Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Presentation is loading. Please wait.

Finding a Research Topic Janie Irwin CSE, Penn State with credits to Kathy Yelick, EECS, UC Berkeley.

Similar presentations

Presentation on theme: "Finding a Research Topic Janie Irwin CSE, Penn State with credits to Kathy Yelick, EECS, UC Berkeley."— Presentation transcript:

1 Finding a Research Topic Janie Irwin CSE, Penn State with credits to Kathy Yelick, EECS, UC Berkeley

2 The Real Equation Topic + Advisor = Dissertation

3 Fear of Topic Selection  Settling on a PhD research topic is often a low point in graduate school Even for the most successful students Even for the men  Why? Because it is very important! It’s the next two (or three) years of your life It will define the area for your job search You may be working in the same area (or a derivative) for years after

4 Things to Consider  Do you have a “preassigned” research advisor or do you have to find one?  What kind of job are you interested in? Top 20, teaching, gov’t lab, industry  What are your strengths? weaknesses? Programming, design, data analysis, proofs Key insights vs. long/detailed verification/simulation  What drives you? bores you? Technology, puzzles, applications, interdisciplinary

5 More Things to Consider  Does your advisor know anything about the topic? What is your advisor’s style? Are you more comfortable working as part of a team or alone?  Do you (i.e., your advisor) have funding for you to work in the area?

6 6 Ways to Find a Topic

7 1) Flash of Brilliance Model  You wake up one day with a new insight/idea  New approach to solve an important open problem  Warnings: This rarely happens Even if it does, you may not be able to find an advisor who agrees

8 2) The Apprentice Model  Your advisor has a list of topics  Suggests one (or more!) that you can work on  Can save you a lot of time/anxiety  Warnings: Don’t work on something you find boring, fruitless, badly-motivated,… Several students may be working on the same/related problem

9 3) The Phoenix Model  You work on some projects and think very hard about what you’ve done looking for insights Re-implement in a common framework Identify an algorithm/proof problem inside  The topic emerges from your work Especially common in systems  Warnings: You may be working without “a topic” for a long time

10 4) The Stapler Model  You work on a number of small topics that turn into a series of conference papers E.g., you figure out how to apply a technique (e.g., ILP) to a number of key problems in an area  You figure out somehow how to tie it all together, create a chapter from each paper, and put a big staple through it  Warnings: May be hard/impossible to find the tie

11 5) The Synthesis Model  You read some papers from other subfields in computer science/engineering or a related field (e.g., biology)  And look for places to apply insight from another (sub)field to your own E.g., databases to compilers  Warnings: You can spend a career reading papers! You may not find any useful connections

12 6) The Expanded Term Project Model  You take a project course that gives you a new perspective E.g., theory for systems and vice versa  The project/paper combines your research project with the course project One (and ½) project does double duty  Warnings: This can distract from your research if you can’t find a related project/paper

13 What to Do When You’re Stuck  Read papers in your area of interest Write an annotated bibliography  Read a PhD thesis or two (or three)  Read your advisor’s grant proposal(s)  Take a project class with a new perspective  Serve as an apprentice to a senior PhD student in your group Keep working on something  Get feedback and ideas from others Attend a really good conference in an area of interest Do a industry/government lab internship

14 Don’t be Afraid to Take Risks  Switching areas/advisors can be risky May move you outside your advisor’s area of expertise You don’t know the related work You are starting from scratch  But it can be very refreshing! Recognize when your project isn’t working  Remember, its hard to publish negative results

15 Thank You Questions Comments Discussions

16 It’s Not About the Topic  It’s about the area: Is it important? Timely? Jobs in the area?  And the tools: Many researchers have one really good hammer Use it to solve many problems More experienced than others at using it Can be a theoretical technique, a software system, etc.

17 Articulating Your Topic  Base on Five Heilmeier Questions 1. What is the problem you are tackling? 2. What is the current state-of-the-art? 3. What is your key make-a-difference concept or technology? 4. What have you already accomplished? 5. How will you measure success?  Acks: Based on Patterson’s “How to Have a Bad Career…”

18 Assertiveness  Attention Make sure everyone is listening (including yourself)  Soon, simple, short Don’t let it linger; be brief and to the point  Specific behavior Focus on the behavior, not the person  Effect on me Share the feelings of the effect on yourself  Response Describe the way you would have liked for the situation to be handled and ask for feedback  Terms Establish terms for handling the problem in the future

Download ppt "Finding a Research Topic Janie Irwin CSE, Penn State with credits to Kathy Yelick, EECS, UC Berkeley."

Similar presentations

Ads by Google