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Strategies for Finishing Kathleen Fisher Computer Science Tufts University 2011 Graduate Cohort

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Presentation on theme: "Strategies for Finishing Kathleen Fisher Computer Science Tufts University 2011 Graduate Cohort"— Presentation transcript:

1 Strategies for Finishing Kathleen Fisher Computer Science Tufts University 2011 Graduate Cohort

2 A bit about me… 1990Married Steve 1991Graduated with BS in Math & Comp Sci. from Stanford 1992Daughter Elaine was born 1996Received Ph.D. from Stanford in Theoretical PL 1996Joined AT&T Research as Senior Member of the Technical Staff 1997Started research projects in PL design 2000Divorced Steve 2002Married Bob 2003Promoted to Principal Member of the Technical Staff 2003Started the PADS project on ad hoc data management 2005Moved to California, work remotely for AT&T 2008Appointed consulting professor at Stanford 2010Started Forest project on typing filestores 2011Joined faculty of Tufts University as full professor

3 Outline What is finishing up about? Ten Tips for finishing up Discussion: – Ask and answer questions – Share anecdotes

4 From: proposal preparation and defense (Ming Lin s talk) ……… ………. To: successful thesis defense What is finishing up?

5 Chapter 1: Introduction – What is the problem? Why is it important? What has been done? What is/are central idea(s) of my approach? How is thesis organized? Chapter 2: Preliminaries – Define the problem. Introduce terminology and definitions. Discuss basic properties, related research, etc. Chapter 3: Big idea 1... Chapter K+2: Big idea K Chapter K+3: Conclusion – Summarize accomplishments. Discuss future work. What does a thesis look like?

6 Ten Tips for Finishing up

7 7 Tip 1. Take Charge It is really about you and your thesis. Examine your motivation: – Good: Value the research and want to move on to next stage – Bad: John finished in 4 years and so must I Build up your motivation so it will carry you through ups and downs: – Envision positive changes after you finish, things you can do and enjoy doing – Be active : Good: I will finish my thesis by... Bad: My thesis will be finished by …


9 9 Tip 2. Balance Life and Work Many demands on your time: – Commitments to family, friends, pets,... – Sleep and exercise – Working effectively and creatively – Having fun Choose how to budget your time! – On balance: On most days, you are happy about your personal and work life, engaged and productive at work, have good energy levels, …. – Out of balance: On most days, you wake up tired and low, don t enjoy your personal relationships, cannot focus at work, …. Seek help! – Mentors, family, friends, counseling service,….

10 10 Incorporate feedback from proposal defense Is the plan of work viable? Does the main problem/theme excite and challenge you? Identify sub-tasks from proposal: – How many have you solved? – How many need to be completed? – Consider order to tackle tasks: Dependencies, difficulty, likelihood of failure, range of skills – What if one of them does not work out? Do you have alternatives? Tip 3. Leverage your Proposal

11 11 Why? – Members can help you finish – Some will be references in your job search Do members have relevant expertise? – If not, talk to your advisor and consider adding someone (add early, not late) – Is there a serious misfit with a committee member? If you advisor were to leave could someone on your committee co-chair or take over? Tip 4. Leverage Committee

12 12 Set a target graduation date: (eg, 6/2012) Working backwards, create master plan of milestones and target dates (1 page). – Thesis submission date and defense date (must meet graduate school deadlines) – Research and chapter completion dates 1 key result = 1 major publication = 1 chapter – Allow time for committee review, job search, delays and setbacks. Discuss with advisor, mentor, recent graduates … Tip 5. Build a work plan

13 13 Each term, make a plan for the term. – Base term plan on master plan – Factor in conference deadlines, etc. – Build on strengths: eg., reward writing with coding, etc. Assess progress bi-weekly & at term end. – If straying from plan, analyze why – Adapt schedule if necessary – Discuss with advisor Re-assess and adjust master plan – Don t panic: change is inevitable here! Tip 6. Manage Your Time

14 14 Good writing is slow – Budget time and don t procrastinate!! Leverage conference papers – Use consistent notation and definitions. – Adapt paper intro thesis intro & chapter preamble paper conclusion chapter & thesis conclusion – Rewrite for thesis audience: different from paper addressing experts in field Major revision is common – Incorporate feedback from thesis advisor and committee members. Tip 7. Start Writing!


16 16 Which career path is for you? – Academia: research vs teaching emphasis – Industry: development or research lab Prepare your application – Key: Research and teaching statements; make them succinct and accessible Prepare for your interviews – Practice your talk (also good for defense) – Show breadth & focus of key contributions – Discuss future work in context Keep working on your thesis: Be interrupt driven; do not busy wait. Tip 8. Engage in your Job Search


18 18 Take on research leadership roles – Find a junior student to work with – Mentor her/him in research project – Could lead to co-authorship on new papers Travel to conferences – Seek opportunities to present your work – Prepare and give top quality presentations – Network with conference attendees – Prepare and ask smart questions Seek out and use resources – Practice talks, mock interviews, etc – Technical writing workshops Tip 9. Prepare for the Next

19 19 Attend related defenses (area, advisor) – Study question styles Practice defense presentation – Ask audience to pose tough questions Prepare your committee – Ensure they understand your contributions – Get feedback before the defense – Address serious concerns before defense with the help of your advisor Defend but do not go on the offensive Go to your defense rested and refreshed Tip 10. Prepare for Defense

20 Everyone gets a little stressed, it s OK!

21 Proposal defense Starting to writeAnother result, another chapter! Too much to do stressJob interview invitations Summary: Develop yourself Manage time Manage mechanics Communicate with advisor & committee Don t hesitate to seek help Expect & Manage Ups & Downs Thesis is complete & You are on your way!

22 Summary of Tips 1. Take charge 2. Balance life and work 3. Leverage your proposal 4. Leverage your committee 5. Build a work plan 6. Manage your time 7. Start writing! 8. Engage in your job search 9. Prepare for the Next 10. Prepare for defense

23 Questions and Discussion Things not discussed – Interdisciplinary research, pitfalls and payoffs – Advisor experience or lack thereof – Job search pressures – Unexpected emergencies The finishing process has many recovery points!! Thanks to PhDComics, Carla Ellis, and Padma Raghavan.

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