Doug Tygar 




FAQ for applicants

PLEASE NOTE:  I do not anticipate taking on any additional students, postdocs, or visiting faculty until Fall 2007 at the earliest.

Each year, I (like many Berkeley engineering faculty) receive hundreds of requests from researchers to come and be:

  • graduate students
  • postdoctoral research fellows
  • visitors

Because of the large number of inquiries I receive, I can not reply individually to each applicant.  This web page is a way that I try to communicate with potential applicants.  I’m sorry that I’m not able to reply to most of the queries.

Q:  How many requests do you receive each year?

A:  I stopped counting last year’s requests when the tally went over 200.

Q:  How can I come and be your student/visitor/postdoc?

A:  Read below, while I deal with each category in turn.


Graduate students

Q:  I am already a student at UC Berkeley, and I am considering working with you.  How do I proceed?

A:  Send me e-mail or drop by my office, and let’s talk.  However, please understand that I do not expect to take on any new students until Fall 2007 at the earliest.

Q:  I want to apply to UC Berkeley, and I am considering working with you.  How do I proceed?

A:  First, I want to encourage you to apply to Berkeley.  Here is how admissions work at Berkeley:  We have a formal graduate admissions committee in each department.  The committee decides which students are admitted or rejected.  Admissions to UC Berkeley is quite competitive; and our acceptance ratios are usually in the range of 3 to 5% of all applicants.  Now here is the important part:  As an individual faculty member, I can not and do not try to influence the admissions committee process.  I also am not on the admissions committee.  So, it is not worth your while to try to “lobby” me by e-mail -- I have no influence over the admissions process.

Q:  Can you tell me what is going on with security at UC Berkeley?

A:  You can look at my web pages and find out about my research.   Because we’ve launched a major new effort called TRUST, I expect we will shortly be posting considerably more about security at Berkeley.

Q:  Are you taking new students?

A:  Regrettably, I don’t plan to advise any new students until Fall 2007 at the earliest.

Q:  I see you are a professor in two departments.  What does that mean?

A:  I teach at Berkeley’s Computer Science Division (EECS Department) and its Information Management School.  I work with students from both schools, and both are well integrated into my research programs.  It is a lot of fun being a professor in two schools, and I think my students benefit from the broad spectrum of topics that I cover.

Q:  And you are also a professor at CMU?

A:  I used to be a regular professor at CMU, but I moved to Berkeley in 1998.  While I still maintain links at CMU (and they still list me as an Adjunct Professor) my work is centered at Berkeley.

Q:  I know you get a lot of e-mails, but I really would like to talk to you about admissions.  How do I proceed?

A:  First, I encourage you to go through the regular channels for requesting information. 

If you are interested in applying to CS, look at CS’s graduate admissions pages or send e-mail to the CS graduate admissions office

If you are interested in applying to SIMS, look at SIMS’s graduate admissions pages or send e-mail to the SIMS graduate admissions office.

Q:  I’ve done that, but I still want to talk to you about graduate admissions.

A:  I regret that I’m unable to respond to admissions questions from people I do not know.

Q:  Don’t you think it is a good idea to let Berkeley faculty know how good I am?

A:  Of course, and the best way to do that is to prepare a strong application, with lots of evidence of research ability (see next question and answer).  Mail-bombing Berkeley faculty tends, if anything, to annoy them. 

Q:  What’s the secret to being admitted to UC Berkeley?

A:  Our Ph.D. admissions are based primarily on research potential.  If you can demonstrate in your application that you have strong research potential, it will make a difference.  The best way to demonstrate that is to do a lot of interesting research.  If you've written any published papers, include them in your application.  Videos or web pointers to software systems especially if they demonstrate novel research will also help a lot.  The point is to demonstrate that you love research; such people are especially welcome.  Also, strong letters from people who know your work well help.  Of course, if the person writing the letter is someone our faculty knows, that letter will be given extra weight, but it is better to get a strong letter from someone who knows your work well than a lukewarm letter from someone famous who doesn’t know your work well.

I'd like to emphasize that this advice is not just for students applying to Berkeley, but for students applying to any research university CS program.  I know first hand that evidence of strong research ability is welcomed by faculty and Berkeley and CMU, and based on discussions with faculty at a wide range of universities, I can assure you that the same is true at other top computer science universities throughout the US, Canada, and Western Europe.

Q:  Well, what about the line “Berkeley faculty contacted” on the application?

A:  That space on the application is to list any face-to-face contacts with faculty.  That way, the faculty member can be contacted by the admissions committee for more information.  E-mail contacts, if anything, generally work against an applicant.  Usually spam e-mail is not welcomed by faculty members; when the admissions committee follows up for further information, one of two responses are possible:  either the faculty member doesn't remember you (and that leads to questions about your credibility) or the faculty member does remember your e-mail and gives you a negative recommendation as a result.  So, paradoxically, "spamming" e-mail will actually hurt your chances for admission.  This is especially true when the e-mail is clearly in appropriate. (An anecdote may help illustrate the point:  each year, I receive several e-mail messages from students who say that have studied my research in detail and want to work with me because of my research in . . . and then proceed to list a field that I do not work in at all!)

Q:  Actually, I’m a UC Berkeley undergraduate, and am thinking of applying for graduate school.

A:  Generally, faculty at Berkeley encourage our undergraduates to go to a different graduate school, to help broaden their horizons.  The greater exposure will  make you more competitive when you are graduating from a Ph.D. program.



Q:  I want to be your postdoc at Berkeley.  How do I proceed?

A:  I’m not currently looking for postdocs.



Q:  I would like to spend a few weeks/months/a year visiting your group at UC Berkeley?  How do I proceed?

A:  Well, that depends on whether you are coming from industry or academia.

Q:  I am coming from academia.

A:  I only consider visitors whose research I already know.  I normally receive several dozen inquiries each year about visitors, and sadly because of limited space, I must tell most people that I can not take them.  Please note that this is true even when the visitor brings his or her own support.  Because of space limitations, I probably cannot accept any new visitors until Fall 2007 at the very earliest.  However, if I know your research, please do go ahead and contact me.

Q:  I am coming from industry.

A:  I am taking visitors from industry if the possibility of mutually beneficial research projects and technology transfer is present.  I am primarily interested in opportunities for significant joint research programs between Berkeley and industry through Berkeley’s Industrial Liaison Program.


Doug Tygar (web updated 19 December 2006)