PhD Training Program on Augmented and Virtual Reality

Attention Doctoral Graduate Students

Call for trainees flyer.
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Are you in the field of biomedical engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, computer science, electrical and computer engineering, neuroscience, or optics?

The University of Rochester’s PhD Training Program on Virtual and Augmented Reality is looking for PhD candidates who desire cross-training experience to pair with their existing studies.

How to Apply

The deadline is fast approaching. Don’t miss out on this unique experience!

  • For paid fellowship apply by July 25 (The funded fellowships can be offered to US citizens and permanent residents only.)
  • For general trainee program apply by August 15

Apply now for this opportunity


Contact the program coordinator, Kathleen DeFazio at

Program Overview

Program brochure.
View the brochure (pdf)

Our NSF-funded program on Interdisciplinary Graduate Training in the Science, Technology, and Applications of Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) is a structured, multi-disciplinary PhD training program on AR/VR. This NSF Research Traineeship (NRT) program admits PhD students from multiple University of Rochester departments including:

  • Biomedical engineering
  • Brain and cognitive sciences
  • Computer science
  • Electrical and computer engineering
  • Neuroscience
  • Optics

Students admitted to the program take three new innovative courses and benefit from a variety of professional development mechanisms, including industry internships and immersive professional development encounters with industry leaders.

In addition students will also work on innovative, interdisciplinary research projects that focus on:

  • AR/VR platforms and computation
  • Perceptual-cognitive aspects of AR/VR design
  • Machine intelligence for AR/VR systems
  • AR/VR interfaces and applications

Upon completion of the training program requirements, students receive a certificate.

The program also offers one-year fully-funded fellowships to a subset of the trainees enrolled in the program. The funded fellowships can be offered to US citizens and permanent residents only.

Both funded and non-funded trainees are expected to complete all program requirements to receive a certificate.

Graduate students who do not enroll can still benefit from courses and other activities offered as part of this program.

More information:

Students testing out VR goggles.
New training in AR/VR tech gives Rochester doctoral students an edge

A $1.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation will establish a structured, well-rounded training program for University scholars applying augmented and virtual reality in health, education, design, and other fields.

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Program Requirements

Student enrolled in the program agree to complete all of the following program requirements:

  • Introductory course
  • Modular course
  • Practicum course
  • Internship
  • Undergraduate capstone project supervision
  • AR/VR-related research

While in the program students will also participate in professional development encounters, and the annual program showcase and student-run conference. Each trainee will be assigned and guided by a faculty mentor.

Program Courses

The training program contains three new, innovative courses addressing the diverse backgrounds of incoming students, exposing them to AR/VR challenges and providing competency to work on AR/VR projects within multi-disciplinary teams as well as a variety of structured professional development activities.

The introductory course, *ECE 410: Introduction to Augmented and Virtual Reality, taught by multiple faculty in coordination, provides a broad introduction to AR/VR systems. Its main purpose is to build a common base of understanding and knowledge for all students in the program as well as to provide a foundation on which they can build their research.

The second course consists of three one-month long modules in a semester. Modules engage students in particular aspects of AR/VR or hands-on experience on AR/VR. A set of nine distinct modules will be offered, rotating some of the modules in and out each year.

In the third course, small teams of trainees from multiple departments will work together on a semester-long project on AR/VR with the guidance of a faculty involved in the program. The end products of this practicum course will be tangible artifacts that represent what the students have learned, discovered, or invented. Types of artifacts include:

  • Research papers
  • Patent applications
  • Open-source software
  • Online tutorials and videos for undergraduates, K-12 students, or the general public

Students should speak to their advisor to see if these courses will count towards the PhD degree requirements.

* ECE 410: Introduction to Augmented and Virtual Reality is also cross-listed as OPT 410, BME 410, BCSC 570, NSCI 415, CSC 413, and CVSC 534.

Coursework graphic.
Figure 1. Illustration of how the NRT coursework relates to and cuts across different layers of major research efforts. This integration provides the trainees with a cross-layer AR/VR design perspective. View PDF version.
Program Schedule
Fall year oneIntroductory course
Spring year oneModular course
Summer year oneUnity programming course and practice
Fall year twoPracticum course
Summer year twoInternship
Years two through fiveAnnual program showcase and student-run conference
Years three and fourUndergraduate capstone project supervision
All YearsAR/VR-related research

All Years

Professional development encounters

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Applying to the Program

Any University of Rochester PhD student in electrical and computer engineering, optics, biomedical engineering, brain and cognitive sciences, computer science, or neuroscience, and interested in AR/VR research is welcome to apply for admission to the program as a trainee. We also welcome inquiries from PhD students in other departments, who can also enroll if we decide their participation in the program will benefit them.

To apply, complete the application form by August 15 for fall admission and by December 15 for spring admission. Only students taking the introductory course in the fall semester can apply for spring admission.

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Applying for Funded Fellowship

The program also offers a small number of one-year fully-funded fellowships to a subset of the students enrolled in the program. Students who are not yet in the program, but are planning to enroll can apply to the program and the funded fellowship simultaneously.

These funded fellowships can be offered to US citizens and permanent residents only. Typically the funded fellowships will be offered to students who already have an assigned PhD advisor.

To apply for a funded one-year fellowship, complete the application for graduate AR/VR program (unless already a trainee enrolled in the program), and send the following documents to by July 25 for a fellowship during the next academic year:

  • CV
  • Statement of purpose
  • Transcripts
  • One recommendation letter

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For any questions about this PhD training program, please contact


NameRoleAffiliationRelevant Area of Expertise
Mujdat CetinPIDepartment of Electrical and Computer EngineeringImage analysis, brain-computer interfaces
Jannick RollandCo-PIInstitute of OpticsOptical system design
Michele RucciCo-PIDepartment of Brain and Cognitive SciencesVisual perception
Zhen BaiCo-PIDepartment of Computer ScienceIntelligent user interfaces
Zhiyao DuanFaculty participationDepartment of Electrical and Computer EngineeringComputer audition, audio signal processing
Chenliang XuFaculty participationDepartment of Computer ScienceComputer vision, machine learning
Yuhao ZhuFaculty participationDepartment of Computer ScienceComputer architecture, algorithm design
Ross MaddoxFaculty participationDepartment of Biomedical Engineering, NeuroscienceAuditory Neuroscience, audio-visual integration
Andrew WhiteFaculty participationDepartment of Chemical EngineeringApplication of AR/VR to higher education
Edmund LalorFaculty participationDepartment of Biomedical Engineering, NeuroscienceAnalysis of sensory electrophysiology
Mark BockoFaculty participationDepartment of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Department of Physics and AstronomyAudio and acoustic signal processing, computer audition
David WilliamsFaculty participationInstitute of Optics, Ophthalmology, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Department of Brain and Cognitive SciencesThe human visual system, physiological optics

Program Evaluator

Chelsea BaileyShea, Compass Evaluation + Consulting LLC.

Program Coordinator

Kathleen DeFazio
Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering
(585) 275-1736


See the NRT PhD Trainees page for a list of trainees.

External Advisory Committee

  • Barry Silverstein, director of optics and display research at Facebook Reality Labs
  • Chris Chafe, director of Stanford Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics
  • Paul Travers, president and CEO of Vuzix
  • Martin Banks, chair of UC Berkeley Vision Science Program

Industry Partners

  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Nvidia
  • Vuzix 

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