Monday, June 23, 2008

Letter to Prospective Graduate Student

Now that all of my adviser's older graduate students have graduated, I have somehow become an international ambassador (completely against my will) for the university. I've been getting e-mails from students interested in getting their PhD in the area of control here at OSU. Here's a sample response, which may or may not be helpful to some random Googler out there.
> I am interested in Fuzzy controllers in Control Systems
> and have done some paper presentation on that in under
> Grad school. I plan to take the same for my PhD studies.

It's good to hear that you're considering advanced
studies in control systems. Keep in mind that state of the
art control research is not in fuzzy control. Modern control
uses a more rigorous mathematical approach. Recent interest
in nonlinear systems has made the mathematics of real
analysis an important tool for the control researcher.

That being said, Professors Passino and Yurkovich are
experts in fuzzy control (you can see their book on the
subject). Professor Passino's current research investigates
biological and psychological systems (in particular, how to
integrate engineering ideas into those fields and use
insights from those fields to inspire engineering
solutions). Professor Yurkovich is highly active in
automobile control system research (spanning everything from
the automobile itself to the manufacturing systems that make
it). Because Professor Yurkovich's research is a little more
conventional, it tends to be more easily funded.

Additionally, there are several other strong control
faculty members here at OSU. Professor Ozguner, for
example, is a leader in coordinated control (e.g.,
integration of multiple vehicles or systems with independent
controllers). Professor Serrani is an expert in nonlinear
dynamics (e.g., control of fluid flow through an
airbreathing supersonic jet). Check out OSU's ECE webpage
for more information on the other control faculty.

> 1. How do you find the course you are pursuing. That is
> about the quality of teaching, course material and other
> facilities at the university?

I think that the courses at OSU are very strong,
especially in control and *mathematics*. Keep in mind that
OSU's math department has a strong theoretical bias, which
actually makes it ideal for engineering disciplines
surrounding communication systems, signal processing, and
control systems (a focus on algebra for the first two and
real analysis for the latter). All of these courses are
taught by experienced faculty, and I have been very happy
with the level of instruction here at OSU.

That being said, some of our facilities are older.
Additionally, primarily due to lower undergraduate
enrollment in the ECE department, *internal* funding
opportunities for graduate students have been on the

> 2. Do I need to get in touch with any Professors before
> applying for admission?

*YES*, it would be a good idea to see
what space will be available. However, many will probably
tell you to get back in touch with them after you have been
admitted to the program. Still, you should contact them to
see if they'll be available to take on new students. It is
usually best to make first contact by e-mail (though,
depending on the professor, your mileage may vary). Make your
intentions clear in your e-mail's subject (e.g., "Considering
PhD Study in Control Systems Area at OSU").

Keep in mind that many professors will favor PhD
students over MS students (which shouldn't be an issue in
your case). Additionally, the OSU ECE department has
recently "modernized" its advanced degree program. Now there
is a 4 year (nominally) "direct to PhD" program that may (or
may not) be attractive to you. You might want to consult the
"ECE Graduate Handbook" (available on the ECE webpage in the
section for graduate students) to get more details about
those programs.

In the meantime, you should definitely be pursuing
outside funding options. Having outside funding will make
you more attractive to any university and will give you more
flexibility when doing your own research.

I hope that helps. Best wishes --
I'm leaving out many details that I bitch about frequently among friends. Maybe that's because I'm optimistic that the university (and the ECE department) will "change" for the "better," or maybe that's because I don't want to be the lone miserable schmuck.

No comments: