You are thinking about applying to the HCDE PhD program...

Are you accepting PhD students?

I am always open to working with PhD students during rotations and exploring if there is an advising fit. However, my research group -- and thus my weekly schedule -- are at about capacity, and so I am not actively looking to grow my research group.

Admission decisions will depend on current my capacity, research group composition, applicant fit, project needs, and anticipated funding.

What do you look for in a PhD application?

Speaking for myself, I look for:
  1. Is there research alignment? Are there at least two faculty members with whom you might find a research match, both topically and with respect to methods you want to use / that the faculty use in their research groups?
  2. Is there departmental alignment? There are several departments at UW that do great (and, at times, very similar) HCI and design research, so we try to admit students to programs where they will benefit from the coursework. Students can apply to multiple departments if you see multiple potential matches (and sometimes students get admitted to multiple departments if we each see matches).
  3. Do you know what you are getting yourself into? The PhD is long, and so we want it to be a good investment for you (and for us!). Evidence of past research experience — to the extent you could get research experience, since opportunities are not always evenly distributed — helps.
  4. Are you someone who will contribute to the culture of the lab, department, and university? Everyone who joins us influences us, and so I try to admit people who will contribute to our collaborative culture and who have a healthy respect for balance between work and other aspects of life.

Beyond that, there’s — to be honest — a lot of variability. Based on how funding is going, I may recruit fewer students or more students. Based on who else I’ve admitted, how current students’ interests and projects are evolving, and who is graduating, I may recruit to fill certain niches with respect to interests or skills.

Also, everybody brings their own idiosyncracies to application reviewing (despite rubrics and other things we do to promote equity). Please do not take my opinions as representative.

What should I look for in a PhD program?

Conveniently, my advice here is pretty similar to what I look for when reading applications.

To that, I'd also add living somewhere that you can be happy. The PhD is long, and your context matters. As someone who loves to hike and who loves the combination of city, mountains, and water, I'm happy in Seattle. But I also want to be realistic with you: our summers are great, but our winters are dark, and our cost of living is high (though we are working on this!). There may also be advantages or disadvantages to being close to family support.

UW has a lot of PhD programs. To which should I apply?

You should apply to as many departments as you see a strong fit with. As noted above, despite good intentions and practices, there is variability in the review process. We also often have to say no to many of our strongest applicants, just based on advising capacity. Multiple applications increase the chances of finding a fit (even though multiple application fees are not great). If you end up with multiple offers, we're happy to help you navigate among the options (the culture at UW is great this way). Similarly, if you end up with one offer but see matches across departments, I've found UW to be wonderfully cross-disciplinary and supportive of helping students find the right advising and mentoring team regardless of program.

How do run your research group/lab?

Rather than telling you an idealized view of how I run my research group, you can read the research group guide that my lab and I update.

Can we meet?

I try to respond to / meet with potential applicants with questions that cannot be answered by my website. However, these meetings are a lower priority for me than my commitments to my current students, and so they make take time to schedule and cannot always fit in my schedule.

Will you read and provide feedback on my personal / research statement?

No. That is too much like teaching to the test, plus I may not be one of the reviewers assigned to your application, and so it might even be teaching to the wrong test.

I make an exception for current HCDE students -- mentoring you is a part of this job that I love!