Guide for Prospective Graduate Students

Dear applicant,

I receive many emails and letters from prospective graduate students, post-docs, and other people seeking to study or work at UCT. I do not have time to respond to each individual. However, if you read this document and contact me appropriately, I will endeavor to give you due consideration.

While I have a background in health informatics and networking, my primary area of research is in human-computer interaction, specifically in the context of projects located in areas of socio-economic development. If you are not seeking to do work in this area, you will need to seek another supervisor. If appropriate, I may be willing to co-supervise - you will need talk to me once you find a primary supervisor. If you are interested in hci4d research, please consult the list of projects on my homepage and make reference to at least one of these projects when you contact me. You should also take a look at the webpage for the UCT Centre in ICT4D to learn more about ICTD research at UCT.

Your introductory email should clearly state your research background, prior qualifications, and potential areas of research. Your email should clearly state why you specifically want me to act as your supervisor. I will NOT respond to generic emails that have clearly been sent to others in the department without edits. In addition I will initially require the following documents:

  1. Writing Sample: Please send a peer-reviewed conference or journal paper written by you, or if you do not yet have a publication, submit another appropriate sample of your academic writing. Please indicate in your cover letter your role in producing the writing for co-authored publications.
  2. Research Statement/Proposal: (2 pages max) A statement of your research background and interests, and a proposed topic of research. If you have a specific project in mind, please also describe any existing relationships with your collaborating organizations and research partners. You should also look at my past publications and current projects and explain how they align with your research interests.
  3. Statement of Purpose: (1 page) A statement of why you are interested in pursuing postgraduate studies, and how the additional degree and research will help you forward your personal goals. How have you prepared for postgraduate studies? What will you do once you complete your degree?
  4. Paper Review: (2 pages max) Please select one of my peer-reviewed research papers and write a critical review of it, as if you were reviewing the paper for a journal or a conference. You may want to refer to the CHI Guide to Reviewing Papers and Notes and other resources for reference on how to write a review. Begin with a statement of what perspective/discipline you are reviewing from (preferably one appropriate to the venue in which the paper was actually published), and a short summary of the paper and its contributions. Your goal is to show off your research and critical analysis abilities, and your familiarity with the issues and literature of information, communications technology, and development (ICTD) research. Your first test is selecting an appropriate paper, which should be a full (generally at least 10-page) conference or journal paper, and not something which has been written for a workshop.
  5. Curriculum Vitae: This should include any relevant education, research and working experience, voluntary work, and publications.
Please note that at present I do not have funding for my postgraduate students. While I may assist with research expenses and conference attendance where possible, you will be expected to apply for scholarships and/or self-fund your studies. Every year, there is a call for PhD studentship applications through the Hasso-Plattner Research School, please check around Aug/September for this scholarship opportunity.

Once I have reviewed your documents, you may also be required to submit transcripts, cv, and a formal application to UCT. I may also ask you to ask your references to send me a letter of recommendation.

I wish you all the best with your postgraduate applications.

Dr. Melissa Densmore

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What do you look for in deciding admissions?

A: From most to least important: shared research interests, prior research and publications, critical analysis abilities, writing and communication ability, letters of recommendation, grades, GRE or other standardised test scores.

Q: Is there funding available?

A: At present I have only limited project funding available, and no money for bursaries or tuition. You are expected and encouraged to apply for grants and scholarships.

Q: I am doing field work in Cape Town. Can I come and work in the ICT4D Centre, or will you supervise my student doing XYZ research?

A: This is addressed on a case-by-case basis. However, space in the Centre is limited, and unless you are collaborating with a member of the centre directly, we will be unable to provide space for you. We do however host frequent seminars and talks - please let us know if you might be interested in giving a talk or attending our meetings!