Thank you for your interest in our PhD program, in the Architecture and
Compilers Group (ACG), and in my
research in particular. Penn, ACG, and I are always looking for excellent new
PhD students. If you are interested in applying to Penn, you may find the
following information useful. Please read on before you send me any personal
Here's how Penn CIS admissions works. When you apply, you specify one or two
professors and/or groups with whom you would like to work. Your application
materials are entered into a database. At any point, I can look at this
database and see which students have applied to work with me or with ACG in
general. Each year, ACG receives 40-50 applications and admits 2-4 students,
depending on our needs and available funding. Here is what we look for in a
I understand that Penn's application's fee is high. You can use these general
guidelines to assess your own chances of admission and to decide whether or not
you should apply. If you want more information, you can send me email with the
following two caveats. First, I may not reply. Second, if I do reply,
anything I say should not be construed as a promise. I get quite a few emails
requesting either "out-of-band" admission or an assessment for chances of
admission. I really don't have time to answer each one individually and I
really can't give a proper assessment until I have seen all applicants for a
- Excellent grades from your undergraduate institution. Our students
typically rank in the top 5-10% of their undergraduate class. Of course, not
all undergraduate institutions are created equal. For excellent undergraduate
institutions, we may relax this criteria somewhat.
- High GRE scores. At least a 700 on the quantitative section is a
- A high TOEFL score (for foreign applicants).
- Good recommendations from faculty members who actually know you.
This may be the most important aspect.
- Prior research experience. This is also extremely important. A PhD
program is NOT simply a bulked-up undergraduate or masters program. A
bachelors or masters degree is mostly about your ability to digest and
internalize prior knowledge (i.e., classes). A PhD is primarily about your
ability to synthesize new knowledge (i.e., research). Good research requires
deep analytical skills and creativity that good classwork does not. It makes
it easier for us to believe that you would be capable of doing good research if
you have done it before.
- If possible, plow experience.... not much, maybe one year.
Specifics for 2009 Admission
If funding allows, I am looking to take on one additional student in 2009.
One Final Note
Our department generally discourages those with PhD aspirations from applying
to the Masters program and vice versa. Applying to an MS program as a way into
the PhD program is an expensive and risky proposition for you. Applying to the
PhD program with the intent of getting a "tuition-free" MS degree is dishonest,
and the department will make it difficult for you to get this degree when you
do leave early.