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I'm a CS undergrad interested in Machine Learning. During the past year, I've delved deep into a theoretical book in Machine Learning and wrote many programs to demonstrate / visualize concepts and algorithms. I hope, when I apply to a PhD program, the advisor can know about this, because it displays my dedication and passion about this field. However, I don't know how.

Any broad or specific advice will help.


Additional notes: I'm not in a desperate situation in which I have to depend on showing off the books I've read to get into a PhD -- I have relevant research experiences and recommendations. I am currently a sophomore.

  • Unfortunately, saying you have read a book is not going to be sufficient. You need a formal and recognized degree. Even with publications, it may not be sufficient because the work could have been done by co-authors. – Prof. Santa Claus Apr 5 at 21:48
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    Put the code you wrote on github along with relevant notes, screenshots etc. Add link on your CV. Problem solved. – Dan Romik Apr 5 at 21:55
  • @Buffy I'm a sophomore in Carleton MN. – Zhihan Yang Apr 6 at 1:18
  • @Buffy: I almost did, but then bailed for some reason. However, in looking at it again 45 minutes later, I suppose it does have provide very specific and actionable advice. – Dave L Renfro Apr 6 at 11:17
  • @DaveLRenfro, just do it. I just looked at the Carleton math curriculum. It seems to be an excellent place for the OP to be studying. An independent study might even lead to a publication somewhere if nothing more than a student journal. (feel free to add that idea) – Buffy Apr 6 at 11:21
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Given that you're a sophomore at a fairly selective liberal arts college [*], you still have plenty of time. Indeed, in two years time the work you're doing now might seem rather simplistic and quaint to you, due to your likely much greater "maturity" in relevant subject-matter knowledge by then.

  • [*] You mentioned this in a comment. You should probably include this information in your question, but perhaps omit the name of the college.

I recommend considering doing a more advanced independent study course with an appropriate faculty member, impress the faculty member, and ask this faculty member be one of those who will write a letter of recommendation for you when you apply to graduate programs. And also do what @Dan Romik suggests.

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  • I think the OP here is much more focused for a 2nd year student than most. Certainly more than I was at the time and I was pretty successful later. Work hard, get noticed by faculty. – Buffy Apr 6 at 11:27
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During the past year, I've delved deep into a theoretical book in Machine Learning and wrote many programs to demonstrate / visualize concepts and algorithms. I hope, when I apply to a PhD program, the advisor can know about this, because it displays me dedication and passion about this field. However, I don't know how.

This is exactly the point of a CV and cover letter!

CV

The first thing you can do is make a section of your CV on "Projects", with a brief (one-sentence) description of the programs you have written and a link to github.

  • Don't include trivial stuff: "implemented linear regression in MatLab" is going to hurt your application instead of help it. Less is more in this case; focus on the more interesting projects.

  • Do make it sound as impressive as possible; if your program was used for a research project, say that. If your project required extensive development, e.g. in terms of lines of code, feel free to include the lines of code.

  • I would not include reading / self-study as an item here -- delving in the theoretical book on ML is not that important on its own, as you will already say that you are interested in theoretical ML as a research topic.

Cover Letter

With a cover letter, you want to be even more selective than on the CV about what you mention. You would state your history of working on projects in theoretical machine learning and then back that up by only mentioning the most impressive thing, as an example. Of course if you acquire more research experience later, that would come first.

A note on timeline and priorities

However, it is a little early to worry about the specifics of what is on your CV and cover letter. You still have a long time before your graduate application, so what is more important right now is actually to acquire more research experience and to develop strong relationships with research mentors so you can get good rec letters. For example, summer research would be very helpful at this stage. So you could use the above advice about your CV and cover letter to put together a strong application to a summer research program.

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