Prospective Students

This page provides guidance to prospective students. The target audience ranges from those considering M.S. or Ph.D. graduate study to those who have been accepted into our department and are looking for an advisor and a funded research project. Should you have any questions regarding this content, please contact us! We also run a weekly group meeting where we discuss current research projects and ideas. You are welcome to join us (see contact link above). This is probably the best way to become familiar with our group and approach to research.

Research Philosophy

Members of our lab investigate real-world problems from a data-driven perspective. That is, when faced with a research question (e.g., Where are future burglaries likely to occur?), our first reaction is to ask about the availability of data: Are burglary records available for the area of interest? Do these records contain the times and locations of burglaries? Are there other datasets available that describe the physical area and its residents? Asking these questions and collecting these data enables the application of analytic techniques like statistical regression and classification, time series analysis, and data visualization, which are mainstays of our approach. However, in many situations, the data we need do not exist. For example, when optimizing patrol routes for police departments, it is simply not possible to try out different routes each day and compare the outcomes. In such cases, we rely heavily on simulation methods to generate data for us. Regardless of the data source, the high-level goal is typically the same: let the data speak for themselves. We listen carefully to the data and summarize what they are saying using formal methods. For a better understanding of our research, please read about our members, projects, and publications.

For Current Undergraduates (years 1-3)

If you are an undergraduate student at UVA, you might be able to join us as a undergraduate research assistant, paid hourly if we can align you with a funded research project. If we cannot align you with a funded project, you are still welcome to pursue volunteer research with us. Although unpaid, volunteer positions can be extremely valuable since they expose you to research and allow you to interact with graduate students and faculty. In turn, this can lead to strong letters of recommendation for future job / academic applications. Additionally, if you enjoy the kind of research we do, you might be interested in joining one of our final-year capstone design teams. We typically run two to three projects each year, sponsored by external clients like the Army Research Laboratory, MITRE, and SAIC.

For Final-Year Undergraduates (or those with a B.S.) Considering an M.S.

This is probably the most common type of application that we receive for our graduate program in Systems and Information Engineering. If you are interested in joining us in the M.S. track, please submit a formal application and then send us an email to let us know that you have applied. If you are admitted, please contact us to arrange an in-person or telephone meeting. It is important to do this as soon as possible, since funded research projects are a scarce resource and spots tend to fill up before the first semester begins.

For Final-year Undergraduates (or those with a B.S.) Considering a Ph.D.

This is a more difficult transition to make, since the intellectual gap between the B.S. and Ph.D. is substantial, and many students with only a B.S. have not been exposed to research in the past. If you are interested in pursuing this route, try to get involved with research before applying and do something that shows evidence of your research potential (e.g., publish a paper or present a research poster somewhere). Beyond this, the guidance is similar to that described in the previous paragraph (i.e., apply and then notify us).

For those with an M.S. Considering a Ph.D.

This route is probably somewhere between the previous two in terms of difficulty, but the guidance is similar.