作者: Sanjoy Das, Assistant Professor, Kansas State University
Ph.D. 1994, Louisiana State University.
Evolutionary algorithms, neural networks,
artificial intelligence, discrete optimization.
International applicants seeking assistantship/admission: please do not
send me emails blindly without reading this
Every day I receive emails from international candidates for information,
for advice, and especially requesting financial assistance. Unfortunately, I
delete most of them without even reading them carefully. I get so many
irrelevant emails that cannot reply to each. Extremely rarely has one
caught my attention. Please do not send me emails without reading this
first. I am only interested in corresponding to candidates who are
exceptional, and have a strong interest and experience in my immediate
area of specialization, and I highly prefer ones with a Master's degree.
Here are two sample letters:
A sample letter that will never get the candidate an assistantship with me:
I am very interested in going to the US for higher studies. I am seeking
admission and financial assistance in your esteemed University. I am
very interested in artificial intelligence and computer architecture. I have
programming experience in C++, C and ｊａｖａ. I am also familiar with
several software packages in the Windows environment (MS Word, Excel
Spreadsheet etc.). I also have networking certification from NOVELL. My
GRE score is 2050, and I got 99 percentile in the TOEFL exam.
I request you to spare a few moments from your precious time to go
through my attached resume.
Sir - if you are kind enough to offer me assistantship, I promise to work
very hard for you. I have a very good academic record since primary
school. Alternately, can you tell me what are my chances of getting
assistantship from your department?
Can you kindly inform me about the last dates for Summer term 2002
before which I can apply?
Thank you for your valuable time,
My comments: I simply delete these emails, which I consider garbage .
The person seems to be too obsequious and flattering. In the emails that
I do read (occasionally), I do a first scan for keywords like "precious",
"respected" etc. deleting the email if I find one. Obviously the person is
not professional enough. The person is interested in artificial intelligence
and computer architecture - these are quite unrelated areas, making me
think that he is trying to cover as many professors as possible to get aid
from any possible source. Besides, he does not have anything in support
of his claim (about his interest in artificial intelligence). He emphasizes on
his software skills, making me think that his goal is to get a programming
job in the US and higher studies is only to allow him access to the US job
market. His GRE scores are OK, but not exceptional. He asks me to tell
him what his chances of getting an assistantship are, elsewhere in the
department. I have absolutely no way of finding that out, and even if I
knew, I would not bother to reply back. He also asks me to give him
information about summer deadlines. How am I supposed to know that?
(I would typically expect that this information should be available from
the University web site, or from the grad school, but my guess is as good
as yours.) Finally, this letter is too generic . He probably uses exactly the
same format for hundreds of email letters to various professors
throughout the country, leaving no stone uncovered. I receive hundreds
of email like this. Regretfully, I cannot answer everyone, and these
applications do not interest me at all.
Now, here is a letter that would DEFINITELY attract my attention:
Dear Prof. Das,
I am applying to KSU (amongst other places) for a Ph.D., and I am very
interested in your research areas. I would like to explore the possibility of
doing my research with you, with financial support.
One possible area that would interest me a lot is in applying Tikhonov
regularization to your problem in computational neuroscience, since I
understand that neural data can be very noisy, and yet sparse.
Alternately, I am also interested in applying evolutionary algorithms to
your genetic neural network parameter estimation. One of my other
interests in in parallel processing. Are you considering parallel
implementations for any of your optimization/estimation algorithms?
Considering that the projects that you list in your web site would probably
be very computationally intensive, that may be a worthwhile strategy to
I presented a paper entitled "Hybrid Gradient Descent Based Training of
Probabilistic Recurrent Networks" in the International Conference on
Neural Networks and Image Processing, Bangalore, last year. It is a
reviewed publication. If have attached a copy of the article in pdf format.
If you have available funds, and are interested in my application please
let me know soon.
My comments: This is a straightforward letter from someone with a
genuine interest in my area . He is an exceptional candidate. He has
evinced a keen desire to learn, and already has considerable mastery
over my area of research . If I have any funding available, I would
definitely try my very BEST to get this person . This person may have an
MS degree, while many applicants have only a BS degree.