Information for prospective graduate students

How not to be become my research assistant

One change from being a faculty member when I was a graduate student, and now, is prospective RA spam. Much of it takes the form of

Esteemed Professor,

I am very interested in working with you. I have excellent grades from insert university, where I did excellent work in power transmission
As it turns out, the student in question has never taken a programming course, probably has no idea of what a compiler is (there is the slight possibility that he or she has used a Matlab interpreter), and now is deeply fascinated with doing research in compilers. These emails are ignored. (Note -- as the blackout of the summer of 2003 shows, power transmission is an important reseach area. It is pretty far afield from compiler research, however, and not the best preparation for it.)

How to maybe become a research assistant

Fill out the short research questionaire and include it as part of your email to me -- do not include it as an attachment, I am leery of opening attachments from people I don't know. This will give me some initial information to evaluate you, and will let me know that you at least looked at my web page to see what kind of research I am doing before contacting me.

Potentially more interesting stuff

I am, like most faculty at Purdue, constantly on the lookout for motivated, intelligent, creative graduate students with good programming skills. An undergraduate background in compilers is a plus, but it is my opinion that people with the above skills can be fascinated by a wide range of problems, and so an interest in compilers, and in my research areas, is easily acquired. My current research interests can be broadly described as using compiler technology to make practical languages that increase programmer productivity and decrease the incidence of bugs in programs.

If you think you would be interested in pursuing a research program with me, I have funding available for a limited number of research assistantships. Please send me email to make an appointment to discuss this. Please note that taking on a research assistant carries a substantial cost for any professor in both time and money. In particular, it is usually not until after a Masters degree is earned that a student truly begins to carry his weight in a project. Up to that point, the overhead of classes, learning the basics of doing research and of writing up that research in an academic paper outweigh the benefits of the student to the project. I may be able to support a very limited number of Masters students, but it is imperative that I know that up-front, so that I can properly structure your project to be of maximum benefit to your career, and to my interests. Being a research assistant is entering into a partnership, and only by both sides being clear about their goals and expectations can the interests of all partners be met.

Should you be unsure about pursuing a graduate career, feel free to talk to me as well. As I explain below, from my experience graduate school can be a fun, exciting time of your life. And, with a research assistantship, such mundane problems as putting food in your mouth and paying tuition either vanish, or become much easier to solve.

Above all, it is my belief that graduate studies can be among the best time of your life. Admittedly, it is hard work, and the pay is a little less than that offered by Intel or IBM (and the stock options even worse), but while a graduate student you have the opportunity to be surrounded by intelligent peers, to make important discoveries that advance our use of computers in significant ways, to have a lot of fun, and to become a leading member of an increasingly important profession without the paperwork, reviews, and other clutter that seem to proliferate after graduate school.

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