Alex, one of the Connectionists!
Alexander G. Ororbia II
Assistant Professor
PhD, Information & Science Technology (The Pennsylvania State University), Minor in Social Data Analytics
B.S.E., Computer Science & Engineering (Bucknell University, U.S.A.), Minors in Mathematics & Philosophy
Director, Neural Adaptive Computing (NAC) Laboratory
Department of Computer Science
Rochester Institute of Technology (NY, USA)

Office: Golisano Hall Rm. 3537
Email: agovcs AT rit DOT edu (Teaching/Advising), ago AT cs DOT rit DOT edu

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Information for PhD Students

Interested in Joining NAC? Instructions for Ph.D. Applications

The Neural Adaptive Computing (NAC) laboratory is looking for motivated, talented, and enthusiastic PhD students to work in the area of (biologically-inspired) machine learning, specifically on developing more neurocognitively plausible approaches to adaptation and memory formation and retention in artificial neural systems. This would entail investigating and formalizing more realistic forms of neural computation, including models of spiking neurons.

A student applying to the NAC lab should be interested in developing computational models of human vision, biological neural circuitry, and/or novel models of predictive processing (such as predictive coding). Please contact me with a short description about yourself and a description of why you are interested in and how your background applies specifically to this position as well as your curriculum vitae (CV).

Important Note: Your email will be not be addressed unless you explain why you are interested in the position above and how your qualifications fit with the position's stated topic/exploration area.

Information for MSc Students

This document is designed to clarify the process by which I accept students into the NAC lab, and the Computer Science Department deadlines and deliverables that MS project and thesis students need to know about. Projects and theses that are planned early, and have enough time to fully develop are the ones that generally lead to good results and research publications. There are many things to learn, and to learn them well requires time. In my opinion, the ideal advising model has the student taking one or more courses with me, registering for an Independent Study in Fall, and then completing their project or thesis in Spring. Preferably the student has at most one other course during the Spring semester (particularly for thesis students, who often need to do much more work).

Below are guidelines for planning an MS thesis (and conducting an independent study) in the NAC lab.

Prerequisite: Getting to Know Each Other

Most Computer Science faculty at RIT much prefer to advise students that have taken a course with them in the past. It is very hard to start a student on a research problem before having any sense of their interests, programming skills, theoretical knowledge, analytical skills, working habits, level of motivation, and personality. Mismatching these with advisor expectations is generally a recipe for disaster, or at least significant stress and/or frustration. If you would like to do a project or thesis in the NAC lab, take at least one of my courses.

Independent Studies

Students wishing to work in the NAC lab should talk to me about doing an Independent Study (IS) near the end of the preceding semester (this means you arrange a meeting with me near the end of the semester of a course you are taking with me as your lecturer). Independent studies allow you to make a solid start on your project or thesis, and give you some practice in basic research skills before registering for a project or thesis. During an independent study in NAC, you will: For an independent study to be undertaken with my supervision, a student and myself need to identify a specific research problem of mutual interest. Usually, I avoid independent studies designed to provide a 'general survey' of the literature on a large topic, as this doesn't often lead to satisfying outcomes. Especially for their first research project, things go better when a student narrows their focus, reading about and working on a specific problem. Normally I'm interested in independent studies that expand upon current and/or previous research in the NAC, although I am willing to consider other problems. A summary of projects, publications, etc. from the NAC lab may be found online (see the lab web page).

To register for an Independent Study, students need to complete a form that describes the purpose and milestones of the study (this form is available from the CS web pages). Students should start drafting this at the end of the previous semester and work with me to refine the form contents. The document must be submitted by Monday of the second week of the semester.

MS Thesis

Thesis students also must register by Monday of the second week of term, but this requires that: 1) a thesis 'pre-proposal' (1-2 pages) be approved by the Graduate Program Co-ordinator, and 2) that all members of the student's committee have approved the thesis proposal (10-15 pages, normally). A pre-proposal is easy to make, and should be sent around much earlier in the previous semester (during the Independent Study). LaTeX templates for creating thesis sketches (which can act as pre-proposals) along with an MSc thesis template are available online here.

Thesis Commitee. NAC students have three members of their thesis advising and defense committee - myself, their Reader who will read and critique the document carefully, and their Observer who is there to 'referee' at the defense, and who optionally may also read the report and critique the thesis at the defense. Students should talk with me about who they would like on their committee during the previous semester, and before registering for thesis. Faculty are busy, and it is often the case that the student's first choices are unavailable to serve on their committee.

Once the proposal has been written, normally this is converted directly into an initial rough draft for the thesis (in particular, the related work can be largely re-used).

After experiments are completed and the thesis is written up, the student needs to share their thesis draft with their Reader, before their defense. Once the Reader is satisfied that the student is ready to defend, the student needs to schedule their thesis defense (see the CS web pages for guidelines). As a courtesy to your commmitee, a thesis defense should be scheduled at least two weeks after the defense announcement date.


Doing good work takes time and planning. Research work is certainly no exception. I am hopeful that this document will help to clarify the preferred path to completing a project or thesis in the NAC lab as well as make it easier for students to know what deadlines they will need to meet.

(Thanks goes to Dr. Richard Zannibi -- his original student guide was the source from which this one was created/adapted.)