Read This First!

I’m always interested in hearing from potential students wanting to pursue a PhD. If you want to work with me, here are a few notes to help you with the application process.

Please don’t contact me before you’ve read all the relevant parts of this page. I will know if you haven’t and I’ll ignore your message.

If you read the rest of this page, I assume it’s because you want to work with me; otherwise, please follow the instructions on the general graduate program admissions page.

PhD Students

All admitted students at KAUST receive the benefits of the KAUST Fellowship, which supports students for the duration of their graduate studies. Therefore, funding is not an issue: only admission is. I know what you’re going to do next, so–

Please don’t send me attachments (especially resumes) or ask me questions about your chances of admission. Our decisions are made by a committee that considers the applicant pool as a whole. Furthermore, your decision hinges heavily on material, such as recommendation letters, that you can’t send me. Therefore, I cannot give you any objective evaluation of your chances.

You can help your chances in two ways. First, you have to have a genuine interest in my work. Second, you have to not be clueless. If, for instance, you’re asked to not do certain things (see above) but you do so anyway, it calls into question your reading comprehension and makes me much less interested in you.

To demonstrate interest in my work, you have to show that (1) you have some idea of what I do, (2) you have some background that at least intrigues me, and (3) some of my work interests you. The best way to do this is to show that you’ve read some of my papers (and possibly build upon them). Write me a letter that

  • indicates that you’ve read this page by including the phrase “red sea”,
  • summarizes your preparation (academics, work experience),
  • describes highlights: particularly tough courses you took, especially profound texts you read, etc.,
  • explains what you know of my work (which papers you’ve read),
  • explains why you want to do a PhD with me.

We’ll pick up a serious communication from there.

I realize I’m asking for a lot: you may have a form letter and attachment you’ve been sending out, and it probably doesn’t fit the criteria above. But remember that you’re asking for a lot, too: you’re implicitly asking me to commit several years of time, funding, and emotional energy. Don’t you think that kind of commitment deserves more than a form letter?


I am interested in postdocs. I’m opportunistic, and will work to accommodate outstanding candidates.

If you’re close to completing a PhD or already have one, you should know how to establish communication with a scientific colleague, so I won’t belabor the point. Nevertheless, you would do well to glance quickly at the instructions for PhD applicants, above.

Shriram Krishnamurthi inspired me to create this page.