Advice to Prospective Students

Please read the advice below before contacting me about working in my lab, whether you are a UCSD student looking for project work, a prospective intern, postdoc, phd applicant, ms applicant, or visiting scholar.

Students looking for project work:

I am generally happy to advise project work, though please note that it is necessary to take my class first (CSE158 or CSE258) in order to learn the necessary background material. The only exception to this is if you already know the material well from elsewhere and for some reason won't have the opportunity to take my course in time.

Note that I never have a list of ready-to-go projects to give out to students. It is up to you to come up with a proposal for a project you'd like to work on. If you're struggling to come up with ideas, I'd suggest connecting with my graduate students to ask about their plans for future work.

Unfortunately I don't always have bandwidth to meet regularly with students doing project work. If you want to do a project together then you must identify a PhD student in my lab who is willing to help with day-to-day details of the project. If you can come up with a project with my graduate students, I am always happy to advise, but please do not depend on me being available for weekly meetings.

Finally, you should take project work for credit. This ensures that you'll have enough time to commit to the project. The relevant course codes for independent study / special projects are CSE199 and CSE298 (and more rarely CSE198 and CSE293). Occassionally I advise honors theses, though generally I feel that there's no reason to select this track over just doing regular project work. If your goal is to work on interesting projects, or ultimately publish something, then doing a regular "independent study" project gives you more freedom to do so without the dissertation requirement.

Prospective Interns:

I occasionally advise internship projects (at any time of year), though I rarely have funding to host interns.

I am much more likely to host you if you have funding from a scholarship, though I rarely host "self-funded" students.

If you have a strong record of publications in my area (i.e., the same venues my lab regularly publishes in) then I will make an effort to host you regardless of your funding situation.

Please note that many of my graduate students take internships during the summer, and that UCSD does little to help with housing (etc.) for visiting interns. Please consider whether visiting in person has more value to you than collaborating remotely.

Prospective Postdocs:

I rarely have my own funding to hire postdocs, but there are several University and Department fellowships that you can apply for. Please contact me if you're considering applying and I'll be happy to review and endorse your application if your publication record is strong. Opportunities include:

Prospective PhD students:

Due to a large volume of requests I am unable to respond to individual enquiries about joining my lab. I am happy to receive (and will read) your e-mail, and will be sure to look at your application when the time comes, but it is difficult to offer useful advice before having seen the entire applicant pool. I'll respond if I have the bandwidth, but please don't expect a reply.

If you have something in particular that stands out about your file, e.g. you have publications in my area, or have worked with one of my collaborators, or have secured a competitive fellowship, then please do contact me to let me know.

Once I start reviewing applications (around early-to-mid January), I'll usually communicate with applicants via official channels, though occasionally will reach out personally if an interview is required. Again, I won't be able to respond to individual queries during this time.

Most years, I try to admit 1-2 students (which typically means making 5-6 offers). I consider all candidates who select my lab on their application (usually around 120 students, which is about typical of ML groups at UCSD). The main constraint is available funding, though this is hard to predict and depends on (among other things) student graduations, fellowship outcomes, the size of the applicant pool (etc.) not to mention my own success with grant writing. It is hard to predict these outcomes far in advance, so again I am unable to offer useful advice as to my future recruiting plans.

Selection criteria - for students applying with an MS:

The main selection criterion, given the competiveness of ML-focused labs, is relevant publications. Note that if you are applying with an MS degree, it is almost a necessity that you have published 1-2 papers in the same venues as my lab. I will mainly evaluate your application based on your publication record.

for students applying from undergrad:

Although it's important to have a strong GPA and GREs, it's rarely possible to get admitted based on grades alone. For applicants in ML it is expected that you have relevant project experience, if not published work.

for UCSD students:

Admission of UCSD students to our own PhD program (e.g. via the MS to PhD option) is possible but requires a separate application process. Note that I only admit students via this option if we have an established track record of working together, usually including published work.

Prospective MS students:

Please note that MS admissions decisions are made by an admissions committee, and as such any individual faculty member has limited influence on the outcome of your application. If you're curious about research opportunities at UCSD, see the advice below.

Visiting scholars:

I am generally happy to host visiting scholars (i.e., PhD students, industrial researchers, etc.), assuming you have funding from an external source. If you need a letter of support for a visiting scholar position, I am generally happy to provide one so long as you have published in similar venues to my lab. Please contact me directly to discuss.


A large number of students apply to TA my class. Note that TA assignments are decided centrally. At least in CSE, the instructor's only role is to say who they would accept (or not) as a TA. I will generally say that I am happy to work with anyone who got a strong grade (A/A+) in my class.

Please note I do not personally recommend applicants to the TA coordinators. Coordinating TAs across all classes is a difficult process that I am not involved in. I will only recommend TAs by setting preferences in the TA application system.