DM’s Frequently Asked Questions

I don’t have time to respond individually to every email I receive, but do receive many emails on the same topics — so here’s a page of frequently asked questions to spare your time and my inbox. Apologies in advance that I won’t respond to emails answered by the below (but if your question isn’t answered, do reach out!) -DM


Are you accepting new PhD students this cycle (to start Fall ‘25)?

Yes! You do not need to reach out in advance — if you put my name down as your top choice of advisor on Penn’s application, I can guarantee I will read your application. If you do want to reach out, please make sure the email says something specific about why you want to work with me, and includes your CV and transcripts.

I’m a UPenn student looking for a Senior Design Project or Honors Thesis advisor. Can you advise me?

My rule on advising senior projects is that, due to time constraints, I will only advise serious research projects that are aimed at publication. This means you’ll need a lot of time — probably multiple semesters, or possibly one semester during which you’re not taking any other courses. If this still sounds like what you’re looking for, send me an email and we can chat.

I’m a college or Master’s student who wants to work in your lab. Is that possible?

Yes, there are always opportunities to contribute to research! Reach out to me or PennHCI to let us know of your interest, making sure to include a brief summary of what about my work specifically is interesting to you, and what research experience you already have, as well as a current resume. Please note that I ask two things of students wanting to join research projects:

  1. You must be willing to devote a substantial amount of time (expect an hour a day minimum) to the project, and commit for a full semester. Regrettably, wanting to do research and having time to contribute to a research project are not the same! Flakiness and lack of commitment will hinder rather than help the projects you want to contribute to.
  2. I only hire students as paid RAs after a trial period (usually one semester) of for-credit or volunteer work. This is to ensure project fit and adequate budgeting — so if you send me an email in April asking for a paid summer internship to start in May or June, the answer is unfortunately “no”.

I’m a high school student who would like to work in your lab. Is that possible?

I do not take students below the college level (in age and educational experience) in our research. Thank you for your interest, and feel free to reach out in the future!

When is the best time to reach out if I’m interested in doing a summer internship in your group?

Please reach out the winter (say, January or February) of the year you’re interested in doing the internship. I get a lot of requests in May and June, at which point summer has already started (or is about to), projects have been planned, and the budget has been budgeted.


I want to take your HCI course! Can you please take me off the waitlist?

My understanding of undergraduate/Master’s course enrollment (while admittedly relatively limited — you should speak instead with department advising staff!) is that CIS majors have enrollment priority. For other students, my general waitlist policy is to admit everyone off the waitlist and give everyone an equal chance to grab the remaining spots. Once the class is full, there’s nothing else I can do (we’re constrained by the size of the classroom), so please don’t email me. You might instead keep checking the enrollment and see if you can grab an open spot if someone drops!


I’m a student (or recent graduate) working on a startup. Can I get your advice or advising about it?

Unless it’s directly related to my research and you’re offering me a consulting salary, it’s gonna be a no from me. Best of luck!

P.S. An important note about equity

I know very well (both firsthand and through research published on this topic) that the above messaging is likely to stick more for some people than others. More specifically, those coming from less privileged backgrounds (in terms of gender, race, socioeconomics, etc.) are likely to be more dissuaded, while others are more likely to ignore the above and email me anyway. If you’re on the fence about whether to email me, and you come from one of those underrepresented groups, just go ahead and send the email :)