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Joining UCSC ERIC Lab

Thank you for your interest in joining the UCSC Embodiment, Reasoning, Intelligence, Communication (ERIC) Lab! There are multiple PhD positions starting in Fall 2021 (and at least one every year after) in my lab. I have compiled some freqently asked questions for students who are interested in working with me. Please read the following information before contacting me. Due to time constraints, I might not be able to reply to your email.

Instructions of contacting me for prospective students and visitors

My research interests

My research interests include Natural Language Processing, Computer Vision, and Machine Learning, with an emphasis on building embodied AI agents that can communicate with humans using natural language to perform real-world tasks. You may want to read my research statement to get a better idea (though it might be slightly dated).


UC Santa Cruz is one of America's Public Ivy universities and a member of the prestigious Association of American Universities (AAU). Times Higher Education rated UC Santa Cruz 3rd in the world for research influence (with a citation score of 99.9), tied with Stanford University. UCSC PhD graduates who chose to join academia have taken tenure-track positions at top schools such as UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, MIT, JHU, UNC, WUSTL. UCSC CS is ranked No. 43 (next to Yale, Boston, Brown, JHU, etc.) on csrankings.org, an objective CS rankings based on top conference publications. UCSC CSE is rising very rapidly, for instance, four new faculty (including me) are joining UCSC CSE in this upcoming academic year. The department has many leading researchers in the broad area of AI, data science, and systems: Lise Getoor, Marilyn Walker, Manfred Warmuth, Darral Long, Yi Zhang, James Davis, Roberto Manduchi, Luca de Alfaro, Chen Qian, Yang Liu, Peter Alvaro, Cihang Xie, Jeffrey Flanigan ... just to name a few.
Location wise, UCSC's proximity to Silicon Valley (around 30-min driving) and satellite campus there, make industrial collaborations, startups, exchange of ideas, and internships very easy. UCSC has one of the most beautiful and unique campuses in the world (YouTube video | bilibili video) and perfect weather year-round. Santa Cruz is also a wonderful place for outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, diving, kayaking, and golfing.

What I expect from you

I have four primary requirements for my PhD students. First of all, self-motivated: students must be curious about research and self-motivated to overcome obstacles when researching new findings. Second, students need to be mathematically mature (i.e., proficient and comfortable with probability theory, statistics, linear algebra, optimization, and calculus). One way to test yourself is to carefully go through some of the best ML papers published at recent ICML/NIPS/AAAI/IJCAI conferences, and see if you can fully understand the main equations in those papers. Third, I require my students to be proficient in programming: they should have expertise in one or more programming languages such as Python, C, C++, Java. The ability of prototyping ideas quickly is often a big plus. Last and probably the most important: hard-working and reliable. No matter how smart you are and what fields you are in, if you don't spend enough time on your work, there is no way you can be an expert. An observation from the most successful PhD students is that they are all reliable and work extremely hard. In summary, if you are a hard-working, reliable person who is passionate about advancing AI and solid in Math and programming, please consider applying to UCSC.

What I can offer to you