New Student Guide

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Welcome to the CLSP new student guide! This guide contains answers to CLSP-specific questions, links to resources for JHU-, grad school- and Baltimore-related questions, and some questions that you may not have thought to ask.

Feel free to add new questions and answers.

Contributors (alphabetical order): Mark Dredze, Jason Eisner, Rebecca Knowles, with comments, questions, and additions from many other members of CLSP. Last Updated: 8/29/17

Generally useful links:

CLSP maintains its own computing grid. This wiki page contains an introduction to the CLSP computing grid, as part of the larger CLSP wiki.

    • CLSP Crowdsourced Map

Map of things to do, places to eat, and more, created by members of CLSP as a resource about the city while the GRO guide is offline. Feel free to contribute! This link gives you the ability to add your own annotations. Please use this power responsibly!

  • Campus-wide
    • My.JHU:
      • You can access your email, pay stubs, registration, library, change your address and much more through this central site. In particular, anything HR can probably be accessed through this site.
    • Homewood Grad:
      • This website for graduate students includes information about academics, student services (including but not limited to disability services, career resources, counseling services, sexual assault resources, family resources, information about family/new child leave, and campus ministries), life at Hopkins/in Baltimore, information specifically for new students, and more.
    • Graduate Representative Organization (GRO):
      • The GRO advocates for graduate students on the Homewood campus, can serve as a resource for graduate students, and also organizes a number of events.
    • GRO Guide to Living in Baltimore:
      • This guide includes information about living in Baltimore, including advice on housing, car ownership, things to do, links to Homewood campus information, and more. (Currently offline, but archived.)
    • Off-campus housing:
    • University resources for international students:
  • Academics and Advising
    • What classes should students take? Which classes have larger/smaller workloads? How many classes should you take at a time? What are the classes like? What is [advisor] like as an advisor?
      • Many of these questions are best answered by talking to current CLSP students. Feel free to ask your fellow CLSP students what their advising- or course-related experiences have been. The exact courses you take will depend on your interests, but you can find out which courses are popular among CLSP students by asking other CLSP graduate students. You can find lists of relevant courses here, though these lists may be out of date:
    • When is registration? What do I need to do to register? When do classes start?

Your academic advisor must approve your classes before you enroll. Make sure you email your academic advisor early in the process. They can consult with you on which classes to take, and will lift your registration hold.

    • What seminars should students register for (and which are mandatory)?
      • You should enroll for the CLSP seminar every semester. This has one external invited speaker and one internal student speaker each week.

EN.520.701 Current Topics in Language and Speech Processing (the CLSP seminar)

      • If you are a CS PhD student, you must enroll every semester for the CS department seminar (EN.600.601 (01) Computer Science Seminar), which hosts external speakers on a range of cutting-edge CS topics. Not all speaker slots are filled, but you are expected to go to at least 2/3 of the announced talks.
      • If you are an ECE student: Ph.D. students must register every semester for ECE Departmental Seminar (EN.520.600) until they pass the qualifying exam. Masters students are required to register for the ECE Seminar.
      • If your advisor approves a conflicting course for you, you can be excused from the seminar requirement for that semester.
      • Grad students are encouraged to meet with the visiting speakers (when a speaker announcement is sent out, there will typically be an opportunity for students to sign up for individual, group, or group lunch meetings with the speaker). If there is a researcher you would like to see here, talk to your advisor about getting them invited for a talk.
    • What reading groups are there, and which should students participate in? How do you find out what is going on in each reading group?
      • Reading groups come and go all the time, depending on student interests and participation. The longest running reading group in CLSP is the NLP reading group:
      • There is typically a machine learning reading group organized in the Spring by the ML faculty.
      • There is a reading group on machine translation:
      • In addition to asking around CLSP about reading groups, make sure to look at groups in the CS and ECE departments in general. Ask fellow graduate students with similar interests which groups they attend, or email relevant faculty to see what they are organizing.
      • If you want to learn more about a topic, feel free to organize your own reading group. Students often start short term reading groups to learn more about specific topics.
    • What seminars are there outside of the department that might be relevant?
    • When should you audit a course vs. taking it for credit?
      • You will mostly take courses for credit. If you plan on using the course to fulfill a requirement, it must be taken for credit. Once you’ve fulfilled your course requirements, you may be interested in taking additional classes but not doing all of the associated work. In these cases you can ask the instructor to take the course as an audit.
    • How do you choose a research advisor?
      • First, we should define terms. You will be assigned an academic advisor when you enroll in the program. The purpose of the academic advisor is to advise you on courses and be a general resource/point of contact. Their job is not to oversee your research, though your academic advisor can be your research advisor.

