Join Our Research Team!
We are actively recruiting PhD students to work on a variety of fully funded research projects! Prospective PhD students should apply through the Electrical Engineering graduate programs. The majority of PhD students apply through the ECE department and then enroll in the interdepartmental graduate program in robotics and take courses with an emphasis on neurorobotics and neural engineering. In some cases, PhD students can also be considered through the Biomedical Engineering graduate programs, the Mechanical Engineering graduate programs, and the Rehabilitation Science graduate programs. PhD students must be accepted to a graduate program before they can receive an offer to join the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab.
Steps to Apply to ECE Program
- Review the deadlines and documents that are required for your application.
- Review the list of ongoing research projects in the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab.
- Update your resume to list specific skills related to ongoing projects in the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab.
- Tailor your personal statement to specifically mention your interest in the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab and working with Dr. George, as well as any specific research projects you would like to pursue and your previous research experience.
- In your application, select Robotics as your research interests and list Dr. George as your faculty interest.
- Submit your application by before January 1, and notify Dr. George by email once it's submitted.
- After submission, your application will be reviewed by the graduate committee for preliminary acceptance.
- If approved by the graduate committee, Dr. George will review your application in consideration for a funded position in the Utah NeuroRobotics Lab.
- Applicants living in the US, stay tuned for an invitation to the Graduate Visit Weekend. The Graduate Visit Weekend is typically held the third weekend in February and includes a free trip to Salt Lake City with multiple lab tours, faculty meetings, student events, and some epic skiing!
- October: applications due for various graduate fellowship (e.g., NSF GRFP, DOD NDSEG, Hertz).
- December: priority deadline for PhD applicants.
- January: first round of applicants are approved and initial video/phone interviews are scheduled.
- February: offers are extended to applicants living in the US for an all-expenses paid trip to Salt Lake City. The interview weekend is generally the third weekend in February.
- March: additional video/phone interviews take place and informal offers are given to students to join the lab.
- April: students finalize decisions, and formal offers are signed or secondary offers are made to additional students.
- April 15: final day for students to decide on graduate school offers. Applications received after April 15 aren't reviewed until the January.
The University of Utah is an ideal place to pursue your PhD!
The NeuroRobotics Lab has some of the most well-compensated PhD students at the University of Utah, and we encourage all of our graduate students to use the extra funding to promote their personal wellness – physically, mentally and financially. As a NeuroRobotics Lab member, you will be able to live comfortably in Salt Lake City and enjoy the numerous recreational activities that Utah has to offer. All while performing high-impact translational research in the preeminent rehabilitation hospital in the Intermountain West!
All NeuroRobotics PhD students start at $30,600/year, with salary raises going up to $34,000/year. For comparison, the NIH-recommended stipend is $25,320/year. All PhD students also have their full tuition costs covered (~27 credits per year), which is worth approximately $35,000/year (non-resident rate). The Graduate School also offers eligible PhD students the option to obtain subsidized student health insurance, for which the Graduate School pays 80% of the annual premium valued at approximately $2,159/year. Students also receive a personal laptop valued at $2,000. The total value of the NeuroRobotics PhD student offer is $73,159/year!
The cost of living is also very reasonable in Salt Lake City - which means that your funding goes a lot further. For example, to maintain the same standard of living ($34,000/year in Salt Lake City) as in San Diego, you would need an offer of at least $48,002/year. In Seattle you would need $53,395/year, and in San Francisco you would need $67,029/year!
Utah has been consistently rated as the best state for work-life balance. Salt Lake City in particular offers numerous recreational activities. For example, there are 10 ski resorts within one hour from the city (several are less than 30 minutes!) that feature excellent hiking, biking, and skiing trails. There are also 5 breathtaking national parks within the state and an additional 46 state parks for endless outdoor recreation. Salt Lake City is also a major city with a buzzing night-life, multiple cultural exhibits, several major sports teams, and an international airport just 5-minutes from the downtown. Students at the University of Utah get free access to an excellent public transit system, numerous intramural sports, multiple museums and music venues, as well as discounts on ski passes, outdoor events & gear, and major sporting events. Check out the News Page to learn more about the ongoing events in the lab!
