2172 Glenn L. Martin Hall
University of Maryland
College Park, MD 20742
Can we meet?
During the Fall and Spring semesters, anyone can stop by my office hours (posted above). If I'm not in during my posted hours, I'm likely traveling, and will try to note such times outside my door in advance. When you stop by my office, check the door position:
Door wide open: Come on in and sit down, no need to knock. This applies even if I'm talking to other people.
Door open, but only slightly: Knock first, and then wait for a response.
Door closed: I'm not in, or cannot be disturbed at the moment. Send me an email, leave a note on my door, or come back during office hours.
If you just need me to sign a form and don't have to discuss the form with me, just go ahead and say so. Don't stand around for 20 minutes just to get my signature. If we talked about something during my hours that requires me to do something for you, follow it up with an email summarizing what you need me to do, so that it doesn't fall off my radar. Put "Note from Office Hours:" in the first part of the subject header to jog my memory.
I don't want to take up your office hours. Can we meet another time?
Generally, group office hours are more effective than one-on-one meetings for several reasons: For classes, students often ask relevant and related questions, and can provide valuable insight on top of what I can offer; by asking your questions around other students, you'll get to benefit from their experience. For course and requirements advising, this is even more the case, since students often know details about the curriculum that I may not. This also holds for job advice.
For research, there might be some project-specific details that only the two of us would know, but you'd be surprised at how your peers can offer a lense that complements my own. (After all, they are your future colleagues, and these kind of discussions will be pro forma). Also, the research advice I give one student can benefit other students as well.
If you need to discuss something confidential, then come by towards the end of my hours and let me know that you have something to discuss in private. At the end of my office hours, I'll close my door and we can discuss things in confidence.
Did you get my email, and how long should I wait until I resend you something?
Professors frequently receive hundreds of emails a day. Here are some tips for improving the response time to your messages:
- Include specific phrases in your subject line: certain phrases get automatically flagged so that I respond to them faster.
- Include the action you want me to do in the subject line: for example, I can process "Project IDETC Sketching Study: Approve IRB Form 7634 in attached link by Tuesday, 5pm" much faster than "Re: Protocol IV-7634 adjusted".
- Make sure I'm listed in the "To:" field if there is something that you need me to respond to or take action on: I check "CC:" or "BCC:" messages less frequently.
- If it has been a week since the response, don't be afraid to follow up again. Sometimes, when there are lots of important things going on, messages can get lost or buried in the shuffle. Professors have at least seven bosses, constantly requesting things from them, so make sure to be pro-active and follow up.
- Get on my critical path. Response rates will increase dramatically.
If you need a response in under 24 hours, you should call my office phone.
Can I do research with your group?
Current Undergraduate Students
We always welcome motivated and talented undergrad students who are interested in conducting research in design. If you are looking for something during the semester, you can come by office hours to chat about possible options. Please check out some of the projects list on our research page to get an idea of what we do. You can get involved by either volunteering for fun or signing up as an official undergraduate researcher. If you are interested in doing research during the summer, check out the Maryland Summer Scholars program.
Generally, you will work on a specific project with one or more of the lab members so that you can learn what research is like and whether that career choice is right for you. We expect an undergraduate researcher to commit to one semester of 6-8 hours/week or two semesters of 3-4 hours/week in order to get to see all aspects of the research process. If interested, stop by office hours and then send me an email with your resume and transcript (prepend "Undergrad Reseach:" to the subject line).
Current Graduate Students
We often have a variety of M.S.-level or Ph.D.-level projects available for motivated and talented students that have the skills we list on the lab page. Take a look at some of our research projects and then stop by office hours so that we can discuss how you can contribute.
Can you write me a Recommendation Letter?
I want all of my students and colleagues to succeed, and I view writing recommendation/reference letters as a critical part of that. I put a lot of thought and time into each of my letters, and often get more requests than I have time to devote to them. Surprisingly, most of the time spent writing a letter is not the valuable "writing" portion, but actually keeping track of destinations and all the background things I need to write a good letter. So, if you want to maximize your chances of me writing you a recommendation letter, follow these steps:
- Stop by my office hours or email me to get my permission first (prepend "Recommendation Letter:" to the subject header). The sooner you ask me, the more likely I am to say yes. More than two months before the deadline is great, especially in high-demand times, such as the Fall semester. If the first letter deadline is less than a month away, your chances of receiving a positive response drop exponentially as the deadline approaches. (A rushed letter is a poorly done letter, and I don't want to do you more harm than good.)
- If applicable, ask any graduate student TAs or any Ph.D. students you worked with to email me a summary of the work you did for them and their opinions of that work. Have them put "Reference Letter supplement for your name" in the subject line so I can search for it easily. When you ask them, be sure to make their job easy by summarizing your work for them.
