Prof. James F. O’Brien

Frequently Asked Questions


Questions of Interest to Students at Other Schools

  1. 1.Can I do an internship with you or spend the summer visiting your lab?

  2. Probably not.  I have my hands full with the students enrolled at UC Berkeley and I don’t really have the time to supervise students from other schools who want to do an internship here.  Even if I were interested in hosting you, the summer is not a very good time because I’m typically gone traveling to conferences or on vacation during the summer.  Most of my students also travel during the summer and many of them spend summers working in the tech, film or game industries.  It would be pointless for you to spend the summer here sitting in an empty lab by yourself.

  3. I do, vary rarely, make exceptions for exceptional students that are already doing work I’m interested in or who are working with senior researchers that I’m interested in collaborating with.  In those cases, we’d normally plan for a full year rather than just a single summer.  If you think you could convince me that you should be an exception, then you should have your supervising faculty contact me on your behalf. 

  4. Please understand that I get several requests for internships each week.  Because I get so many of them, I often delete without replying to those that are sent from people I don’t know.

  5. 2.Will you admit me to U.C. Berkeley as an undergrad?

  6. The U.C. system uses very specific criteria for admitting undergrads and for accepting transfers.  These criteria are set by a University-wide committee and individual faculty have little or no influence on the admission of individual students. 

  7. If you want to apply for undergraduate admission to U.C. Berkeley, please see the information on this webpage.

  8. I can offer a bit of advice which is to apply to several schools, not just one or two.  Good schools typically have many more students applying than they could possibly accept.  If you apply to just your first choice then there is a good chance that you’ll be disappointed.  If you apply to several schools then there is a much better chance that you’ll be accepted into a great school.  Once you’ve been accepted, take the time to visit your options and see what the places are like first-hand. 

  9. 3.Will you admit me to U.C. Berkeley as an grad student?

  10. First, I have no influence on graduate admissions decisions outside of Computer Science.  Even within Computer Science, my opinion is only asked for concerning those students who select Computer Graphics as their primary area of interest.  Second, even though my opinion is often asked regarding our Computer Graphics applicants, I don’t make the final decision on who to admit. 

  11. In my department the graduate admissions decisions are made by a committee.  The faculty members of this committee are different each year.  We also have a limit on the total number of applicants we can accept so the committee members in each individual area have to justify their decision to the larger Computer Science committee.  We typically have many, many more applicants than we have space for and we normally admit 2-5% of the people who apply. 

  12. If you are interested in applying to grad school, then you should visit this webpage and submit an application.

  13. 4.Do you have any advice for applying to grad school?

  14. Yes, I do.  Please see the answer to this question under Questions of Interest to Current and Past Undergraduate Students at U.C. Berkeley.

  15. 5.Can I come be a postdoc at U.C. Berkeley and work for you?

  16. Maybe, it depends on a combination of your experience and my current funding.

  17. I expect postdocs to be people who have already established themselves as top researchers.  During the course of completing your Ph.D. you should have done some good quality research and published it in respectable venues.  For example, if your degree was in Computer Graphics focusing on Computer Animation, then I’d expect to see at least one or two papers in SIGGRAPH, SCA, TOG, or EUROGRAPHICS.  Ideally these would be papers that I already read and thought were interesting.  In the case of multi-author papers,  your Ph.D. advisor should also be willing to attest that you were responsible for some significant part of the work. 

  18. If you are coming from another area, then you should have strong publications in the leading journals/conferences in your area.  You also would need to convince me that you have the right background to be able to switch into Computer Graphics.

  19. Even if you are qualified, postdocs still take up quite a bit of research funding and attention.  Assuming that I have the funding to support a potential postdoc, I’ll need to be convinced that you’ll be worth the expense.

  20. If you’re interested, then the best way to make an inquiry is to have you advisor contact me on your behalf.  If we already know each other, then contacting me directly by e-mail is fine.

  21. Postdocs are fairly expensive, so even if you are an excellent researcher and I want to hire you, I still need to have the funding to pay you.  However if you have your own funding then that is one less issue to worry about.  I encourage you to apply for whatever fellowships or postdoc funding you might qualify for.  Some potential options are the NFS Postdoctoral Fellowship or the Computing Innovation Fellowship.  There are also many other options specific to particular countries of origin or sponsored by private organizations. 


Along with Frequently Given Answers