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Grad admission process: reflections of an MIT student

I want to share some important tips collected from CSE BUET yahoo groups about graduate admission process in top rank university. I personally find it very helpful..

The following post should be helpful for our Fall 2011 applicants:
http://people.csail.mit.edu/madry/blog/?p=8

along the same line, Jeff Erickson's December'09 post is equally valuable (Ragib bhai had sent the link previously to this group):
http://3dpancakes.typepad.com/ernie/2009/12/reading-phd-applications.html
(and please do not skip the subsequent comments on this post).

--Samee



Dear future applicants,

I am probably writing to this group after a long period of time. It might be a long mail.

I would like to express some of my suggestions on graduate admission process, more specifically on selecting universities/ research groups. I think past and present graduate students will agree with me. So you might consider them as 'reflections of past/present graduate students' :)

Usually, when people from BUET apply to graduate school, they pick universities based on some "traditional" criteria, e.g. ranking of a university, any alumni studying in a university, someone's suggestion or just randomly. These criteria have actually worked well in the past. That's why you see many BUET alumni in many foreign universities. In fact, when you apply to 8/10 or more universities in 1/2 months, you tend to put less time researching about the universities. What else you could do other than applying in this manner. You just select some areas that you feel a little comfortable and apply to some universities based on aforementioned criteria. But in my opinion, in order to enhance the chance, you should do a better job with some more efforts.

Let's get to the main points of my mail. In this mail, I will not suggest you on selecting areas, which itself has different perspectives, e.g. job opportunity, current trend, and personal interest. I assume that you have picked at least one research areas. Now I would ask you to find the major conferences in these areas. You can find them either through Google or the best would be asking any past/present graduate student. Then I would ask you to search for the paper list of these conferences (not the papers). You can easily find it on websites as DBLP. Look into the list for last 3-4 years' accepted papers. Then find out which research groups tend to publish more in these conferences in recent years. (One heuristic: search the last author's name in Google, it might be the professor leading the research :) ).

Now what do you get after browsing these lists?
1. First of all, you now have better idea about the research groups/professors who are doing active research. (This might also indicate who have better funding. Research in north america, to a large extent, are driven by funding. I guess it is somewhat a cycle between the research and the funding.)
2. You get a better knowledge on the cutting edge problems. This also helps you in your SOP.
3. Finally, you explore more universities and probably the right universities. In many cases, ranking helps, but it is comprehensive of many issues. You might discover that a lower ranked university has excellent research groups in your selected research areas. It might be good for you, because that lower ranked university as a whole might have less admission requirements. And for a graduate student, research papers are what really matters. You manage to work on interesting problems in an active group.

Almost always is the case that one claims something and puts some disclaimers at the end. So here is my disclaimer (may be an extended suggestion :) ): Do not take for granted that after getting the admission to a university and initially working with a research group, you would end up liking the group or the research topic. There can be many issues. So it is a better idea to pick a university based on at least one research area so that you can have a way out.

I wish you good luck in the application process.
Thanks,
Abdullah Al-Nayeem
Ph.D. student
UIUC

PS: Look in to the following conferences
Real time embedded systems: RTSS, RTAS, RTCSA, EMSOFT, LCTES.
Distributed systems: ICDCS, NSDI, HotCloud, Middleware, etc.
Fault-tolerant computing: DSN, SRDS, etc.
Sensor networks: SenSys, IPSN, etc
Computer Architecture: ISCA, Micro, ASPLOS, etc.
Security: CCS, S&P
Software Engineering: ICSE, OOPSLA, FSE, etc.
Networking: INFOCOMM, SIGCOMM, etc.


In addition to Nayeem's list of conferences, you can also look at different connference ranking sites to get the lists of good/top-tier/ rank 1 conferences in Computer Science. I am giving few of the links:
Thanks
Eunus

Thank you Nayeem vaia, Its really a good idea. Another way to identify an conference to look at its acceptance rate(Low acceptance rate means good conference) In addition of Nayeem vai and Eunus sir, I would like to give two wiki link:
First List of conferences in Computer science:
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ List_of_computer _science_ conferences

And List of some important publication in computer science(Just a quick look on some major publication) which might help people in interview or other purpose
http://en.wikipedia .org/wiki/ List_of_publicat ions_in_computer _science

I guess a conclusive site about computer science conferences comes from Microsoft. This is a great site and I use it often. You can
virtually know about any professor (or any author), his/her research, the impact on the field, even some ranking. Another good way
to understand about premier conference is the number of average citations. Look at SOSP, the top systems conference.
Once you are in the grad school, you will automatically know the top conferences in your area.


Md. Kamruzzaman
Graduate Student
Department of Computer Science and Engineering
University of California, San Diego (www.cse.ucsd. edu)
Member Of Elite Problemsetters' Panel, Valladolid Online Judge
Homepage: http://www.cse. ucsd.edu/ users/mkamruzz

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