Recruiting: PhD

Information about joining my lab for a PhD.

I am currently recruiting PhD students. See below for details of how to apply. Send questions to

How do I apply?

At Australian universities, you apply directly to individual faculty (rather than the central process used in US universities). This is the process to apply for my research group:

  1. [By Dec 17th] Email with:
  • Statement of Purpose (PDF, 2-4 pages), covering your academic background, research interests, and reasons for pursuing a PhD.
  • Transcript(s) (PDF or images)
  • CV / Resume (PDF)
  • Tell me why are you interested in a PhD in Australia at the University of Sydney in my group (max 150 words)
  • Names and email addresses for 2+ letter writers
  1. [By Dec 17th] Tell your letter writers to email with the subject “2021 Recommendation for [Your Name]” and the letter either in the body of the email or attached as a pdf. The email must come from their professional email address or an administrator in their department. Letters may arrive any time in December (sooner is preferred).
  2. [In Jan / Feb / March] I will contact you for a phone interview.
  3. [In Jan / Feb / March] I will tell you I want you to join my group.
  4. Complete the university application form with my help (linked here).
  5. Receive formal offer about 3 weeks later.
  6. Accept and start in either late 2022 or early 2023!

Tell me more about your group

My group focuses on Natural Language Processing, with projects also connecting to Human-Computer Interaction, Data Science, Linguistics, and Machine Learning. One particular area of interest is systems for generating code from human requests (e.g. generating SQL for a question), which involves new models, data collection methods, and human-AI systems.

I am currently recruiting my first students at Sydney, but during my postdoc at the University of Michigan I have mentored many students. I meet at least once a week with students so I can be fully involved in their work. My group will have weekly group meetings and virtual visits by researchers from around the world.

What qualifications do I need?

Non-Australians: On-track to complete a Bachelor’s degree in 2022 that includes significant experience in Computer Science.

You do not need a master’s degree or published papers. That kind of experience is certainly a plus, but so are other activiies, such as internships, personal projects, and extra background in non-CS subjects.

If you are not completing a senior thesis as part of your degree then you may need to start in a Masters of Philosophy degree and transfer to the PhD program after your first year.

Australians: You need to be on track to complete an Honours year with first class honours, or a Master’s degree with an independent research component.

What is the structure of the degree?

Details here. Key points:

  • 3-4 years
  • Two classes (ie, half a semester of time)
  • No teaching, but you will have opportunities to teach if desired
  • I encourage students to do internships in industry research labs

Where does my funding come from and how will that influence what I can work on?

Every student in my group is funded to do just research for the length of your PhD. Most students are funded by RTP Scholarships, which cover tuition, stipend, and other costs for international students (e.g., health insurance, relocation). I will work with you to apply for one of these scholarships.

The other common source of funding is my research grants. If you are funded by these, then a substantial part of your research needs to align with the project. I currently have funding for students to work on:

  • Generating code from text (e.g., given a question, generate an SQL query)
  • Crowdsourcing: new methods for non-experts to indirectly create code.

There may also be country-specific scholarships that you can apply for.

How does Sydney compare to US universities?

It is hard to meaningfully rank universities and there are great PhD advisors at low ranked universities and vice versa. However, there is still some signal in rankings and so here are a few points of comparison: