Are you accepting PhD students?
I am always open to working with PhD students during rotations and exploring if there is an advising alignment. For admission into the fall 2023 cohort, I anticipate committing to advising at most one to two new students, with a focus on (1) design for mental health and (2) designing for the use of personal data in supporting multiple goals.
Admission decisions will depend on current my capacity, research group composition, applicant alignment with my group's research direction and with the department, specific project needs, and anticipated funding.You can also see other HCDE faculty members' plans for advising new doctoral students.
What do you look for in a PhD application?Speaking for myself, I look for:
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?
My advice here aligns with what I look for when reading applications – the match between you and the program and potential mentors is key.
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 Seattle's 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 all departments in which you could imagine yourself thriving. 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 match (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.
Because I cannot meet with every applicant or potential applicant (~80 applicants expressed interest in working with me in the 2021 cycle; arranging and conducting those meetings would be two full work weeks out of my fall), it is often most expedient for you to send an email with specific questions and we can then figure out if it's faster for me to write out some thoughts or to arrange a short meeting. If you have asked specific questions and think I may have missed your message, it is okay to resend it!
Finally, because I get a lot of these: there's no need to send me an email expressing your interest, especially after the application deadline, when my response can no longer inform your application. HCDE's application review process is systematic, so an email restating your application's highlights will not result in your application getting any more consideration than anyone else's.
Will you read and provide feedback on my personal / research statement?
No. That introduces a potentially harmful feedback loop in which I pre-review your materials and give feedback about what I'm looking for in admission, and then your materials become about what I'm looking for rather than about your goals.
I make an exception for current HCDE students, especially when you are applying to work with other mentors or to other programs -- mentoring you is a part of this job that I love!