutions and companies on international projects and unsurprisingly the common language is English.

Our research topics are mainly focused on:

  • Component systems
  • Software verification
  • Software benchmarking
  • Operating systems

For more comprehensive list take a look at our current and past projects.

We believe that our work is interesting and rewarding, however, it is also intensive. We need people who are reliable and consistent and can dedicate their full capacity to research, which typically does not mix well with having other job obligations. Students need to systematically discuss own work with colleagues since exchange of opinions brings new ideas. Therefore, we expect people to be around, attend seminars and be willing to invest their time, for the benefit of their own and the whole group.

What do we offer?

The nature of our work provides us with sources to support our students. While we cannot provide regular income comparable with IT industry jobs, we certainly take care to provide members of our team with solid funding from the projects they participate on. Thus besides the stipend you usually get a working contract financed by the research projects.

Who do we look for?

We look for people who are interested in our research topic, who are sincerely willing to give it a try and who showed a reasonable degree of expertise in their past work (SW project, master thesis, ...). As our capacity is not unlimited, we cannot promise to take in everyone, but we do our best to accomodate the applicants.

As already said above, you should talk to people, so just talk to us :o).

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Modified on 2016-08-26