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Prospective Grad Student FAQ

answers to the most frequently asked questions by incoming graduate students

Frequently Asked Questions by prospective graduate students:

  • Q: Are you taking on new grad students next September?
  • A: Yes. We tend to welcome about 2-4 new grad students every year.
  • Q: What projects do you have available for new grad students?
  • A: You can make a good guess about the latest projects in our group by looking at the latest 40 or so published papers. Beyond that, it's harder to tell too specifically, if you are asking this one year in advance. We will tailor and narrow down your specific project(s) in the summer preceding your first quarter at Stanford.
  • Q: Is the GRE required for Stanford EE grad school admission?
  • A: No, the GRE is not required, as of July 2020. However, if you happen to take it for another application and your scores are strong (including the verbal parts, e.g. 4+ on Analytical Writing, and preferably 5+ for native English speakers) then it's totally OK to find some way to "brag" about it somewhere on your application.
  • Q: Is there assistance with the graduate program application fee?
  • A: Yes, Stanford has an application for a fee waiver. Be sure to pay attention to any deadlines on that page.
  • Q: Will you admit me to your group?
  • A: Stanford grad school works by admission to a department, not to a group. Thus, we can discuss choice of projects and whether our group is a good fit after you get into the Stanford PhD program. Keep in mind that many (but not all) first-year grad students do a rotation to determine which group to eventually join. Some first-year grad students do join a group directly, if a very good fit is determined. However, this decision (both by the student and advisor) is usually made after admission, e.g. during the summer preceding their first quarter at Stanford.
  • Q: Will you be able to fund me?
  • A: All students admitted to the Stanford EE PhD program receive a one-year EE fellowship. Some receive 3-year SGF fellowships, and others come with external fellowships, e.g. from NSF, NDSEG, DOE, GFSD, Hertz, NASA, GEM, or NSERC. (If you are eligible for these, you should definitely apply.) In addition, Stanford/EE effectively guarantee funding during your PhD in some form or another (e.g. TA, RA). So, don't worry about funding!
  • Q: Do you take on students from departments other than EE?
  • A: Yes. Our group has welcomed students from Computer Engineering, Materials Science, Mechanical Engineering, Physics (or Applied Physics) in the past. You can also join us from Aero Astro, Chemical Engineering, Chemistry, or any department where a good amount of overlap exists with what we do.
  • Q: How can I draw your attention to my application?
  • A: Select "Eric Pop" among the top-3 faculty of interest when you apply to EE. This will "flag" your application for me in our system. (For non-EE programs the application may look different, so list me and other faculty of interest in your SoP.) You can also email me with a short but thoughtful message, stating that you read this FAQ and showing you understand what we work on. Attach your CV in PDF to the email. Do mention if you worked with one of our collaborators. Read one (or more) of our papers and explain how you would follow-up or improve on that study.
  • Q: Will my email be answered?
  • A: I will do my best, but please don't worry if you don't hear back. I get many inquiries about joining our group, especially during peak time (Sep-Dec). If it appears that you have not read this page and/or that you work in a different area, your email may go unanswered. If you are a very good fit to our group (in experiments, theory, or bringing some new expertise) then we should chat further. However, the real discussion (e.g. about selecting research topics) will start after we begin evaluating applications and/or after you are admitted.
  • Q: How do I increase my chances of admission (in general)?
  • A: Have high GPA, good writing/presentation skills, and some research experience. Have 3 strong reference letters from people who know your work ethic well. (Ideally, at least 2 should be from faculty members who can rank you against previous people they've written letters for.) If possible, be a co-author on some publications or conference abstracts. Be sure to list these and any awards on your application. Your research statement should also make it clear that you wish to work in an area that has good intellectual overlap with at least one Stanford EE faculty member.
  • Q: I got into the MS program, how do I transfer to the PhD program?
  • A: We've had several students doing this successfully in the recent past. If we agree that you are a good fit, you can begin research with our group during your MS. Then you will re-apply to the EE PhD program (either in your first or second year), requesting a reference letter from me and (preferably) one of our collaborators.
  • Q: How long does it take to get a PhD in your group?
  • A: 4.5 to 6 years. It depends on the project, how hard we work, and what challenges we encounter.
  • Q: Do you co-advise students?
  • A: Yes. At any given time there are 2-3 students in the group who are formally co-advised, and everyone else ends up working closely with at least one other faculty member, or with external academic and industry collaborators. In essence, everyone in the group is highly collaborative and co-advised in some manner!
  • Q: Why should I come to Stanford (and join the Pop Lab)?
  • A: Balanced combination of fundamental and applied, experimental and theoretical research. World-class facilities and collaborators. Almost all meetings have food (or cookies and coffee). We like to set world records at nano-things. You'll learn how to publish interesting papers and give talks that lead to "best student" awards. Alumni who hobnobbed with #44. Location in the sunnier side of the wonderful SF Bay Area.
  • Q: How is your group run?
  • A: We have one group meeting per week that everyone attends, and 4-5 subgroup meetings every other week. The main group meeting has one formal research presentation and one literature review presentation, within 90-min. The subgroup meetings are smaller and often function as "group therapy sessions" where all attendees bring 2-3 slides with their latest results or failures and we drill deeper. As of this writing, subgroup meetings are around themes of Devices, Energy, Fab, and Memory. We also have a large subgroup on the topic of 2D Materials which is joint with other groups working on this topic, including Krishna Saraswat's, Philip Wong's, Tony Heinz's, Andy Mannix and Evan Reed's. My door is always open for 1:1 meetings, which are most useful before deadlines or to discuss new ideas, etc.
  • Q: Do you have group social events?
  • A: Yes, as a group we have at least two big social events per year. In the Winter there's the Group Tahoe Trip, where we rent a cabin and spend two days cooking, talking, skiing, snowboarding, or snow-shoeing around Lake Tahoe. In the Summer there's the Group BBQ, where we grill and play sports including volleyball and soccer. Students also self-organize various hiking trips and movie nights, and they stay connected via Facebook, Slack, and Zoom.


updated Nov 2020 by Eric Pop