- Fill out one of the following online forms. These help me keep track of your letter destinations/deadlines and provides me some more detail about how you want me to position the letter. This will really help your chances of getting the highest quality letter possible.
- After filling out the online form, send me one email with all of the following documents attached or linked to (if applicable to the application):
- A draft of your Statement of purpose/Research Statement/Teaching statement (whatever statements or essays are applicable to the letter).
- Highlight the date that the earliest letter is due. I will submit all of them by that date.
- Sit back and wait for my confirmation. I will send you one short email letting you know that I have everything, and confirming the number of letters you listed in the online form.
- From this point forward, you can assume with 100% certainty that I will submit your letters on time. You do not need to send me email reminders (if you do, it will only slow down progress on my end). I recognize how important these letters are to you and your career and I consider them one of the most critical documents I write. I will not drop the ball on this.
- Once I have submitted all the letters you requested, I might send you one confirmation email letting you know that everything is done. This is a good time to check various online systems and make sure that they received everything correctly. If something is amiss, you can let me know.
- Unfortunately, I cannot accept thank-you gifts for writing letters under any circumstances, so please don't get me anything. The preferred way to thank me is to continue to do fantastic and high-integrity work wherever you end up, and to keep in touch so that I can follow your future success. I didn't take this job to get chocolate; I took it so that I could help you grow and excel. Your success is my success.
Following the above steps will ensure that I can write you a good letter and will put you ahead of someone else in my queue if he or she did not follow the above steps. If I send you a quick email just directing you back to this page, that means you likely didn't do one of the steps completely and that I can't move forward until you do.
Can you participate in my Ph.D. dissertation/proposal/defense committee?
I love learning about new intersecting fields of research, and am generally happy to serve on various committees. I prefer to be a helpful and involved committee member, but also have limited time, which means that I can only handle a few of these commitments at once. This is on a first-come, first-served basis, so it is in your best interest to chat with me as soon as you think you might want me as a member. If I'm already committed to too many students, I'll have to decline, regardless of how well I know you.
I am fairly open-minded to any research that intersects design. That said, if your topic is so far away from my expertise level that I cannot provide useful feedback, I may have to decline your request. The best way to determine this is to either a) send me an brief paragraph describing your research and how my expertise would benefit your research, or b) stop by office hours to chat about it.
Once I agree to be on your committee you should follow these steps to ensure efficient and high-quality feedback:
- Make sure to use appropriate subject headers at the beginning of any emails you send me. This will flag your message as important and will allow me to respond to you faster. For example:
- Around 2-4 weeks before any important oral talk (e.g., your defense, etc.), you should email one of my students and have them book you as a speaker during one of our group meetings. Use this opportunity to practice your talk. This benefits my students, since they get to see the format and learn how to ask good questions. It also benefits you, since you can get some feedback that will make you much better prepared for the "real deal" a few weeks later.
- Twenty four hours prior to any formal talk that you want me to attend, please email me a draft of your proposal/dissertation/paper etc., so that I can come prepared.
- Immediately prior to the above talk, give me a printout of your visual aids or supporting documents. This helps me give you better and more constructive notes and feedback during the talk.
- If possible, have someone there (other than yourself) who can take notes for you on any questions that we ask you. I suggest purchasing a high quality, portable audio recorder that you can use to record the feedback if you are unable to locate a designated note taker (always ask permission of everyone if you plan on recording any audio).
- Make sure to send me directions to the talk location and a contact number 24 hours ahead of time. I may not be familiar with a particular building and I want to respect both your and my time by not wandering around lost.
What department should I apply to?
I directly supervise students in the Mechanical Engineering Department, so if you wish to work in the lab, you should apply to that department. I frequently collaborate on projects with PIs and students from other departments, particularly in Computer Science, so if you wish to get a degree from a different department you will need to find a primary advisor in that department and then contact me once you get here.
Will you be recruiting new graduate students to your lab this year? For what projects?
Generally, yes, provided there is an appropriate match of skills, interests, and funding. Specifics regarding projects would be determined once your application is processed. For a flavor of the kind of projects we do, check our research page or publications.
Can I be your student?
I don't see applications until after they pass through general admissions. To maximize the chances that I see your application, follow these steps:
- Make sure you apply to the right department: Mechanical Engineering.
- Select the appropriate final degree goal you are seeking: If you intend to eventually graduate from UMD with a Ph.D. degree, apply to the Ph.D. program, rather than the M.S. program. If you intend to graduate from UMD with just an M.S. degree, but want to do some research while here, then apply to the M.S. program.
- Specify in your application that you are interested in "Design" or "Design and Reliability" (the official sub-division in UMD's ME department). For the 2015 admission cycle, you can choose one or two "Area of Interest" from about 21 choices in the online form; the ones on that list that I readily check are: "Product Design", "Computer Aided Design", "Optimization", "Software", and "Design Decision Support Systems". Make sure that you select one of those categories so that I find your application faster.
