Information for prospective students

I am actively recruiting strong students who are interested in software engineering, programming languages, security, testing, and related topics. I am interested in new colleagues at all levels: undergraduates, graduate students, and postdocs. I love to work with smart, motivated students — maybe that includes you! My research program is very active, energetic, and broad, and I work closely with my colleagues at UW who complement my interests and strengths.

Please take a moment to read the relevant portion of this webpage before you contact me. Doing so will save both yourself and me time. (And, I get so much email that I must regretfully delete messages from prospective students who haven't bothered to read this webpage.) Thanks!


Current UW students

If you are already a student at UW, then feel free to stop by my office, though it is typically better to email me for an appointment. When you send mail, indicate your background and why you are interested in my research (as compared to that of other faculty in the department). As with anytime you inquire about a position, include a resume, and also an unofficial transcript.

It is extremely useful if you first peruse my research webpages and my list of potential research topics. (Caveat: the latter is always a small subset of the topics I am interested in, and even the former lags reality a bit. I'm too busy doing research to frequently update my webpages!)

Summer interns

I occasionally accept summer interns from outside UW. If you wish to apply, please clearly indicate your specific interest in my particular research. You must ask your recommenders to send me a letter of recommendation directly (without me having to ask them). I will ignore any applications without letters of recommendation. Regrettably, this accounts for the vast majority of the applications I receive (but it's no great loss, since those people apparently can't follow instructions).

Prospective graduate students

I get a lot of email from prospective graduate students. Here are answers that may anticipate some common questions. If you have other questions, please feel free to ask them (but also tell me that you didn't find the answer here). I look forward to your application to UW CSE.

Why UW CSE? UW CSE is an unparalleled place for computer science education and research. In fact, I don't think you can find a better place, which is why I accepted a faculty position here! Lots of other people agree, from students and faculty who love it here, to rankings that place UW CSE among the very top CS departments (and rising!). For more details, see the overview of UW CSE. Seattle is also a wonderful place to live. Therefore, I strongly urge you to apply.

How do I apply? The application deadline is December 15 each year. Please start at the webpage for prospective grad students, which contains application materials, answers to common questions, and other information about UW CSE.

Funding: All accepted graduate students are funded in full, including tuition and stipend, for their entire graduate studies.

What are my chances of admission? Please don't ask me to assess your application. The decision depends on materials, such as recommendation letters, to which you have no access.

Admissions to UW are extremely competitive. We are limited in how many students we can admit, and each year we reluctantly turn down many applicants. However, don't be discouraged: UW knows how to look beyond a non-traditional background or similar distractors. I encourage you to apply!

Can Prof. Ernst help me get in? Unlike at some schools, UW CSE admissions decisions are made by a committee, not by individual faculty. Our process permits UW CSE to select the very best applicants from a strong pool. Furthermore, UW CSE as a whole makes a commitment to its students: graduate student funding is not initially tied to particular faculty members or projects, and students are free to switch advisers or research topics. This is one of many factors that makes UW students happy about their experience here.

Here is a way in which I can help you: see the “Applying to grad school” section of my advice webpages. Your application should clearly explain your interests, experience, and goals.

Technical discussions: If you have a specific question about my work — for instance, you have read some of my papers or used some of my tools — then I am very happy to have a technical discussion about that. This could have a positive effect on your admissions chances if you have clearly done your homework and have something thoughtful to say. And, it can be lots of fun regardless.

Other questions: If you are admitted, I would be happy to discuss both the graduate program and specific research topics in detail. We can even do so in person, since all admitted students are reimbursed for the cost of a trip to UW to visit the department before making their grad school decision.

Prospective postdocs

I typically work with 1-2 postdocs, who typically stay 2 (sometimes 3) years before continuing their careers elsewhere. To be competitive, you should have already published at top conferences, and your research interests should be synergistic with mine. When you apply, please either ask your recommenders to send their letters directly, or include their contact information with your application.

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