I often receive inquiries from prospective students; however there are too many to respond in detail to each one. Below are the answers to some of the most common questions.
Asking Me to be on Your Thesis Committee
I am often asked to be on student's thesis committees. If I am on your committee I will spend a significant amount of time reading your thesis documents and reports, attending your committee meetings, and helping guide your research in the right direction. In exchange for this commitment, I will expect the following from you:
- - Your thesis documents, drafts, and proposals must be in my hands at least 2 weeks prior to your scheduled committee meeting; otherwise we will have to reschedule.
- - I expect that any document you hand me will have been through numerous rounds of editing and revision. Any document you ask me to read should be the result of your best efforts; you should consider the document to be perfect. There should be minimal to no spelling mistakes. There should be no mathematical mistakes. The English should be crisp and concise. If it is clear that this is not the case I will not read your document.
Applying for Graduate School
Q: I want to join your group or another group in AI or your department in general. What should I do?
A: Students in the computational biology group and all others in our department must first be admitted to the graduate program in the Department of Computer Science. The deadline is around Jan 1st each year (in order to align with large US universities). More information is available here.
Q: What is involved in applying?
A: Roughly speaking, you have to fill out some forms (which are available online) and send some of them to our department and some to the central university School of Graduate Studies. There is also a nominal fee for applying. You must decide if you want to apply to the master's program or to the PhD program directly. If you don't have any prior graduate studies, we generally recommend that you apply first to the master's program and transfer to the PhD program as you progress. We try to inform you in March of our decision. We usually accept a very small percentage of the best applicants, but the exact numbers vary from year to year and from area to area.
Q: What are the admissions criteria?
A: Admissions decisions will be based primarily on your past academic performance (including marks and standardized tests like the GRE), your reference letters and forms which we look at very carefully, and any research, teaching or job experience you might have. Having some idea of the sort of research in which you are interested helps us send your file to the relevant faculty, but many students do not know exactly what they want to work on -- you shouldn't make up a research interest that you aren't sure of. You should be advised that even if you meet the minimum admission standards of the University, spots in our department and the computational biology group are very limited, and so nothing can be guaranteed.
Q: Can you provide funding (i.e., a research assistantship) for my studies?
A: All students admitted to our department are guaranteed funding for the normal time of completion in their degree program (17months for master's plus an additional 43months if you continue to the PhD). This money comes from various sources including student scholarships, central university funds for student support, and research grants from faculty members. The details of where your support comes from should not be of concern to you, and I cannot possibly discuss any financial arrangements until after you have been admitted by the department, and this cannot happen until we have received and processed your complete application.
Q: It's now spring/summer, and I'm really, really interested in your research area. Can't you accept me right away for September?
A: No. We stick to the timeline of applications as indicated on the department web site.
Q: What about working in your group or directly with you?
A: If you are specifically interested in computational biology, please indicate this on your application. Note, however that students are not admitted to work with specific professors; they are admitted to the department at large, with guaranteed funding and are free to work with whomever they find a good match with once they arrive. If are interested in working with me specifically, you can also indicate this in your statement of interest included with your official application. This will mean that I look at your file, and should you be admitted we can decide once you arrive if we'd enjoy doing research together.
Good luck in your pursuit of graduate studies, wherever it takes you!
Applying to Work as an Undergrad
I have found working with undergraduate students to be a great experience; I therefore work with a large number of undergraduates. If you are interested in working with me as a summer student or during the academic year for course credit (CSC494/CSC495/BCH430) you should:
- - Have strong marks
- - Have significant experience in one or more of the following: Computational Biology, Machine Learning, Machine Vision, Building Graphical User Interfaces, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Chemistry, or Structural Biology
- - Be a well-motivated go-getter with a can-do attitude
- - Be friendly and outgoing. People in my lab are quite vocal; a shy student might find it difficult to contribute.
Asking to Work as a PostDoc
PostDocs are great! Unfortunately, I typically do not have extra funds sitting around waiting for a postdoc to come by. Therefore, if you are considering completing a postdoc with me, please contact me well before you're aiming to start. Together we will then apply for a several postdoctoral fellowships. If you already have postdoctoral support, that's even better! The most relevant PhD fields for work in my lab include: AI (Machine Learning, Machine Vision, Robotics, Constraint Satisfaction, Planning, Combinatorial Optimization), Computational Biology, and Structural Biology. That being said, feel free to apply even if your PhD is outside these core areas!