Join Us!

Thank you for your interest in CTRL! We are always looking for highly motivated and energetic individuals to join the group. Due to the volume of emails, it is challenging to respond to all individual requests. Please read this page for information about applying and joining the lab.

Message from Professor Leung:

Prospective PhD students

I intend to take on at least 1 new PhD student in the upcoming 2024 PhD application cycle. You are encouraged to apply to the UW AA PhD program (deadline early/mid-December). Please note in your application that you are interested in the group of Prof. Leung. After you submit your application, feel free to send Professor Leung an email with the subject line “Prospective PhD student” with the following information:

  • Brief description of your background
  • Research interests and highlights, such as a short description of exciting projects (inside and outside the classroom) you have worked on
  • CV/resume,
  • Transcripts
  • Any other related material you would like to share

Due to the volume of emails, Prof. Leung is unable to respond to all requests individually, but rest assured that I have read your email. After the application deadline, Professor Leung will look at the applications and will reach out if there is a potential fit.

If you apply to a different department and mention Professor Leung in your application, she will not be automatically made aware of your application. Therefore, please send Professor Leung an email after you have submitted your application so she is made aware of your application. However, if you are interested in working in CTRL specifically, we strongly encourage you to apply to the AA department Ph.D. program, as there are no guarantees that she will be able to accept students from a different department as each department handles admissions differently.

Undergraduate or MS students

Current students

If you are a current or admitted UW undergraduate or M.S. student interested in research positions with the lab, please fill out this form (UW login required). Professor Leung will receive an email notification when a response is submitted. Due to the volume of applications, it is challenging to respond to all individual requests, but rest assured that I have read your email. If there is a position available, and there is a potential fit, Professor Leung will reach out to schedule a meeting with you.

Prospective students

I do not partake in any undergraduate or M.S. admissions, and cannot share anything about your chances of admission and/or joining the lab. We will be happy to talk to you after you have been accepted to UW.

High school students

I have a limited number of slots for high school students as this depends on the number of lab members that can mentor and the number of ongoing projects. If you are interested, please fill out this form. Professor Leung will receive an email notification when a response is submitted. If there is a position available, and there is a potential fit, Professor Leung will reach out to learn more about you.

FAQ for undergraduate and MS students

What is research and how is it different from regular coursework? Doing research is very unlike doing homework/problem sets and studying for midterms/finals. When starting research in a field, you may know what the high-level challenges are beforehand, but it is up to you, the researcher, to figure out what are meaningful questions to ask and come up with theories/algorithms/techniques/designs/experiments to answer those questions. Research is an iterative process, rarely a linear path with immediate solutions. It is through these iterations you learn, improve, and grow.

What kind of students is CTRL looking for? Students who are self-motivated, unafraid to try new things, hardworking, and helpful to others. We are also interested in students who demonstrate leadership, can work in team settings, and are excited about mentoring other students. You do not need to be an expert in the field before you join nor do you need prior research experience, but you do need to be resourceful and understand that oftentimes you will be expected to read up and learn about something that may be completely new to you and is not taught in your classes.

I have never done research before but I am eager to learn. Should I still apply? Yes! We are happy to hear you are curious about research. Depending on the ongoing projects in the lab and the size of the group, we will try to fit you on a project that best fits your interests and background. No research experience is necessary, but having the right attitude is a must. Please see the response to the previous question. If after a quarter in the lab, you realize research is not your cup of tea, that is okay. Please let Professor Leung know and she will try to point you in the right direction.

What is the level of commitment you expect from undergraduate and master’s students? From experience, to make steady research progress and to make meaningful contributions to the team, you will be expected to spend at least 10-20 hours per week on research. Your contributions are important and like in any team-based setting, other people depend on your work and vice versa. So it is important that you are not oversubscribed and that you will be able to commit sufficient time to make steady progress.

I filled out a form, when should I expect to hear back? Typically Professor Leung will review the forms a month before the start of the quarter. Therefore it is recommended you apply as early as possible and not leave it right before the start of the quarter. If you do not hear back, please do not be discouraged, it is likely we do not have any positions available. Feel free to send a reminder email, but she may not respond either if there are no positions available. Feel free to apply again next quarter.

What is being in your lab like? We have high expectations from all students and all are treated equally, whether they are undergraduate or graduate students. This means that if you decide to work in the lab, you are expected to put consistent effort into your research, be an active member of the lab, and interact with other lab members. That said, Professor Leung will also put in the time to advise on the project, meet regularly to discuss your research, and provide mentorship on academic and professional matters. We have weekly group meetings where usually someone presents their work.

How do I find out more about what the CTRL does and what Professor Leung is like? The easiest way is to check out our projects page and attend our lab meetings (open to current UW students). Information about the lab meetings will be announced on this mailing list. You will get to learn about topics that the lab is interested in, and an opportunity to meet students in the lab.

