Instructions for students who are interested in joining my research group


Getting into UT ECE

The most important first hurdle to coming to UT is getting in.  UT's Computer Engineering is currently in the top 10 ECE departments in the United States and thus getting in is very competitive (our acceptance rate is less than 20% from a very self-selected pool of applicants.)  Each application is read by multiple professors who all have to agree that you should be admitted.  Thus, I cannot help in getting you admitted to UT.

What am I looking for in a student?

I am always looking for brilliant, motivated, and very hardworking students who have already proven themselves in research.  Determining who will be a good researcher is virtually impossible from a GPA or standardized tests.  The best indicator, of course, is a track record of doing internationally published research.  Thus, it is important to start doing research as an undergraduate, to see if you are good at it and if you like it (I know it's hard to believe, but not everyone does.) 

In addition to being brilliant, motivated, hardworking and a good researcher, a graduate student must be interested in my research area and work well with me to be effective in my research group.  I am building infrastructure right now that should give my group a strong advantage in our area of research.  That infrastructure requires strong teamwork since it is far too large for a single graduate student to accomplish in a reasonable time.  I expect all of my graduate students to be good citizens and contribute to the common infrastructure for everyone's benefit.

One important part of working well with me and my group is English ability, both spoken and written.  No matter how brilliant you are, if I cannot communicate effectively with you, I cannot be your advisor (unfortunately, I cannot speak any other language well enough to advise a student in that language.)  Strong English ability is important for virtually all faculty I know (well, there are a few that speak another language fluently but, even so, papers are almost always written in English), so this general advice.  Spending time improving your English is well worth the effort.  

Choosing Students and Funding

The best way to figure out if a student and I will work well together is to work together.  I generally recruit students who have taken my classes or those who TA for me.  If you can both stand my class and excel in it, there is a good chance we can work well together.  Likewise for my TAs.

I very rarely provide research assistantship support for students who I have not first worked with as either a TA or in my class.  There are many reasons for this but the two most important are (i) I have limited funds (like all professors) and (ii) I have limited bandwidth (also like all professors.)   

Even if I had unlimited funds, I currently cannot absorb more than approximately one new student per semester.  Each new student needs attention and training that comes from me and/or a senior graduate student.  At this point, I have very little time and the senior graduate students are busy trying to get their research done.  Thus, accepting new students is very difficult.  I need to be able to see how you would benefit my research group and whether I would benefit you. 

I would consider giving an RA to someone I have never worked with in two cases. The first is if the student has a strong personal recommendation (i.e., that person calls me or writes me an email) from someone I know well. Thus, if I know one of your recommenders well and you are serious about coming to UT, please have that person contact me directly. The only other possibility of an RA before I work with you in class is a strong publication record in conferences I know about and attend. At this point such students are rare, but I hope to change that.

I sometimes have the ability to guarantee a year of TA and a summer of support and the opportunity to work in my research group on a trial period.  That can help get a visa to come to the US for foreign students.   However, to get such position is also very difficult since there are very few (about one per year at this point.) Since there are so few and I generally cannot meet the student before I grant the TA, I have to use very strict criteria to decide on such a student. Short of a strong personal recommendation, I will consider top students from the absolute best university or university group in the student's country. Even these students must have research experience relevant to my research and classwork relevant to the class they will be TAing. I understand that good students come from other universities, but at this point I have no real way to evaluate such students effectively.

What You Need to Do
If you are interested in working with me, please send me a brief email stating

1.    Your research interests and how you think they align with mine.  If you have a specific project in mind, let me know.

2.    What research you have done and how it has been recognized (where it has been published, awards, etc.)

3.    The schools you have attended.

4.    Your class rank in your department of your school and in your entire school if that is available. 

A form letter (I get a ton of those) will be discarded without a response.  Please use the following sentence, with exactly the same capitalization, as the subject of the email "Apple Juice is Good For You".  That will indicate to me that you have actually read these instructions and will guarantee that I will read your email.  I probably receive about a factor of 10 more emails that do not have that subject line than ones that do, so I have saved myself a tremendous amount of time.

Undergraduate Students

At this point, I am not taking foreign undergraduate students looking for a summer position.  There is so much to learn and the costs of moving out for a summer are such that a single summer would not be productive. 

I am interested in working with UT undergraduates on research as well as excellent undergrads from other US universities.  I learned a lot from my undergraduate research and I believe that the research group I worked for got a lot out of my undergraduate research as well.  Please contact me with the same "Apple Juice is Good For You" email subject line and information if you are interested.  Though I would like to eventually be able to take any student interested in research, since I am just starting out, I can only consider those who have taken a serious class in computer architecture (360N) and are interested in the same sorts of research topics that I am.  It is a far more rewarding experience if you have some basic knowledge that can be gotten in class, rather than having to learn all of it on the job.