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RoMeLa | How to Join
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How to Join

Joining RoMeLa

RoMeLa is a unique laboratory dedicated to advancing robotics through research and education, where graduate and undergraduate students, post docs and visiting researchers all work closely together as a team. Due to extreme demand from students who wish to join and limited available space and resources, we can only accept a small amount of students every semester. Please read below if interested in being part of the team.

Graduate Students

Currently RoMeLa has too many graduate students working on various projects (see ‘Personnel‘ section) thus openings are very limited. However, we constantly seek for new students – motivated, enthusiastic, hardworking students with a good academic track record – thus we do not discourage you applying if you feel this is the place for you, and if you feel you have what it takes.

  • We like students with a GPA of 3.75 (3.99 is OK, too) and a good track record of publishing papers. A strong mathematics background is important, too.

  • We like students with good hands-on skills (makers, modders, experimentalists) but remember that there is only so much one can do with just good engineering intuition and fabrication skills. RoMeLa students are researchers, not just garage inventors!

  • Technical writing skill is very important, as you will be publishing a lot of papers. Thus we highly recommend taking technical writing classes (especially if English is not your first language.)

  • You need to be crazy about robotics/mechanisms. If not, be prepared to become crazy about them.

  • If you have certain special skills and expertise in such areas as embedded systems, computer vision, circuit design, etc. you will be very appreciated in our lab (and be loved by everyone.)

  • We like good team players, we need good mentors (for undergraduate students), and we appreciate good role models (for outreach activities – RoMeLa students are heroes for most K-12 students!)

  • Be prepared to be working in the lab until wee hours in the morning (but not every day.) We have pizza parties at 1AM time to time.

  • We like students who know how to have fun! We work hard, play hard!


Do you think this is the place for you? Do you think you have what it takes to become a RoMeLa graduate student? Then read below.

  • If you wish to become a RoMeLa graduate student, follow the standard procedure for applying to graduate school.

  • Note that RoMeLa is in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering. If you are in a different department, the best approach is to have a co-advisor in your department.

  • In your application, indicate Dr. Dennis Hong as one of your preferred faculty members as your potential advisor. Clearly state your wish to join RoMeLa in your supporting documents.

  • New GSR positions are limited, and provided to students with the expertise and interests that match the funded project which varies year to year.

  • GTA positions are determined by the department, not by Dr. Hong.

  • Please clearly state if you are supported by a fellowship or are self-funded, as this may give you advantage in getting into RoMeLa a little bit (and thus we strongly recommend you applying for fellowships – but do not recommend buying lottery tickets.)

  • Emailing your CV with a short note to Dr. Hong would help us figure out your research interests and background to see how you may fit into RoMeLa and to find a matching project for you.

  • Be prepared to work very hard, publish a lot, and have fun while doing so.


Questions? Send Dr. Hong a *short* email or contact any of the current graduate students to learn more about the work and life in RoMeLa!

Undergraduate Students

Every year, we have talented undergraduate researchers working on various projects at RoMeLa. There are many different ways on how you can be involved; volunteering, working on projects for credit (MAE199), as members on a competition team (RoboCup, design competitions, etc.), or as a paid position including summer REU positions. As RoMeLa is extremely popular and there are only limited space and resources, we cannot accommodate everyone who wishes to join, and thus need to be selective. Please read the information for “Graduate Students” above first, as most ideas directly apply to RoMeLa undergraduate researchers as well.Please fill out the form below as much as you can and submit. We strongly suggest you talk to RoMeLa graduate students first to see if he or she needs an undergraduate researcher and wishes to serve as your mentor. Once you submit the form below, your information will be stored in our database and you will be contacted for further instructions and be notified for opportunities. We will invite you to the RoMeLa group meetings to explain the various projects and opportunities, and we will ask you to introduce yourself and give a formal presentation about yourself and your interests to the current RoMeLa graduate students at our weekly meetings for evaluation (consider it as a job interview.) Remember, the competition is high, and we like students who work hard with a good academic record.


Below is the general process we use for bringing potential applicants into the lab. While every applicant is different and will be handled on a case by case basis, this process guide can give you a general idea of what you can expect after applying:

1. Application

  • Applicants apply through the RoMeLa website

  • Applicants for whom the lab has availiability and interest will be offered an interview with Undergrad Coordinator

2. Interview

  • If the applicant is a good fit for the lab they will be offered to join the group of undergraduate volunteer candidates

3. Volunteer Candidate

  • Undergraduate Volunteer Candidates will be added to the volunteer email list

  • Volunteer Candidates will help with many of the essential tasks in operating the lab and in turn will learn the fundamentals of working in the lab

4. RoMeLa Volunteer

  • After successfully completing 4 projects you will be granted “volunteer status”

  • Volunteers will be eligible for advanced training and project opportunities

Visiting Scholars

Every year, we have one or two visiting scholars join RoMeLa, mostly from other countries. They work closely with our students and participate on ongoing projects, or work on new projects they wish to pursue as long as there is a good fit with RoMeLa’s research interests. We can provide a desk in a shared office and access to most lab equipment and materials. There are no specific deliverables (except for special cases) but at least a journal publication with RoMeLa is expected. We value those who want to make the most out of their time during their visit here. Note that Blacksburg is in a relatively remote location, so if you consider joining us as a vacation, you might be disappointed. But if you look forward to contributing to RoMeLa and joining our excellent group for doing research, you will immensely enjoy your tenure here with us. Normally no financial support is available for visiting scholars. Please contact Dr. Hong directly for availability and to discuss potential collaboration.

Postdoctoral Scholars

We normally have very limited funding and positions for postdoctoral scholars unless there is a specific need in a particular area for a funded research project. Such opportunities will not be posted here, thus directly contact Dr. Hong for availability. If self-supported, please clearly state so, as this may open up opportunities.