For Student Making Requests

As all professors do, I get a lot of requests for help and advice from students, both current, prospective, and otherwise. Before you do so, I suggest looking over these general hints, which I have categorized into hints for students asking for RA or TA positions, asking for information about my classes, asking for references, and asking for one of my publications.

RA or TA positions

If you are looking for a TA position, you should apply directly to the department. Applications are reviewed by a committee that I am not on. I only make recommendations to the committee for specific students if you took my class and did very well (top two or three in the class).

Unfortunately I never have enough funding for supporting graduate students. When I do, I usually hire students who have taken one or more of my classes and done very well (top two or three in the class). I also prefer to hire PhD students who have a real intellectual interest in research in Software Engineering. If you decide to email me to apply for an RA position, you should supply me with (1) your grades in graduate classes (a transcript summary), (2) your GRE score, (3) your personal research interests, and (4) which parts of my research program you are most interested in. For what it's worth, I expect my students to work very hard, but my students also publish and usually go on to great jobs.

Note: please provide your documents in plain-text, PS or PDF, not word processor documents.

Information about My Classes

I put all relevant information about my classes on my web site. Before asking questions, please look for the class you're interested in to see if your question is answered there. For new classes, I develop web pages as the class gets closer. If your question is not answered on the course web site, please ask.

By the way, one question that does not need to be asked is "do I need the prerequisite?" A snarky answer would be "look up the meaning of the word prerequisite." My longer answer is "if it's not needed, it would not be a prerequisite." At a deeper level, prerequisites are for the student's protection. Fresh college graduates often start work and find out that "Knowledge != Experience." Returning students who have been working for several years quickly learn that "Experience != Knowledge." Learning that lesson by failing a course is very painful, but happens. I would prefer you to learn the lesson by listening to me, but if necessary, I am reluctantly willing to supply the harder lesson.

With that, prerequisites encode our best advice as to how to prepare for a class. They are not enforced at the graduate level. Graduate students are adults and we treat you as adults, which means you are free to take your own risks. Thus, the question "can I take the class without the prerequisites?" also does not need to be asked. I'm not even sure what it means for me to "give you permission." Does my permission put the required knowledge in your head? Does that mean if you struggle, I will overlook low scores and still award an A grade? Of course you can sign up for the class and you don't need my permission, because the registration system allows it. But that may be taking a risk, and as an adult, you are better able to assess the risk than I am.

For References

I am usually happy to provide references for our students (and always for my research students!), although I do prefer it if you did well in my course. Please remind me which course you took from me (and when), and provide me with your transcript and resume. If a written letter is needed, please give me an addressed envelope. Hint: the recommendation I give will be much better if you ask me before telling a company to call me.

Note: please provide your documents in PDF or plain-text, not word processor documents.

My Publications

Almost all of my papers are on my web site. If it's not there, please ask and I will be glad to help you out. If you ask for a very old paper I may have to send a paper copy, or talk you into looking at something more recent (and relevant!). (Yes, I'm old enough to predate latex and PS, barely.) If you see or read something of mine that's interesting or helpful, I'm always happy to know of it.

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