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Applications have opened for the Summer 2023 Cohort of the SERI ML Alignment Theory Scholars Program! Our mentors include Alex Turner, Dan Hendrycks, Daniel Kokotajlo, Ethan Perez, Evan Hubinger, Janus, Jeffrey Ladish, Jesse Clifton, John Wentworth, Lee Sharkey, Neel Nanda, Nicholas Kees Dupuis, Owain Evans, Victoria Krakovna, and Vivek Hebbar.

Applications are due on May 7, 11:59 pm PT. We encourage prospective applicants to fill out our interest form (~1 minute) to receive program updates and application deadline reminders! You can also recommend that someone apply to MATS, and we will reach out and share our application with them.

Program details

SERI MATS is an educational seminar and independent research program that aims to provide talented scholars with talks, workshops, and research mentorship in the field of AI alignment, and connect them with the Berkeley alignment research community. Additionally, MATS provides scholars with housing and travel, a co-working space, and a community of peers. The main goal of MATS is to help scholars develop as alignment researchers.

Timeline

Based on individual circumstances, we may be willing to alter the time commitment of the scholars program and allow scholars to leave or start early. Please tell us your availability when applying. Our tentative timeline for applications and the MATS Summer 2023 program is below.

Pre-program

  • Application release: Apr 8
  • Application due date: May 7, 11:59 PT
  • Acceptance status: Mid-Late May

Summer program

  • Program Start: Early Jun. The Summer 2023 Cohort consists of three phases.
  • Training phase: Early-Late Jun
  • Research phase: Jul 3-Aug 31
  • Extension phase: ~ Sep-Dec

Training phase

A 4-week online training program (10 h/week for two weeks, then 40 h/week for two weeks). Scholars receive a stipend for completing this part of MATS (historically, $6k).

Scholars whose applications are accepted join the training phase. Mentors work on various alignment research agendas — when a mentor accepts a scholar, the scholar is considered to have entered that mentor’s specific “research stream.” At the end of the training phase, scholars will, by default, transition into the research phase.

MATS has a strong emphasis on education in addition to fostering independent research. The training program hosts an advanced alignment research curriculum, mentor-specific reading lists, workshops on model-building and rationality, and more.

Research phase

A 2-month in-person educational seminar and independent research program in Berkeley, California for select scholars (40 h/week). Scholars receive a stipend for completing this part of MATS (historically, $16k).

During the research phase, each scholar spends ~1-2 hours/week working with their mentor, with more frequent communication via Slack. Scholars' research directions will typically be chosen through a collaborative process with their mentors, and scholars are expected to develop their independent research direction as the program continues. Educational seminars and workshops will be held 2-3 times per week, similar to our past Summer 2022 and Winter 2022 seminar programs.

The extent of mentor support will vary depending on the project and the mentor. Regardless of the specific project or mentorship direction, we encourage scholars to make full use of our Scholar Support program to maximize the value of their experience at MATS. Our Scholar Support team offers dedicated 1-1 check-ins, research coaching, debugging, and general executive help to unblock research progress and accelerate researcher development.

Community at MATS

In contrast to doing independent research remotely, the MATS research phase provides scholars with a community of peers. During the Research phase, scholars work out of a shared office, have communal housing, and are supported by a full-time Community Manager.

Working in a community of independent researchers gives scholars easy access to future collaborators, a deeper understanding of other alignment agendas, and a social network in the alignment community.

The Winter 2022 program included workshops (automated research tools, technical writing, research strategy), scholar-led study groups (mechanistic interpretability, linear algebra, learning theory), weekly lightning talks, and impromptu office activities like group-jailbreaking Bing chat. Outside of work, scholars organized social activities, including road trips to Yosemite, visits to San Francisco, and joining ACX meetups.

Extension phase

Pending mentor and funder review, scholars have the option to continue their research in a subsequent four-month Autumn 2023 Cohort, likely in London.

Post-program

MATS aims to produce researchers who will, after completion of the program:

MATS alumni have published AI-safety research, joined alignment organizations (e.g., Anthropic, MIRI), and founded an alignment research organization. You can read more about MATS alumni here.

Who should apply?

Our ideal applicant has:

  • an understanding of the AI alignment research landscape equivalent to having completed the AGI Safety Fundamentals AI Alignment Course;
  • previous experience with technical research (e.g. ML, CS, math, physics, neuroscience, etc.), generally at a postgraduate level;
  • strong motivation to pursue a career in AI alignment research.

Even if you do not meet all of these criteria, we encourage you to apply! Several past scholars applied without strong expectations and were accepted.

Attending SERI MATS if you are not from the United States

Scholars from outside the US can apply for B-1 visas (further information here) for the Research phase. Scholars from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Designated Countries can instead apply to the VWP via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which is processed in three days. Scholars accepted into the VWP can stay up to 90 days in the US, while scholars who receive a B-1 visa can stay up to 180 days. Please note that B-1 visa approval times can be significantly longer than ESTA approval times, depending on your country of origin.

How to apply

Applications are now open! Submissions are due May 7, 11:59 pm PT. We encourage prospective applicants to fill out our interest form (~1 minute) to receive program updates and application deadline reminders! You can also recommend that someone apply and we’ll reach out to them and share our application.

SERI MATS runs several concurrent streams, each for a different alignment research agenda. You can view all of the available agendas on the SERI MATS website. To apply for a stream, please fill out our application.

Before applying, you should:

  • Read through the descriptions and agendas of each stream and the associated candidate selection questions.
  • Prepare your answers to the questions for streams you’re interested in applying to. These questions can be found on our website.
  • Prepare your LinkedIn or resume.

Applications are evaluated primarily based on responses to mentor questions and prior relevant research experience.

The candidate selection questions can be quite hard, depending on the mentor! Allow for sufficient time to apply to your chosen stream(s). A strong application to one stream may be of higher value than moderate applications to several streams (though each application will be assessed independently).

Attend our application office hours

We have office hours for prospective applicants to clarify questions about the MATS program application process. Before attending office hours, we request that applicants read this current post fully and our FAQ.

You can add the events to your Google Calendar. Our office hours will be held on this Zoom link at the following times:

  • Wed 12 Apr, 10 am-12 pm PT;
  • Wed 12 Apr, 2 pm-4 pm PT;
  • Mon 3 May, 10 am-12 pm PT;
  • Mon 3 May, 2 pm-4 pm PT.

The MATS program is a joint initiative by the Stanford Existential Risks Initiative and the Berkeley Existential Risk Initiative, with support from Conjecture and AI Safety Support.

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Sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 3:43 AM

[Crossposting from LessWrong]

 

I wouldn't be able to start until October (I'm a full time student and might be working on my thesis and have at least one exam to write during the summer); should I still apply?

I am otherwise very interested in the SERI MATS program and expect to be a strong applicant in other ways.

We hope to hold another cohort starting in Nov. However, applying for the summer cohort might be good practice, and if the mentor is willing, you could just defer to winter!