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How would grad schools see me? [Machine Learning / Data Mining / Robotics]

  1. May 13, 2012 #1
    Hello all. I'm sorry if this is a long post but I would love to hear from someone who got into a masters or Ph.D. program in robotics, machine learning, or data mining. I really would just like to know how my chances are of going to a good school and earning financial support for it.

    I'm about to enter my fifth year of computer engineering at University of Central Florida. I am a little behind because I studied mechanical engineering and computer science for a year as well. I'm one semester away from a CS major in fact, but I decided it's probably not worth it to finish since the two majors are very similar. Anyway, I'm going to finish in fall with a 3.8 GPA.

    My extra curriculars
    • I did a semester long research project in the field of knowledge representation when I was a sophomore. I built a simulation but it wasn't completely finished and I gave it up before I could get a paper out of it.
    • I spent the next year as a supplemental instruction leader (basically a tutoring gig) for engineering physics.
    • I joined the robotics club and won the in-house competition.
    • My 4th year, I worked at a large engineering company as a production programmer for summer, fall, and spring. I realized I Don't want to be a production software developer.
    • Now that summer's here, I landed a research assistant job (as a C++ programmer) for a human-robot interaction lab. The position is indefinite so I'll be doing it through fall.
    • I've taken introduction to robotics and I received a good grade for my project which involved evolutionary approaches to optimization. I created a portfolio of small programs and lab reports demonstrating AI techniques.
    • I'm going to take AI and Machine Vision in fall.
    • I'm taking the stanford open machine learning course and learning Octave.
    • I am about to take senior design and I would like to focus on building a ML/robotic application

    Why I want to go to grad school
    Although I love learning how others have solved problems, I love coming up with new ways of solving problems. I think automation and data analysis are two of the most important things that will come out of the next century. I think robotics/data science/ML are very interesting interdisciplinary fields, which is why I was drawn to them.

    The big question(s)
    1. Have I done enough to prepare myself for graduate school in one of these fields?
    2. Offhand, what tier of program do I seem fit for?
    3. Should I apply for next spring or next fall?
    4. If I should wait until next fall, what should I do next spring? take grad level classes at UCF or get a full time job as a research assistant or in a robotics company?
    5. When should I take the GRE?

    Unfortunately I realize that my main weakness is a lack of published research. I'm wondering how bad that will hurt me in this. Thank you for reading.
  2. jcsd
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