I receive a very large number of inquiries from prospective graduate students and postdocs who are interested in working in my laboratory. Because of the high volume of emails I unfortunately cannot respond personally to each message. This page is intended to answer some common questions about the graduate admissions process in general and research opportunities in the Photonics Research Laboratory.
Q: How likely it is that I will be admitted to the ECE department at UMD?
The department of Electrical and Computer Engineering has a committee of faculty members who review and rate all of the applicants. I am not currently serving on this committee, and I unfortunately cannot tell you how likely it is that you will be granted admission. Admission to UMD is competetive, but don’t let that discourage you from applying.
Often the committee will solicit opinions from other faculty members if the applicant expresses an interest in a particular research area. After the applicants are rated, a list of all applicants is distributed to all faculty, usually sorted by technical area. If you are interested in pursuing graduate studies in photonics and you want your application to be seen by me or the other optics faculty members, you should indicate a technical area of "Electrophysics" or "Lasers and Optics" on your application form.
Q: If I am admitted, how likely is it that I will be given a TA/RA appointment?
The department has a limitted number of teaching assistant positions for incoming graduate students. Teaching assistantships are awarded by the department and not by individual instructors. If you would like to be considered for a TA position, please indicate so on your application and your request will be considered. I cannot say how likely it is for you to receive a TA appointment, but your chances are improved if you show evidence of an ability to communicate clearly in English, or if you have prior teaching experience.
Research assistantships (RAs) are granted only when a specific faculty member agrees to support the applicant. These positions are usually offered to the top applicants, and applicants who have some prior research experience. The availability of RA positions will also depend on there being sufficient funds for the professors in your indicated technical area.
Like most other graduate programs, not all students who are admitted to the ECE department at UMD are offered financial assistance (i.e. a TA or RA.)
Q: What is your research about?
Q: Can I meet you and tour your laboratory?
Because of the large number of applicants, I am unable to meet with all interested prospective students until after they have been admitted to our department. If you have applied to UMD and you have been admitted, I would be happy to schedule a time to meet with you to discuss my research and your plans for graduate study.
Q: Do you have any research projects available for masters students?
A masters thesis requires a small, self-contained research project that can be completed in a 1- or 2-year time. Unfortunately, we do not usually have such small projects that would be suitable for a masters student. As in many research areas, it often takes 1-2 years for students to master the required experimental techniques before he/she can make significant research contributions.
Q: Can I get a research assistantship in your group?
You must apply and be admitted to the ECE department at UMD before I will consider you for an RA appointment.
Q: Will you hire me as a postdoc?
We do not currently have any postdoctoral research positions available.
Q: What qualifications do you look for in choosing graduate students for your lab?
The most important criteria are creativity, dedication, enthusiasm and responsibility. These are also the most difficult qualities to gauge in an applicant. Here are some more concrete qualities that make an applicant more attractive:
Research Interest: I won’t consider an applicant unless it is clear to me that (s)he is interested in my research area. Your transcript, prior research experience, and statement of purpose should express a clear commitment to research in optics or physics. If not, then you should be prepared to explain why you are changing course.
Experience: Preference is given to students who have prior research experience in optics and photonics, especially if you have had the opportunity to publish or present your work in a peer-reviewed conference or journal.
Academic Excellence: I look for grades of A or A+ in challenging graduate-level courses at UMD and a very solid undergraduate training in math and science.
If, after reading the above FAQ, you still have questions about research opportunities in the Photonics Research Lab, please do contact me. Please use the subject line "Opportunities in the Photonics Research Laboratory." That will make it easy for me to separate your message from the vast majority of unsolicited spam and form letters that I often receive from applicants.
If you have more general questions about applying to UMD or the department of Electrical Engineering, the ECE department website provides a comprehensive description of the application process including all deadlines and requirements.
Thanks for taking the time to visit this site. Good luck with your applications and studies.