To Prospective Students

Winter is the season for graduate school applications and with it comes lots of students emailing me about how they would like to work with me. Here is my advice to those of you who want to work with me.

  • My area of research is HCI and within that, PIM. If you don't know what either of these mean, then don't send me an email. Look them up first.
  • Just because I have degrees in CS, it doesn't mean I do research in lots of CS areas. For example (and this came from an actual email), I don't do any work on these areas: Operating Systems, Database, Compilers, Graph Theory, Combinatorics, Algorithms, Automata theory, Software Engineering, Data mining, Memory management, Artificial intelligence, Bio informatics and Computer Networks. If you send me a note saying you are interest in these, I will delete your email. It obviously was not intended for me.
  • I don't want to know what courses you completed in your undergraduate degree. That doesn't set you apart from others. Even more so, if they are in the areas listed in the bullet above.
  • And finally, I am not involved in the admissions decision, so I can't do anything for you to have you accepted in our program. You have to apply to our program and if you are accepted, then we can talk about possible future collaborations.

Sorry if this list is rude, but it reflects the reality of what "working with me" means. However, there is one small exception to what I stated above.

  • You know what PIM is?
  • You have read some papers I have co-authored with my students?
  • You have read work by other researchers in PIM (Jaime Teevan, William Jones, Susan Dumais, Deborah Barreau, etc.?

Yes? Now we are talking... Call me, we'll do lunch.

Some quotes from emails I get are included below. No offense to those that sent them; I am including them here as educational value, to show future students what not to do when you contact a professor about graduate work.

  • projects in the area of parallel processing, graphics, natural language processing, AI, [and] I made a comparison and implementation of some encryption algorithms
  • I want to study AI, especially in the fields of Computer Vision and HCI and Virtual Environments.

Posted on 01/06/2010