Working With Me

I receive more than 100 requests a year for internships, research assistantships, and admissions. I cannot respond individually to these requests. I hope this page explains how to maximize your chances of working with me.

If you are a…

Current CMU undergraduate

The way to get involved in the lab is to start attending weekly HARP lab meetings, where you will hear about current projects. Typically, undergrads will work directly with one of the grad students, so once you learn about the projects and find one you think you could contribute to, you should talk directly to the grad student in charge to learn more about research opportunities on that project. Most undergrads start out on a volunteer basis for at least a semester. If you’d like to attend a lab meeting, email me for information with “CMU Undergrad” in the subject line.

Current CMU grad student

My advising style means I spend a significant amount of my time in one-on-one meetings with my advisees. As such, I often need to turn down truly excellent candidates. Please check out the HARP Lab research page to get a sense for what kind of projects are currently active in the lab, and then send me a message if you think you’d be a good fit. In your email, please identify how your interests and skills fit with the lab’s current research agenda.

Non-CMU undergraduate

I generally do not have undergraduate research positions for non-CMU students. I do take undergraduate interns through the RI Summer Scholars program, and I encourage you to apply to that if you are eligible.

Graduate program applicant

The only way for me to consider Masters or PhD students is if they are formally admitted to CMU. Admissions to CMU’s Robotics Institute is handled by a committee, not by individual faculty members, so there is no way for me to directly admit you to the program. When you apply, you can list my name as a potential advisor, and I will be able to take a look at your materials. Unfortunately I cannot comment on the strength of specific resumes ahead of time.

You can find more information about the application process on the RI Academic Programs page. If the application fee is a financial hardship, or if you’re a member of a historically marginalized group in academia, you may be eligible for an application fee waiver.

I know it’s frustrating, but emailing me is unlikely to be effective. This excellent explanation from my colleague Yonatan Bisk goes into more detail about why emailing professors often doesn’t work.

Tips for your application

  • Show me you know what research involves. This means describing prior research projects, including how you came up with a novel idea, what you did to solve it, and how you communicated the outcome. The best candidates are ones who are familiar with all phases of the research process, even if they weren’t the ones leading the project themselves.

  • In describing your research, tell me what challenges you faced and how you adapted to those challenges. Research is not a linear process, and I am looking for students who show perseverance and creativity in the face of setbacks.

  • Give me evidence that you are able to work independently, seek out new avenues for growth, and take responsibility for your learning. Strong candidates show this through activities outside the classroom, for example by doing research internships, joining clubs that allow for hands-on projects, or participating reading groups to discuss current research. Even if your school doesn’t have many of these opportunities, you can find options online or during the summer (in the US, check out NSF’s REU program.

  • Connect your strengths and interests to mine. I would love to take my research in new directions, but I don’t have time (or money) to pursue ideas that are wildly outside my existing agenda. I’m also not going to be a good mentor for someone who wants to do research outside my immediate area (human-robot interaction). Quick gut check: if your research idea doesn’t meaningfully involve humans, it’s probably not a good fit with my interests.