FAQ of Sven Koenig

Thank you very much for taking your time to look at my web pages! I appreciate your interest in my research group and our research very much! Unfortunately, I receive a large number of emails every day - far too many to answer. For this reason, I have put together this information. I hope that it will be helpful to you!

Please do not send me email that contains phrases such as "respected sir," "valuable time," "distinguished research," "esteemed professor," and other odd phrases that are used in mass mailings that some students send to professors. My spam filtering software tends to categorize such emails as spam and then deletes them automatically. In fact, my spam filtering software seems to categorize emails that contain only a single "sir" as spam, which is just fine with me. I suggest that you use my first name (Sven) instead, which is of Scandinavian origin and means "youth."

Prospective Master's or Ph.D. Students
(not yet admitted to USC)

USC is a very selective research university with a highly competitive admission process. We are also proud of our alumni. The department compiled in 2005 a list of our recent graduates in artificial intelligence and robotics, including where they work now. Many faculty members at USC therefore receive a large number of emails from prospective graduate students. These emails do NOT persuade faculty members to grant them admission into the graduate program. In fact, the department admits students, not individual faculty members. To be considered for admission, you therefore need to apply to the department - not to me. If there is some connection between you and me (for example, you have taken one of my tutorials or classes) then please mention this in your application. It has become impossible for me to respond to the large number of emails from prospective graduate students. However, USC is eager to accept the best students from all over the world. If this is you, I highly encourage you to apply to our graduate program and keep my fingers crossed that you will be admitted.

Prospective Master's Students
(admitted to USC)

Congratulations for having been admitted to USC! I hope to see you soon in one of my classes at USC! At his point, however, I will not be able to help you yet since you first need to take one of my classes, as described below under "Current Master's Students at USC".

Prospective Ph.D. Students
(admitted to USC)

Congratulations for having been admitted to USC! I hope to see you soon at USC! If you are interested in artificial intelligence or robotics and think that I will be able to help you in any way, then please feel free to send me an email and I will do my best to help you. It is important that your email states that you have already been admitted to USC. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Prospective Postdoctoral Researchers and Research Visitors

I do not have any openings for postdoctoral researchers or research visitors at this point in time. If you would like to work with me as a postdoctoral researcher or research visitor, you will need to have your own funding. Then, I am happy to explore whether we have joint interests. Please feel free to send me an email with your CV. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Current Undergraduate Students at USC

If you would like to do directed research with me, I am happy to meet with you and explore whether we have joint interests. It works best if you send me an email and request a meeting. Current, I work mostly with merit research students but, from time to time, I provide funding for undergraduate students on the Dean's list (or similar).

Current Master's Students at USC

If you would like to do directed research with me, you will need to take one of my graduate classes first and get an A or A-. Then, I am happy to meet with you and explore whether we have joint interests. It works best if you send me an email with your CV and request a meeting. I currently do not provide funding for Master's students.

Current Ph.D. Students at USC

If you would like to do directed research with me, I am happy to meet with you and explore whether we have joint interests. It works best if you send me an email and request a meeting. I am looking forward to hearing from you.

Current Students Wanting to Take My Classes

If you need a D-clearance for a class, please attend one of the first lectures and approach me after it in the classroom with the D-clearance form.

Current Students Taking My Classes

I work really hard on the classes I teach since I am enthusiastic about computer science, especially artificial intelligence and robotics. My classes are exam heavy and you will need to do well on them, which will require you to work hard. It is a mistake to not read the assigned chapters of the textbook! My office hours tend to be directly after class in the classroom or by appointment, so please feel free to catch me with questions after class in the classroom and I will be very happy to talk to you and provide you with whatever kind of help you need. I love to teach and interact with you and definitely want you to do well and have fun at the same time! I accept any kinds of comments, even anonymous ones, that help me to improve my performance in the classroom. You can, for example, send me an email with constructive criticism from a free "on-the-fly" email account. I am looking forward to hearing from you. There are only a few situations that you will need to avoid because I will not be able to help you. For example, I will not be able to deviate from the grading criteria for you, I will not be able to avoid involving the Office of Student Conduct in case there is evidence that you violated the standard of academic integrity (as specified in the Student Conduct Code), and I will not be able to accept excuses unless you provided me with a note from a doctor (or similar professional) that verifies the problem and you told me about the issue IMMEDIATELY WHEN IT AROSE (not: after it has already affected your performance in class). I am sorry that I cannot make exceptions to these rules. So, please do not ask for them. Finally, please do not take my classes (or take them completely at your own risk) if you need a certain grade, for example, because you are graduating or because you have been conditionally admitted. I do not negotiate grades.

Current Students Needing Recommendation Letters

Each year I write many recommendation letters. I try my best to make these letters as informative as I can, which takes time and effort. If you have done directed research with me and done well or have taken one of my classes and received an A or A-, then I am likely willing to write a letter for you. However, if I know you only from classes, then I will state this in my letter and such letters are not considered to be strong because they do not add much information beyond your transcript. Thus, you probably want to plan ahead and do directed research with me. To obtain a recommendation letter, please proceed as follows: Ask me at least 21 days in advance whether I am willing to write a letter for you. I need all of your application material (for example, your CV, transcript, GRE scores, application letter, and statement of purpose) for the decision as well as a bulleted list of points that you would like me to say about you and that I can indeed testify to. The last point is important since strong letters contain anecdotal evidence about how knowledgeable, smart creative and hard-working you are. For example, please remind me which of my classes you have taken, how well you did in them, which projects you worked on, and HOW YOU STOOD OUT IN THE CROWD. Recommendation letters for applications to Ph.D. programs are strong only if they contain information about how good a researcher you will likely be, and a top performance in classes is typically an insufficient indicator for that purpose. If you are applying for Ph.D. programs, you thus want to remind me also about any such evidence, for example, that you have already performed research successfully. You will need to waive your right to access the letters since I will not write them otherwise. I will send you an email once the letters went out. In the unlikely case that you have not received my email close to the deadline, please send me a reminder email.


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