Presentation on theme: "Planning a PhD Prof. Bob Givan. There are many paths and styles to a successful Phd There are many motives for getting a PhD My comments represent one."— Presentation transcript:
There are many paths and styles to a successful Phd There are many motives for getting a PhD My comments represent one slice at this In particular, I will focus on those aiming at fundamental research jobs. Caveat
Which delights you: – Knowing how to kill a problem or – Not knowing how to kill a problem Why get a PhD?
Get a PhD if You like to work on open-ended problems and break new ground or You need the credential for your career path (e.g. teaching at a teaching-oriented college) or ??? Why get a PhD?
Step One Are you fluent in English? – If not, spend 10 hours/week on this until you are.
Choose the topic area first… For the broad area of your PhD, choose something for which you have both passion and talent. – Side note: if you later lose your passion, it is very possible, while not easy, to switch topics. Don’t let yourself feel trapped. Choosing a school and advisor
The role of research-university rankings – These matter if you want a research job – These are not the only thing to consider! The role of the advisor – Seniority – Activity level – Most important: comfortable professional connection. Someone you get along with.
Choosing a Topic Should you ask your advisor? – Of course, but….
Choosing or Refining a Topic Yourself Learn to bootstrap from a literature scan – Select a question or a couple pieces of related work – Spend 2-3 fulltime weeks reading/scanning a large body of cited work (more weeks for bigger leaps) – Goal: develop comfort with the concept space – Goal: identify the (few) well written key papers – Limit consideration to quality venues (ask advisor) Don’t try to read every word! (focus where you are learning)
Do multiple such literature scans until you find a concept space you are comfortable with and interested in. …then… Choosing or Refining a Topic Yourself
(worded for research on computer software) Re-attack a “solved” problem from that space. – “solved” does not mean “no need unmet” – Use new ideas if you have them – Don’t worry too much about initial quality – Perhaps re-implement previous solution – Consider starting with a “straw-man solution” Choosing or Refining a Topic Yourself
Next Do great novel research – There is no recipe, here are some fragmentary ideas Identify the big picture of the topic area – What are the big big goals and challenges – Are these the right goals? What are the alternative goals that could be considered? – Are there very different approaches to avoid or address the major challenges Think BIG
Self Discipline You are talented and passionate about your research Your competition: many others who are talented and passionate, working very hard. Conclusion: hard work required – This is a major challenge of graduate work. – The lack of deadlines requires tough discipline.
General Mentorship Rule At each career stage, deliberately seek mentors in the next stage – Junior grad student seeks senior grad student – Senior grad student seeks young faculty – New faculty seek those near tenure or just tenured – Etc.
Job Search – Early efforts Visibility Make and watch presentations – Start local, then workshops, then conferences – Particularly watch job talks by others Of course, publish your work Cultivate reference writers, inside and outside Did you notice the value of English fluency?