I am looking to apply for a PhD in the CS realm in the next cycle, particularly something with an AI flavor like Machine Learning or NLP. I am a bit of an anomaly in CS as I have undergraduate majors in a very different area (one was history...). I am finishing up a Masters focusing in signal processing at a well-renowned school and have a good GPA and top GREs. I was a CS minor undergrad, but started too late into college so I couldn't have gotten the major, although I took the core courses.
Although I finished undergrad with plenty of accolades (and I TAed in CS for 3 semesters), and I have excelled in the engineering courses at the Masters level, I am really concerned about my chances to get into a great PhD program. (There are a number of reasons why I want to pursue PhD, but at the same time, *for me*, the time commitment doesn't feel warranted if I'm not working with great faculty at a great institution.)
I have some research experience (an undergrad honor thesis in my majors--I know it's not exactly related--and I'm a co-author on a couple non-CS papers published in IEEE journals from some summer work), but nothing really in depth I've done on my own. My Masters is a non-thesis program so I've had trouble finding an adviser who'll take me on (I want to do a thesis anyway). I've also had trouble finding (and being accepted) to worthwhile summer research opportunities (academic settings related to my interests). I have actually really enjoyed my previous research opportunities, and I know that for PhD admissions it's research, research, research (and some recs). So here are my questions:
- How do I find my way into substantive research endeavors?
- With my eclectic background, how can I rise above the thousands of CS undergrads with plenty of relevant research during the admission process?
- Any suggestions how to sell my academic background as a positive?
NOTE: Of course I think I'm qualified (every applicant does or else they wouldn't apply). I also think that my unique background is a bonus. I'm concerned that those making hiring/admission decisions will feel differently. (edited since first posting)
Thanks in advance for the advice!