Applying to study with VIXI professors - what (not) to do

Thanks for your interest in applying to UVic and wanting to pursue your academic journey with one or more of the VIXI professors Charles Perin, Miguel Nacenta and Sowmya Somanath. Here is our list of things we recommend potential students keep in mind when applying:

  1. The first step is to apply to the university through the admissions process. Professors have no control over this process so please do not direct your questions to us. The university admission staff are the right people to ask.

  2. If you are interested in working with one of the VIXI professors please email us but make sure not to send us a generic email. Professors get many such emails in a single day and most of us filter them out. Also, know that we cannot reply to all such emails, so please be patient with us.

  3. How to make an email not generic? Start by figuring out how you want to identify us. Using our names works well. If you are so inclined to add a prefix before our name, a good practice is to use Dr. . Please do not call us all “Sir”! Once you’ve figured out how to identify us, introduce yourself, tell us why you want to work with us specifically (do your homework by reading our papers) and let us know if you have any specific research ideas you want to explore. If you have secured funding let us know. Avoid asking your parents to contact us on your behalf. You can do this by yourself! Please keep this email short and to the point and refrain from attaching several documents. See the next point on how to avoid attaching many documents!

  4. Have a website - spend the time to build yourself a nice website. Include your projects and CV on this website and when you email us send us a link. Explain what you did in your projects - What was your process for coming up with the project ideas? How did you make the project work? Did you write code? Did you collaborate with others? Did you write a report?

  5. Thesis versus Project-based degrees: The primary difference between these two options is: thesis degrees require students to work on a novel research problem and they work on it for a longer duration (due to reduced coursework load) whereas project-based students also work on a novel problem but the scope of the work is much less (due to increased coursework load). Both these degrees require students who are willing to invest time to problem solve, are motivated and enthusiastic to produce meaningful work, can self-manage their time and schedules, and are excited about getting the degree. As research professors, our preference is to recruit students interested in a thesis more often than those interested in the project-based option. That said, we do tend to have a mix.

  6. What do professors look for? There is no formula for recruiting new students. Our expectations vary from time to time in part informed by what is happening in the world and personal reasons. At a high-level, most of us look for the following in no particular order:

    • is this student genuinely wanting to do meaningful work and learn?
    • Does the student have the necessary skillset (such as good programming skills, meaningful previous research/project experience, excellent communication skills)?
    • Would this student qualify for an entry-based fellowship/scholarship (these applications look for good grades)? And
    • would we enjoy working together? We try to gauge answers to these questions from your application but largely from our interactions with you when we meet for 1-2 informal interviews.

  1. What should students be looking for? Again, there is no formula to gauge a potential professor. However, here are some tips for things you can try to find answers to:

    • does this professor work in a topic area you are interested in learning about?
    • How do they work with their current students?
    • Would you enjoy working with them for anywhere from 2 to 5 years based on your degree (MSc versus PhD)? And
    • would they be able to provide the necessary type of support you expect or would like? Such support can be about accessibility, financial, or other personal constraints.

    Note that thesis-based degrees are typically funded through a combination of teaching assistantships and supervisor funding. However, such funding is often limited (university funds in Canada are not equivalent to a company salary) and so it’s important to understand what works for you. Negotiating a student stipend is often a futile experience - in Canada if a supervisor has funding then for the majority of them it has to go towards student training (such as their stipends, conference travel, purchasing equipment etc). As a result, know that professors are usually not actively trying to not give you a decent stipend. It’s a constraint problem and everyone is trying to do their best.

  2. Day in the life of a student: We suggest you ask our current students what their typical student life looks like so you have a sense of what is involved before you commit to a graduate degree.

[p.s. The secret to getting us to respond to your email - if you are applying to us, acknowledge that you read this post]