Frequently Asked Questions

  How do I join the group?

Thank you for your interest, and the fact that you are reading this FAQ makes me much more interested in you! I typically receive about 500 requests a year from students I've never met but who are interested in joining the group. While this makes me feel quite popular, I honestly do not have time to reply to even a small fraction of such requests. So please do not send me questions about whether I have positions available, if I plan to hire, if I can review your application, etc. I'll simply ignore them so that we can continue doing very cool work.

I am ALWAYS looking for great people to join our team. And if someone is good enough, I will do whatever it takes to make a position appear. I generally hire about 3 to 5 students into the lab each year, and usually I'm looking for PhD students. My perfect recipe for a student involves:
- 1 bag of problem solving abilities.
- 1 handful of teamwork skills.
- 2 heaping cups of peer-reviewed publications.
- 1 stick of sensor fusion, vehicle dynamics, or model-based estimation, depending on the project flavor. 2 sticks are even better for most projects.
- 3 tablespoons of mechatronics experience.
- A dash of image processing, database development, or similar programming spice.
- ROS programming truffles, if in season, as these are quite rare.

I don't often consider or hire students that are doing model-free theory work such as fuzzy methods, neural networks, etc. It's not that these approaches are bad, but that I am seeking to create experts in real-time physics-based automation algorithms that are verifiable and can easily be re-tuned for safety-critical implementations.

I NEVER hire someone into the group that I haven't met personally - more on that below.

Our process at Penn State is set up where faculty are not meant to individually influence the overall quality of our program, and thus students MUST gain admission into our program based on their academics alone. The ratio of applications to admissions is roughly 2000 : 100, so getting admitted is the hardest step. An applicant must have amazing GRE scores, an outstanding GPA, good letters, and (for PhDs) a good publication record. And again, faculty have almost no influence on whether a student is accepted to the MNE graduate program, so don't ask the faculty for acceptance decisions!

The good news is that, if you are accepted, the department almost always guarantees some sort of funding for your first year. This gives you plenty of time to meet great faculty personally, decide if you like their research, and be hired into their group as RAs. In special cases, it may make sense to get started on your RA position immediately and thus you should start contacting faculty as soon as you have an "accept" letter. But before then, sadly, faculty will have to ignore you just due to the absurd volume of unsolicited E-mails from prospective students.

To get my attention AFTER you've been accepted, e-mail join-ivsg@psu.edu regarding your interest in joining the group. I do read and respond to these! From this point, I also request that all interested students submit a skills/interests evaluation which can be downloaded here. Note that e-mails sent from prospective group members to any other e-mail address will NOT be read.



  How can I become more "visible" as a prospective student in your group?

One of the best ways for us to get to know each other is to take one of my classes. This allows me to become familiar with your work and get to know you as a person. Another great way is to volunteer your help to some of my current graduate students. To inquire about joining the group, please e-mail join-ivsg@psu.edu. From this point, I also request that all interested students submit a skills/interests evaluation which can be downloaded here. Note that e-mails sent from prospective group members to any other e-mail address will NOT be read.



  As a student in the group, where can I find IVSG updates?

Please check the group's internal Bitbucket wiki, available here.



  Will you review our paper?

I typically do not accept unsolicited requests for paper reviews, especially for journals/conferences to which we don't submit.



  Where does your group publish?