University Prestige & Job Prospects
The University of Utah became the leading University in the field of neural engineering with the development of the Utah Electrode Array in the 1990s and the Center for Neural Interfaces in 1995. The Utah Electrode Array is now the industry standard for high-density single-unit neural recordings from the brain and peripheral nerves, and it's manufactured at the local neurotech company, and University of Utah Spinoff, Blackrock Microsystems. Numerous other neurotech companies (e.g., Ripple Neuro, IRIS Biomedical, Epitel) have been created by University of Utah alumni thanks to it's excellent technology commercialization efforts. The University of Utah was named the No. 1 research institution for starting technology companies based on university technology (Association of University Technology Managers)! The state of Utah is also recognized as the No. 1 state to start a company (WalletHub) and has the highest rate of unicorn startups (valued over $1B), almost double the rate of the national average (Utah Business).
In addition to a world-leading Neuro Tech community, the University of Utah is also home to a thriving Robotics community. The Robotics Center is home to 19 different research labs all collaborating within the field of robotics! The Robotics Center also provides shared research and learning space to students and offers cutting-edge coursework leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Robotics. The extensive robotics research in Salt Lake City has also lead to an vast robotics and AI industry, featuring companies like Sarcos, NVIDIA, and Motion Control.
The University of Utah Medical Center (UUMC) is also the only major academic health care system in the Intermountain West, serving individuals from Utah, Nevada, southern Idaho, northern Arizona, northwestern New Mexico, and western Colorado. Accordingly, UUMC serves over 10% of the healthcare needs of the continental US and provides care for a diverse patient population. UUMC is ranked in the top 40 for research among US academic medical centers, and there is a blooming med-tech community surrounding the hospital. There's an emphasis on prosthetic and orthotic devices (e.g., Fillauer) and well as AI-driven medical treatments (e.g., Recursion).
Join our Annual Ski Retreat!
The NeuroRobotics Lab is also located within the Craig H. Neilsen Rehabilitation Hospital. This state-of-the-art rehabilitation hospital, which opened to patients in Summer 2020, serves as the preeminent destination in the Mountain West for patients recovering from and adjusting to life-altering injuries such as stroke, spinal cord injury, amputation or traumatic brain injury. The 150,000-sqft, 6-story hospital houses 75 inpatient rooms, two in-patient rehabilitation centers, an indoor track, a neuropsychology clinic, the PM&R clinic, administrative offices, multiple research labs, staff support space, a cafeteria, and a direct connection to the University of Utah’s main hospital. The entire building features Smart Room integration that allows patients to control doors, lights, and elevators with remote applications – easing their ability to move between inpatient rooms, rehabilitation clinics, and research labs – and providing endless potential to integrate brain-computer interfaces into the Internet of Things.
In the midst of all of the clinical and administrative spaces, is a massive 2,500-sqft shared research space, consisting of multiple benchtops and computer workstations for personnel, a complete motion capture lab (with an instrumented treadmill, embedded force-plates, overhead support, and a Vicon camera system), and multiple zones for various functional assessments (2-min walk test, 10-meter walk test, etc.). There are also two isolated human research testing spaces for validating new neurorobotic technology with patients. The hospital also has a dedicate room for graduate student offices and features a fully capable machine shop and fabrication lab. The machine shop and fabrication lab has dedicated Mills, water jets, dozens of high-caliber 3D-printers, a PCB printer, and dedicated electronics and mechanics workspaces!
Example Program of Study
The University of Utah offers a unique program of study at the intersection of Robotics, AI, Neural Engineering and Rehabilitation. An example program of study through the ECE Robotics PhD Program is listed below. There are also supplemental coursework options available in Entrepreneurship, Clinical Trials, and Clinical Investigation. PhD students are also encouraged to participate in extracurricular and professional development opportunities (e.g., summer internships).