Your research advisor will supervise your primary research projects, and will eventually become your thesis advisor. There are many factors in choosing a research advisor, and its not something we expect you to figure out right after you arrive. Here are some factors to consider:

      • Research area. Does your advisor work on topics you are interested in? This is mostly an obvious factor, with some subtleties. For example, you want your advisor to have experience in an area, not just an interest. Will you be his or her first student in this area? Is this an area in which they have worked extensively?
      • Personality fit. You will be working closely with your advisor for several years. Your advisor will be a resource not only for your research, but for your academic studies in general, for finding employment, and for a multitude of other issues that arise in graduate school. Can you imagine yourself working successfully with this person? Different advisors have different styles of doing research and advising students. Not every style works for every student. Feel free to ask prospective advisors (and their students) about how they work with students, and how they advise. Are they hands on or hands off? Do they want to work as a collaborator, or supervisor?
      • Funding. In CLSP, you generally do not need to worry about funding. You’ve been accepted because we are confident we have sufficient funds to ensure you are fully funded throughout your PhD. That being said, it’s worth knowing whether a specific advisor has funds for you. Basically, if you want to work as an advisor’s PhD student, make sure your intentions are clear. An advisor will typically tell you up-front if he or she does not have funding or advising capacity, but only if they realize that’s what you are looking for.
      • Group. Generally speaking, CLSP is one big research group. But there are groups within groups (and different groups collaborate in different ways). You should expect to work more closely with other students in your advisor’s group. Is this a group you want to be part of?
    • Who do you talk to if you have problems with your advisor?
      • As in any work environment, problems will arise. That’s perfectly normal. Hopefully, you have a good working relationship with your advisor, and you can talk through issues directly with him or her. Most advisor problems are solved in this way: being honest and open about problems as they arise, and working through solutions together.

Not every problem can be solved by directly talking to your advisor. In these cases, it may be helpful to approach a third party. In general, we recommend cultivating relationships with several faculty members, in and outside of CLSP. There are many reasons to do this: other faculty members can provide advice about research and careers. In this case, they can serve as a trusted third party to talk to when something goes wrong with your advisor. Additionally, senior students can often provide practical advice. They may have gone through a similar situation, and have relevant advice. If other faculty members cannot address your concerns, depending on the issue you can approach your department’s director of graduate studies. If the issue with your advisor involves inappropriate behavior on the part of your advisor or you are seeking additional advice, you may wish to contact other resources within the university. A good place to start is the “Who’s who” section:

  • Health and Safety
    • Many of the topics in this section are covered elsewhere on University sites. However, they can be difficult to find. We’ll provide a brief overview here, but we encourage you to read more deeply about these topics.
    • New safety and security app:
    • Check the insurance plan information yearly (it may change):
    • If you are on the student health plan, it is often wise (for non-emergency conditions) to initiate treatment at the health center (see below), as this lowers your deductible significantly.
    • The JHU Student Health and Wellness Center (SHWC):

      • Less than half a mile from Hackerman! You can get same-day appointments. You can get wide range of services at the SWHC, including vaccinations, check-ups, referrals, crutches, wrist/foot braces, etc. Many of these are free or inexpensive if you are on the student health plan. You can have an annual OBGYN exam at the health center. You can get some forms of birth control from the health center if you also receive your gynecological care from the health center.
    • If you have questions about the insurance plan, Shawn Kelley is here to help (and is incredibly helpful, in the experience of several of the more senior students):

Information about Medical Emergencies and after-hours care:

  • Pay, Work, Leave and Absence
    • Information about General Graduate Student Policies can be found through the Homewood Grad webpage ( This includes information about leave/time off guidelines (vacation and sick leave), grievance policy, research and general misconduct policies, the rights and responsibilities of PhD students, and more.
    • New Child Accommodations for Graduate Students and Postdoctoral Trainees:
    • What should you do if you don’t get paid when you are expecting to get paid? (This should not happen regularly!)
      • Email Zack (if you are cs) ( and Ruth ( ) -- talk to them before panicking. Every once in awhile, administrative problems happen, but they can usually be solved fairly rapidly.
      • DO NOT assume that your non-payment was intentional. Non-payments, which are rare, are almost always the result of an administrative error. Notify your advisor and an administrator immediately so they can fix it.
      • You can also check your payroll information by going to: Under “HR” (in the left column of icons), click on “ESS” You’ll then be able to see your pay slips and your payroll information. (You may have to try this on multiple browsers or log in more than once.)

  • Travel, Transit, and Vehicles
    • Information about the following can be found through the GRO Guide sections on “Transportation” and “Insuring and Registering your Car in Maryland”: JHU shuttles, shuttles to other areas, public transit, airports, trains, car rentals, car ownership, parking at JHU, and more! Information about shuttles, parking, and transportation near and between campus(es) can also be found on the Homewood Grad page for incoming students (