Another way to learn more about the CTRL is to take the classes that Professor Leung teaches — AA312: Structural Vibrations and AA/EE/ME 548 Linear Multivariable Control.

What kind of skills and background are you looking for? The lab works on a mix of control theory, machine learning, robotics, and real-world experiments to test and validate the research. Although there is no strict prerequisite background, at the very least, we do expect students to have a strong mathematics background (linear algebra, multivariable calculus, differential equations, probability), feedback control, and experience in computer and mathematical programming. While the kinds of skills and background vary from project to project, recommended skills and knowledge include fundamentals of machine learning, deep learning, optimization, optimal control, embedded systems, motion planning, computer vision, and robotics. Some advanced UW courses you may consider taking or going through the equivalent material:

  • AA/EE/ME 548 Linear Multivariable Control
  • CSE 571: AI-Robotics
  • One of the many machine learning or deep learning courses offered by CSE and ECE or any online courses
  • EE/CSE 474 Introduction To Embedded Systems
  • AA/EE 547 Linear Systems Theory
  • AA/EE 578 Convex Optimization

Can I have a paid position? Unfortunately, funding is limited, and we cannot offer funding to everyone who applies. In general, we do not offer paid positions to students in their first quarter in the lab. However, based on fit, performance, and consistency in research progress, it is possible to transition into a paid position depending on available funding.

Can I volunteer my time? No. We cannot accept volunteer work with the lab. You must either take research credits or be in a paid position. Department policy.

I am not a UW student, can I still apply to work with the lab? We cannot support non-UW students working in the lab unless it is through an official university-approved program. It is possible to join the lab as a visiting researcher where you perform your master’s thesis abroad (this is very common for European institutions). If that is the case, please send Professor Leung an email about your research interests, background, CV, and transcript with subject line “Prospective Visiting Researcher”. However, we do not have funding to support your stay. You are strongly encouraged to apply for fellowships, including ones from your home institution and those listed below.


If you are eligible, applying for fellowships is strongly encouraged. While I would love to take on as many passionate students as possible who I think will be a great fit for my lab, the number of new students I will take each year depends on the current size of my lab, available funding sources, and how your research interests fit in with the lab’s research.
Here is a list of some popular fellowships that you may apply to. Note that it is not an exhaustive list. Please also see this site for more fellowships.

US fellowships
National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship (NSFGRF) A nice blog post by Alex Lang and example essays can be found here.
NASA Space Technology Graduate Research Opportunities (NSTGRO) Previously called the NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship (NSTRF). Awarded to graduate students who show significant potential to contribute to NASA’s goal of creating innovative new space technologies for our Nation’s science, exploration and economic future.</a>
Hertz Foundation Graduate Fellowship Awarded to students who intend to pursue a PhD in the applied physical and biological sciences, mathematics, or engineering. The application must intend to direct their studies toward understanding and solving major, near-term problems facing society.</a>
Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans The Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans program honors the contributions of immigrants and children of immigrants to the United States. The award is for New Americans—immigrants and children of immigrants who are poised to make significant contributions to US society, culture or their academic field. Each Fellow receives up to $90,000 in financial support over two years, and they join a lifelong community of New American Fellows.</a>
Ford Foundation Predoctoral Fellowships Through its program of fellowships, the Ford Foundation seeks to increase the diversity of the nation’s college and university faculties by increasing their ethnic and racial diversity, maximize the educational benefits of diversity, and increase the number of professors who can and will use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students.</a>
DOD SMART Scholarship Program Citizens of the United States, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, or United Kingdom at time of application are eligible, but required to produce transcript from a US college. Check eligibility details.
DOD NDSEG Fellowship Program The NDSEG Fellowship program aims to increase the number of United States (U.S.) citizens receiving doctoral degrees in science and engineering (S&E) disciplines of military importance. The fellowship is targeted at applicants who are interested in furthering their education in the disciplines of military importance.

International fellowships
Zonta International Amelia Earhart Fellowship Women of any nationality pursuing a Ph.D./doctoral degree who demonstrate a superior academic record conducting research applied to aerospace engineering or space sciences are eligible. It is imperative that students be registered in a full-time Ph.D./doctoral program and have completed at least one year of that program or have received a master's degree in an aerospace-applied field at the time the application is submitted.
Fulbright Foreign Student Program Fellowship details vary by country.
Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Scholarships SWE Scholarships support those who identify as a female/woman and pursue an ABET-accredited bachelor or graduate student program in preparation for careers in engineering, engineering technology, and computer science globally.
University of Sydney Travelling Scholarships A host of graduate fellowships for students who received an undergraduate degree from the University of Sydney.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) For Canadians.