Prospective Students

Information for prospective PhD students

If you are a prospective student, welcome! See the department application page here.

I would like to particularly encourage applications from first-generation students, women, LGBTQ persons, and those identifying with groups historically excluded from or underrepresented in graduate education, including persons of color. My research group will strive to be an inclusive and affirming environment for all.

We will work at the intersection of social science and data science, with a substantive focus on inequality. We will also engage with methodological questions in causal inference. We will be based at Cornell's Ithaca campus. This page is designed to help you decide if my research group could be the right place for you. There are a few questions you may be asking.

Is a PhD right for you?

A PhD is hard. There are few extrinsic motivations. You could make more money elsewere, and at least for a while the world will not pay much attention to your work. Someone who will thrive in a PhD is someone who intrinsically enjoys asking important, hard questions and getting to the bottom of them.

A PhD is not like your previous school experiences. The goal is to transition from consuming knowledge to producing knowledge in your own research. Rather than thinking of it as more classes, you should think of a PhD as 5-7 years spent launching your own independent research agenda. If that sounds exciting, then perhaps a PhD is right for you.

Is Cornell Information Science right for you?

We are a deeply interdisciplinary and collaborative department united by a common interest in computing as it intersects with the social and behavioral sciences and the humanities. You will engage with faculty and peers with a diversity of perspectives that would be difficult to find elsewhere. This kind of interdisciplinary engagement is a wellspring of creative new ideas. We are certainly unconventional. If this is exciting to you, then we might be the right place.

You might enjoy these (slightly out-of-date) videos that give a sense of the kind of questions that motivate the department and the college.

Is this research group right for you?

My past work is a good indication of the kinds of projects we may undertake together. I also look forward to supporting your independent research agenda, possibly in collaboration with other faculty members.

If you are applying to social science programs, my research group will be unusual for its engagement with machine learning and data science. Computing power should change the way we conduct research in social science. We will define social science questions and translate them to prediction tasks amenable to data science tools.

If you are applying to computer science programs, my research group will be unusual for its engagement with social scientists. For example, you can expect to be involved with the Center for the Study of Inequality and the Cornell Population Center.

In either case, an interdisciplinary space is the best way to become a computational social scientist!

How will your application be reviewed?

The review process is detailed in the department FAQs for PhD applications. Decisions are made by a department committee, but each student is admitted with an adviser. You should mention me in your application so that the committee will involve me in the process.

I want to know that you can pose important questions and think carefully about how to tackle them. I want to know that you have a vision for your future research. Of course this vision will change over the program! But being able to lay out a vision is a key skill in research.

How does funding work?

The department guarantees funding for 5 years, contingent on progess, as detailed in the FAQs for PhD applications. This means your tuition is covered, and you will receive paychecks from Cornell. Funding comes in the form of Teaching Assistantships, Graduate Research Assistantships, and Fellowships. My job (if I am your adviser) is to bring in grant support so that you can primarily focus on your research agenda rather than teaching.

Can we discuss things by email?

You should certainly email me when you submit your application, so I can make sure the committee involves me in the process.

You can also email me with questions before applying. In the interest of transparency I will mostly redirect you to this page. If you are admitted, we will have plenty of time to discuss possible collaborations.