Professor Francesco Bullo - Advice for Prospective Students

Dear Prospective Student:

Thank you very much for your interest in my research group. It is an honor for me that you consider the possibility of working with me for your graduate studies.

I have written this message to share some useful information about the UCSB graduate program. Unfortunately I will be unable to followup this message with responses to other questions you may have. I sincerely regret that I cannot reply in greater detail, but I receive an overwhelming number of emails on a regular basis.

My first advice is to learn what we do

If you believe that my research area might interest you, please look carefully at my and our web pages to learn about it. You should feel free to download presentation slides and papers.

In general, I am more likely to be interested in a student who has taken the time to get some idea of what my research involves, especially if they can explain why they would be well-suited to make contributions in my research group.

Openings are available with the ME department at UCSB

Good news: the Mechanical Engineering Department at UCSB does offer financial support for incoming graduate students. The process is documented online at (first click “Graduate Student Information” at the bottom, and then click “Graduate Admission”). The process begins with a pre-application, and it includes an application fee, a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, etc.

It is highly unlikely that I would offer a research assistantship before getting to know a student well or before receiving a strong recommendation from somebody I know personally.

The preferred way to become my student is to submit a full application to UCSB in the Mechanical Engineering (or related department) and be admitted. Your application is stronger if your statement of purpose mentions my name and discusses how your preparation and interests are aligned with my research (see above). If you decide to follow this avenue, please do send me an email and let me know.

Finally, it is appropriate for me to share some statistics. On a typical year the department receives a few hundred applications. We are financially capable of making only a very small number of offers. In other words, admission is unfortunately very competitive.

Your preparation

Most students ask me “how likely is it I would be admitted with financial support and work with you”. This is a really difficult question for me to answer because it depends on many factors outside my control (e.g., admission committee, funding availability, good match between your background and current research projects, etc). Nevertheless, here are some achievements that helped recently-admitted students: research experience and publications in international venues, undergraduate and possibly masters degree from a top school, and/or strong reference letters from internationally-renowned professors.

My research focuses on mathematical and fundamental aspects of control, robotics, networks and multi-agent systems. Therefore, my emphasis is on students with strong mathematical preparation and skills, almost independently of their undergraduate degree (Mechanical Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Computer Science or Mathematics).

My goals for students

The possibility of working with exceptional PhD students is the key reason I'm a professor. I have been able to and I intend to provide strong personal guidance to maximize the student's chances of building a rewarding and enjoyable career in academic or industrial research. Important goals that I envision for a PhD student are:

  1. the development of a strong technical background and a thorough understanding of current literature;

  2. the identification of fundamental research problems and the proposal of independent and innovative solutions to challenging problems;

  3. the presentation and publication of research in the most prestigious journals and conferences;

  4. the development of personal communication and presentation skills that are needed to maximize visibility in the research community and ability to succeed in job interviews;

  5. some experience in teaching a course, writing a proposal, running an experiment, designing a software project.

If you find this emphasis and my research area appealing, I believe our group could provide you with a vibrant and exciting educational experience.

Please do not email me repeatedly

  • Again, I sincerely regret that I cannot reply in greater detail, but I receive an overwhelming number of emails on a regular basis.

  • Unfortunately I will be unable to followup this message with responses to other questions you may have.

  • For example, I cannot offer my personal evaluation of the likelihood of success of each applicant who write me. Please accept my apologies.


Finally, I would like to wish you the very best in your upcoming graduate studies!

With my kindest regards
Francesco Bullo