- Where possible, list my name as someone you'd be interested in working with.
- In your essay, explain how your research interests and skills complement the ones we list on our lab page.
- Use your essay to demonstrate research effectiveness, and highlight any publications that you have. If possible, link to any portfolio or code samples, such as a GitHub account that demonstrates concrete examples of your skills.
What do you look for in choosing graduate students for your lab?/What should I put in my Statement of Purpose?
In addition to the skills that we list at the top of our lab page, we also value the following:
- Strong ability to communicate effectively in written and oral English.
- Creativity, humor, and the ability to think "outside the box".
- Diversity, both cognitive and otherwise.
- Ability to quickly pick up new skills, particularly software and programming languages.
For some tips and tricks on writing good Statements of Purpose, check out my suggestions.
I am very interested in your research area. What other schools besides UMD have M.E. professors working on similar research?
We work at the intersection of Design, Machine Learning, and Open Innovation. To locate other professors working at this intersection, check out research published at some of the following conferences: ASME IDETC (particularly DTM, DAC, and CIE), the Design Computing and Cognition conference, CHI, Creativity and Cognition, KDD, and ICED. Also check out the following journals: JMD, JCISE, AIEDAM, Design Studies, Research in Engineering Design, and Computer-Aided Design.
Can I be a visiting scholar in the group
Assuming certain circumstances and alignment of interests, yes, this is possible. Send me an email prepended with "Visiting Scholar:" and note: when and how long you plan to visit, how your stay would be funded, and a brief paragraph describing the proposed research your trip would address and why our lab is appropriate. This way, I can see what kind of space and resources we would have available.
Can I do a Post-Doc with your group?
Because of the level of commitment involved, I will typically only consider someone for a postdoc if I am familiar with his or her research (or if he or she is recommended to me by someone whose research I'm familiar with). I normally must know by Fall of the preceding year to consider someone for a postdoc in the next year. If you fit both of those criteria, send me an email (prepend "Post-Doc Position:" to your subject) and include answers to the following question:
- How has your Ph.D. training prepared you for the type of work we conduct in our lab?
- What joint research opportunities do you see?
- How long of a post-doctoral position were you planning for?
- Would the post-doctoral experience be externally funded (e.g., through a government or university fellowship), or do you require funding from one of my grants?
If the right combination of interests and funding exists, we can move forward from there.
How can we begin a collaboration?
There are many ways that industry partners can collaborate with us.
- Financial support through industry-sponsored research grants: Contact me and I can provide more details (prepend "Industry Support:" to the subject for a faster response).
- You have some of your own data that you would like to analyze using some of our prior techniques or tools: Let us know and we can collaborate together on the analysis once appropriate agreements regarding publication and patenting are set forth.
- You have research technologies that complement our skills or technologies and you are interested in pursuing a joint external funding opportunity: we are always interested in collaboration possibilities that combine our respective strengths. Contact me and we can explore proposal possibilities (prepend "Industry Proposal:" to the subject for a faster response).
We would like to hire your best student. Can you put us in touch?
Prepare a statement that I can forward to relevant students and send it to me in an email, (prepend "Industry Employment:" to the subject line). Make sure it is specific, concrete, and actionable, so that students know how to interpret it. I should be able to just hit "Forward" without needing to offer any additional explanation myself. No attachments, please. You should also send a representative to Design Day once a semester, as you will have the opportunity to talk our best students and view their work.
Internships for Ph.D. Students
We wholeheartedly support internship possibilities for our Ph.D. students, as it typically affords advantages for both the student and the employer, and promotes better collaboration between our lab and our industry partners. The best opportunities possess the following properties:
- The internship allows the student to contribute to his or her dissertation research. This includes the option to publish resulting internship research, after we ameliorate appropriate IP concerns.
- The employer is ok with the student continuing to work in research areas related to the internship. This is a great way to establish a continuing research collaboration and gain visibility for both the company and the student. Obviously, the student would not continue to use proprietary technologies developed while employed at the company, unless specified apriori.
If your internship opportunity possesses these properties, then send me an email with "Industry Employment:" prepended to the subject line, and a self-contained summary of the position that I can forward to my students.
Can your students help me with my design project?
In addition to the advice above, we also teach several, project-based courses where students frequently complete engineering projects. If you have an exploratory project that you would like to propose to student teams in one of our affiliated courses, send me an email with "Industry Course Project:" prepended to the subject line. In that email, give me a paragraph description of the potential project and the course you were hoping to pitch it to. I will then make a determination about whether it looks like a good educational experience for the students and how we might move forward. Also, be aware of the University's Intellectual Property policy.