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Top 10 Things I did Right/Wrong in Graduate School


Top 10 Things I did Right/Wrong in Graduate School Greg Morrisett – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Top 10 Things I did Right/Wrong in Graduate School

Top 10 Things I did Right/Wrongin Graduate School
  • Greg Morrisett

Goal, Caveats Background
  • You should think and plan now how to get the most
    out of grad school.
  • Where do you want to be when you finish?
  • Take specifics with a large grain of salt
  • Personal history
  • Small, liberal arts undergrad school 89
  • Carnegie Mellon for grad work (PL) 95
  • Cornell faculty 96-03
  • Harvard faculty 04-now

Things I did wrong 10
  • Spent the first year isolated from my fellow
  • Lived alone
  • Worked alone
  • Went out of town a lot
  • They had fun, I was miserable.
  • Make the effort to get to know them.

Wrong 9
  • Assumed I wasnt good enough.
  • U. of Richmond is no CS powerhouse
  • Fellow students from IIT, Princeton, Berkeley,
    MIT, Stanford, etc. Yikes!
  • Felt like a fraud.
  • (Still feel like a fraud.)
  • (So does everyone else.)
  • By the end of quals, field was more level.
  • Everyone admitted can do well!

Wrong 8
  • Was scared to ask advisor for stuff like books,
    travel money, equipment, etc.
  • Youre expensive (50K)
  • If I can prevent RSI, Ill spend a lot of money.
  • Equipment is not.
  • Money is renewable, time is not.
  • You need the proper equipment to get the job
  • It never hurts to ask.

Wrong 7
  • Lots of classes, little homework.
  • (CMU had no course requirements)
  • Better to do few classes well.
  • Youve got to get your hands dirty to really
    learn something. (Re-prove that theorem, hack
    that algorithm, measure that performance, etc.)
  • Learning by osmosis doesnt work.

Wrong 6
  • Was hyper-critical of visitors and talks.
  • Its easy fun to be critical.
  • Until youre the one under the glass.
  • Its easy to be cynical.
  • Cynics arent good researchers. Try to keep an
    open and receptive mind.
  • Before forming an opinion, ask how you would
    (realistically) have done and presented the

Wrong 5
  • Never took courses outside of CS
  • Ill be doing CS for the rest of my life
  • I can learn CS topics on my own
  • I need help with stuff I dont do well
  • I either wont or cant make the time now
  • I wish I had taken
  • Writing, French, Chinese communication
  • Chem, Bio, Psychology, Finance applications
  • Even if it had taken another year
  • The 12(10) requirement is a lower bound!

Wrong 4
  • Never took a teaching seminar
  • Its half my job for Gods sake!
  • But theres no requirement you actually learn how
    to teach (much less teach well.)
  • There are real skills to be learned here
  • Time management (stack of 15-min appts.)
  • Assignments, homeworks, exams, etc.
  • Psychology
  • First year I at Cornell, I spent 90 of my time
    on teaching.

Wrong 3
  • Never figured out how funding works.
  • Its half my job for Gods sake!
  • You shouldnt care how funding works now. Before
    you graduate, you might want to learn more about
    how it works.
  • Writing a proposal is very different from writing
    a research paper.
  • Ask your advisor if you can read or even
    participate in proposals.

Wrong 2
  • Didnt keep a research journal.
  • I saw lots of cool talks.
  • I went to lots of cool conferences.
  • I read lots of cool papers, pages, etc.
  • I hacked on lots of cool things.
  • I had great ideas.
  • I dont remember many of them.
  • Consider keeping a journal.

Wrong 1
  • Didnt buy Microsoft stock when I entered
    graduate school. -)

Things I Did Right 10
  • Worked closely with other graduate students.
  • Learned more from them than profs.
  • (they have more time only 1 job)
  • Proof-read their work vice versa
  • (good for them, good for you)
  • Only way to do big things (e.g., compiler)

Right 9
  • Summer Internships.
  • I went to Bell Labs DEC CRL
  • Contacts
  • Breadth
  • Research ideas
  • See how a lab works
  • Do this in your first couple of years, if

Right 8
  • Went to conferences workshops.
  • Most of the real action occurs here.
  • You meet everyone here, and they meet you its
    a smaller community than you think.
  • You keep up with the area.
  • You get a copy of the proceedings.
  • Its easier to read a paper after a talk.
  • Organizations have for students to travel
  • Ask your advisor for -- never hurts.

Right 7
  • Got to know lots of faculty.
  • Worked with different people in different areas
    (PL, compilers, OS, etc.)
  • Invited these people to practice talks.
  • Hiring is an old boys network people ask me
    Whos good thats coming out of Harvard? If I
    dont know you, I cant recommend you.
  • Now theyre my colleagues an invaluable

Right 6
  • Volunteered.
  • Moderated
  • Annoying, but the name recognition helped
  • Worked on open source projects
  • Great experience, satisfying
  • Reviewed papers
  • Learned a lot about writing, had people to call
  • Cleaned the lounge
  • We had a volunteer requirement at CMU
  • You have to do something to get noticed why not
    do something worthwhile?

Right 5
  • Lots of practice talks, lots of red ink.
  • Had a great advisor read everything
  • Marked it up made me really, really mad
  • Eventually developed a thick skin
  • Learned how to write better
  • Talks at CMU were brutal
  • Every last point was debated
  • You quickly learned how to defend yourself and
    control the environment
  • Stage presence Seeing yourself on video helps a
  • Learn to anticipate and think like your audience

Right 4
  • Bought read Bugs in Writing
  • (Lynn Dupre)
  • Tailored to CS technical writing
  • I learned so much writing became faster, less
    red ink, etc.
  • Elements of Style also great
  • Technical writing class might help too.
  • CS people are rarely good at communicating. But
    its just as important as any technical skills
    youre going to pick up here.

Right 3
  • Hacked on lots of stuff.
  • What will you do for your thesis?
  • Do you really think itll come to you from just
    reading about ideas or sitting in classes?
  • My thesis came after about 7-8 serious projects
    (multi-processor, hardware stuff, GC, semantics,

Right 2
  • Didnt leave before I finished.
  • Ive known dozens of folks who accepted a job,
    expecting to finish the last few chapters of
    their thesis on the job.
  • Bad idea Ive only known 1 or 2 people that
    actually did this.
  • Its much easier to finish up beforehand. This
    gives you time to settle in to a new environment.
  • And ideally, take a break.

Right 1
  • I had fun!
  • Threw and went to many parties
  • Weekly dinner co-op (no geek talk)
  • Skiing, amusement park trips
  • Softball
  • TGIFs ( AI seminar at Cornell)
  • Got out of town when I felt down

This Seminar
  • Time Management
  • Choosing a Career Path
  • Job Search
  • Presentations
  • Working in the Lab
  • Writing Reviewing Papers
  • Grants and Writing Proposals
  • Science Discussion
  • Mentoring Management
  • your topic here