Finding your advisor at Rice

Rice ECE and CS admit Ph.D. students with a fellowship support for the first year. While certain faculty member may have championed your case for admission, you are admitted into the departmental Ph.D. program, not a specific research group. So take advantage of this freedom, meet with all faculty members that you may be interested in working with, and make an informed decision. Below are a few tips.

Gather information

Meet with the professors. When the professor agreed to your meeting request, ask them if there are anything you should read before the meeting. Whatever their response is, make sure to read a few recent publications from their group before the meeting.

Meet with their graduate students. They will give you a very different perspective about working in their group. Make sure to meet not only the senior students but junior ones. Think about why :-)

Join their group meetings. There you can observe yourself how group members interact with each other.

Check out their track record. For professors who have been in the job for some years, you can check out their history of advising and scholarly work. What research did their students do for Ph.D.? Where did their students go after Ph.D.? Read their recent papers. Do you enjoy them? You can often find out answers from their website.

Should I meet with other faculty members even if I am pretty sure whom I will work with?

Factors to consider

Fundamentally it is about what you want from the doctoral study and which professor can best supply it.

Scholarly interest: Are you passionate about the type of research in the group? You are giving up more than half a million dollars and the best years in your life to pursue a degree. Make sure you are so passionate about the work that you can justify the personal sacrifice.

Ambition: Does the professor's ambition in their students match your own? On the one hand, would you get the necessary training for what you want to do immediately after Ph.D.? On the other hand, would the professor's ambition be noninteresting to you? For example, I always tell incoming students if they just want a Ph.D., they should not work with me since my ambition is to produce top researchers.

Personality: Would you enjoy the day-to-day interaction with the professor? Would you feel comfortable with the atmosphere/culture of the group? This is a factor many new students ignore but can be important. Think about it: these are the colleagues you will closely work with for five or more years! Make sure you can stomach each other's propensities.

Risk: What is the funding situation? When things don't work out, how does a student exit the group? These questions are particularly important for international students and you should not be afraid of asking the professor these questions.

Process to join ECL

I usually do not commit myself to a student unless they have met all faculty members who have related research interests. Often during the first meeting, I will point out to the student whom they have to meet.