Summary: Advice on Choosing a Research Area and a Doctoral Advisor
Francesco Bullo, Graduate Program Advisor
Mechanical Engineering Department
University of California at Santa Barbara
August 29, 2007. Academic Year 2007/2008
Congratulations on having been admitted into the Graduate Program in the Department of Mechanical
Engineering at the University of California at Santa Barbara! Here are some suggestions on how to go
about choosing a research area and a doctoral advisor. They are inspired by my experiences and by
those of other ME department faculty, and they are adapted from various documents on this subject,
including [1, 2, 3].
Here are some thoughts regarding a research area.
(i) Find a broad subject that inspires you and strongly motivates you. You are the best judge of what
type of work you like, whether theoretical, numerical and simulation-based, experimental, etc. Find
a subject which resonates with your strengths and interests. Also, as you choose a subject, you are
choosing the scientific and engineering community that works on it. These are the people that will
judge your work, that you will collaborate with, and that, possibly, you will interview for. Make
sure your interests and values are aligned with those of the community you choose to work in.
(ii) Most research areas in Mechanical Engineering at UCSB combine scientific elegance with practical
impact to greater or lesser degrees. You will want to strike a balance that fits your interests and