Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen

Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche FakultätProgramming Languages and Software Technology


Some advice on applications for PhD positions

If you are a student at the University of Tübingen, please come to my office and just talk to me.

For external applicants, my most important advice is, both for applications sent to me and generally, to not send bulk mail. Generic emails that don’t relate to the person and institution you are sending your application to have a 0.0000% chance of being accepted. Don’t say “I admire your research” when you haven’t even taken a look at that person’s research. It kills every application instantly, and it is obvious if you haven’t done your homework. Don’t say “I read your paper entitled X” if you haven’t read and understood X. Applications like that are a waste of your time.

If you want a real chance of being accepted, spend a lot of time preparing your application. It should be obvious that one should closely read the information about the person and the institution you are applying to on the web. But to really make a difference, you must prepare a lot more. Specialize in a research area. If you have done your Bsc or Msc thesis in hardware design or computer graphics, don’t send your application to a programming language guy (unless you have other credentials that qualify you for that domain). If you haven’t done so already, read a couple of papers in the broad domain where you want to do your PhD. If you don’t like to read papers then a PhD is a bad idea anyway. Then take a close look at the research of the person or group you are applying to. Understand what they are doing! Show that you understood it by summarizing it from your perspective in your own words, by relating it to other work, or by coming up with ideas for improvement.

All this is much more important than your grades or your CV.