Saturday, October 9, 2010

No deferrals? Plus, search by brute force.

First of all, it seems harder than I thought to defer grad school admission (apply now for 2011, and then say "I'm coming in 2012 instead").  It was a thing you could do in undergrad admissions, and my advisor seemed to think it was pretty reasonable for grad school too, but maybe not:

Stanford CS: "A student admitted to the Ph.D. program can defer admission for one year only. However, very few deferrals are granted, and then only for compelling reasons." (I'm assuming "I want to travel" is not a "compelling reason.")
CMU CS: "This policy may vary from program to program. After you are admitted, please contact your program coordinator."
The MIT Media Lab, UW, and U. Michigan all say nothing about it, and Tufts says flat out no.  Maybe I'll be applying next year instead.  That's too bad, because it feels like I was getting to the point of sending out apps, and then I'd be done with the application process.  I guess on the plus side, I've got another year to prepare.

Well, s'okay, it's been a bit of a slog anyway.  How do you find the right professors at the right schools when your goal is specific, interdisciplinary, and without a good name?  "Improving our minds in not-necessarily-cognitive ways with small computers" doesn't have a department at most universities.  So I've been looking mostly at HCI departments, but also media/etc programs, learning departments, neuroscience, and stuff as far afield as communications.  It's almost a buzzword search (which I'm not entirely proud of, but meh): "ubiquitous", "cognitive", and "persuasive" all get +1; "affective", "emotions", "brain-computer interface",  and "attention" all get +2, and "mindfulness" or "neuroplasticity" would get +5 if I could find them.

I was going from conferences first: reading the last 2-3 years of CHI, Ubicomp, and ACII, finding some papers that interested me, and looking up their authors.  But this clustered around MIT, CMU, Stanford, and UW, with a LOT of one-offs from other universities.  It's like trying to figure out what baseball teams are good, when only given a list of home runs and who hit them.  I already know those 4 schools are all-stars; where else can I apply too?

So I went bottom-up.  (or "top-down"?  I dunno.)  I went to schools that I heard were good at HCI, and looked through all the HCI professors.  It's borne a little fruit, not a huge amount of fruit, but some fruit.  Here's what I've found:

UC Berkeley: surprisingly little that's interesting to me.  Big HCI lab, but it's big on collaboration, new interfaces, and vision.

U of Maryland: probably not in HCI.  Again, interfaces, visualizations, collaborations, work with kids, physical devices.
There's interesting stuff in other labs on the AI side, but then this veers into the whole AI can of worms, which I'm not interested in.  I want to understand how we think (and feel and act), and help ourselves currently, not make computers think how we think.

U of Toronto: nothing in HCI very interesting to me.

U of Michigan: some work going on with a project called D-Sense, to try to help with the management of depression.

VA tech: again, not so much in HCI.  Maybe the Mind-body lab, more psych-ish and less computery.

Tufts: surprisingly interesting.  They've got a lab doing brain-computer interfacing, within a larger HCI lab, that sounds pretty neat.  Harvard too, doing some BCI work.  Either of these places would be cool, because I know that they've got solid programs in many departments, and they're in Boston.  (I imagine MIT collaboration is, well, not unheard-of.)

UC Irvine: has a cool ubicomp lab, but I'm not so interested in just straight-up ubicomp anymore.

Georgia Tech: I haven't actually looked at them, because I don't really want to live in Atlanta.

... perhaps with another year I'll find some more options!

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