A Message for Prospective Graduate Students


This message is intended primarily for students who are applying to graduate school, or are starting graduate school, and are considering working in my research group. For students who are already here, you can sign up for an advanced course or reading group that I am organizing. Other possibilities are even dropping by and talking with me, or sending e-mail to set up a visit. First, however, please read this message, especially before trying to visit.

Thanks for your interest: First of all, I would like to thank you for taking the time to look at my web pages. I appreciate your interest in my research and in the activities of our group. Due to increasing internet connectivity and a large interest in my research area, I receive an overwhelming number of e-mail messages from prospective students. Unfortunately, there are too many messages for me to give a response to each one. I regret that I cannot reply to messages that are so important to the people who send them. For this reason, I have decided to write this message to help give some useful information to you.

Learn about what we do: If you believe that my research area might potentially be interesting to you, please look carefully at my web pages to learn about our research. You might even want to try downloading some of our papers (if you are unable, please let me know). In general, I am more likely to reply to a student who has taken the time to get some idea of what my research involves, especially if they can explain why they would be well-suited to make contributions in our research group.

My goals for students: I am very excited about the possibilty of working with exceptional M.S./Ph.D. students. I intend to give strong personal guidance that will maximize their chances of building a rewarding and enjoyable career in research. Important goals that I have for students are:

How to possibly squeeze in: Admissions to Carnegie Mellon are based on merit, and teaching assistantships or fellowships are usually awarded to the admitted students. I would suggest contacting a professor whose research interests really match yours, as opposed to a blanket mass-emailed statement. I will ignore those. Also, try to apply for fellowships so that you can be self-funded; in this way, you can come to graduate school, and then spend time trying to find the right research group. At present, my research group is pretty much full; however, I am sometimes willing to make an exception. The ordinary path into my group is to become a graduate student here and then take an upper-level course from me. If there is strong mutual interest between me and a student, chances are good they can start working in my group.

To see our research directions and who is a good point of contact for each project, see this google sheet.

In any case, good luck with your prospective graduate studies.

Best wishes,

Howie Choset, Matthew J. Travers (and Steve LaValle, from whom I copied almost all of this)