Graduate Students

Highly motivated students with interests in rendering or computational optics are encouraged to apply to the University of Waterloo Computer Science MMath or PhD graduate programs, and list me as a potential advisor. Information about the admissions process can be found here. All (full-time) graduate students receive funding. See funding information, tuition and fees, and rough estimates of living costs.

If you wish to apply, please get in touch close to the application deadline. Preference will be given to students with a sufficient background in mathematics or physics, who are able to demonstrate relevant research interests (just “I’d like to to do research in rendering” is unfortunately not enough), and some research experience.

Feel free to reach out if you have any questions.


(To be occasionally updated)

  • [PhD] Should I pursue PhD studies?

    PhD is all about research. Are you very persistent and motivated? Are you passionate about solving problems? PhDs can be very rewarding, but are also hard work. You won’t be happy or successful unless you are truly passionate about your research topic.

    Don’t do a PhD just to get a job: your post-graduation prospects might or might not be better, depending on how successful your PhD has been, the job market, and other criteria. In short, there is no guarantee.
    Don’t do a PhD in order to study a subject (“I’d like to become better at X”): research is first-and-foremost about progressing the state-of-the-art, not just learning it.

  • [PhD] How does life as a PhD student look like? What are the student’s responsibilities?

    You are no longer in undergraduate studies, where a curriculum and desired learning outcomes are set for you by an instructor. You are now an (inexperienced) researcher; you develop and pursue your own research (with some help). Your success isn’t measured in grades, but academic output.

    You are not here to do my work for me; I am your advisor, and I help you achieve your research goals. You are expected to take ownership of the projects you lead, it is your responsibility to manage your time, ask for help when needed, communicate with collaborators, and ultimately choose the direction your research progresses into.

  • [PhD] What progress is expected of a PhD student?

    At a minimum, a completed body of work submitted to a major venue per year. To graduate, a PhD student is expected to demonstrate the ability to perform mostly-independent research at a high level. Put quantitatively: have three papers published, with at least one in a top-tier venue. Though note that this is just a bare minimum, and you should aim higher.

  • [resources] Tips for graduate students.

    A collection of research, writing and graduate-life advice by Jia-Bin Huang. UWaterloo’s Toshiya Hachisuka maintains a superb graduate study survival guide. As with every advice, none applies to everyone, and some advice works better for some and not for others.

  • [resources] How do I get into wave optics and rendering?

    In addition to a basic knowledge of computer science fundamentals, you may want to acquire some proficiency in numeric methods (such as Monte-Carlo integration), graphics (the PBRT book is a good starting point), and be comfortable writing complex software. Depending on your research interests, experience writing a fully-fledged path tracer, and working with GPUs might be a plus. Ultimately, we work in a computational science, and you need to be able to implement your research.

    On the side of mathematics: at a minimum, calculus, linear algebra, functional analysis and probability theory at an undergraduate level. You will probably also find use for or encounter tools from graduate-level real and complex analysis, PDEs, probability, and algebra. It can be very helpful to take the relevant (graduate) mathematics classes, if you get the chance, otherwise you pick up the necessary tools as they become needed.

    In terms of a theoretical foundation of optics: classical optics, Fourier optics (Goodman is a simple, though a little lacking, introduction), statistical optics (Goodman again; a simple introduction to coherence theory is given by “Introduction to the Theory of Coherence and Polarization of Light”, Wolf 2007), and some electrodynamics (undergraduate-level Griffith is sufficient, graduate-level Zangwill is excellent, electrostatics can mostly be ignored). Born&Wolf as well as Mandel&Wolf serve as indispensable references. Hamiltonian optics – the phase-space formulation of ray and wave optics, as well as the Wigner picture that relates the two – is also highly useful.

    Keep in mind that this list of topics is quite comprehensive. No one is an expert on all of the above, nor is an intimate understanding of each topic needed for our purposes. Start with a good foundation of the basics, and be prepared to study what you need as you go about your research.