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Notes on Graduate School


Notes on Graduate School Cliff Shaffer Department of Computer Science Virginia Tech Blacksburg, VA My Perspective 8 years as graduate program director for a ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Notes on Graduate School

Notes on Graduate School
  • Cliff Shaffer
  • Department of Computer Science
  • Virginia Tech
  • Blacksburg, VA

My Perspective
  • 8 years as graduate program director for a
    Research 1 PhD granting (and PhD-focused) CS
  • A graduate degree should be something very
    different from an undergraduate degree
  • Not just more classes
  • The research degree is what has made graduate
    education in the US the envy of the world

Graduate Programs
  • MS-only (typically course based)
  • PhD-granting (MS and PhD)
  • In Academia, there is a real pecking order
    among Universities
  • Where you go for an undergraduate degree is far
    less important than where you go for a graduate
    degree, especially for a PhD, for future job

MS vs. PhD
  • In CS, everyone is usually in demand
  • Generally, BS pays well, MS pays better, and PhD
    pays even better
  • But its debatable whether the cost of a PhD
    makes up for the pay differential from MS
  • The real reason to get a PhD is because it lets
    you do new things (faculty, research labs, in
    industry more likely to be the manager, overall

PhD Jobs
  • In CS, the majority of PhDs go to industry
  • Guesstimate
  • Industry 50
  • Academia 40
  • Government 10

  • The MS degree traditionally takes 2 years
  • Low variance
  • The PhD degree roughly takes 5 years from BS
  • High variance
  • You really want to be getting paid while doing
    your graduate degree!
  • GTA, GRA, Government fellowship, company support,
    military support

Getting into Graduate School
  • Factors considered by our department, in rough
    order of importance
  • How much we believe you want to do research (and
    will be able to get it done)
  • Established connection with a faculty member in
    our department
  • Research experience (publications a big plus)
  • Recommendation letters (from respected sources)
  • School you went to
  • Grades
  • Standardized test scores

Example VT MS Degree
  • Thesis
  • 30 credits
  • 7 3-credit courses (2-3 courses/semester)
  • Defend thesis (9 credits)
  • Coursework-only
  • 33 credits
  • 11 3-credit courses
  • One is Independent Study, with a report

Example VT PhD
  • 11 3-credit courses
  • 2 advanced/seminar courses
  • 2 courses outside of CS (technical electives)
  • Pass PhD Qualifier
  • Pass PhD Proposal/Preliminary Exam
  • Pass Dissertation Defense

Why do Research?
  • Learn a set of work skill that you can't get from
  • Significant writing task
  • Independent/unstructured work task
  • Do something real'
  • Become a true expert in something
  • It's the only way to get a PhD

Grad Student Concerns
  • The key concern with doing a research degree
  • When will it end?

How to be Successful Grad Student
  • Initially
  • Don't just take classes -- interact with faculty,
    students doing research, and research groups.
  • Attend talks, read papers.
  • Get PhD qualifier (or equivalent) out of the way
  • Identify an advisor early, and get involved in
  • GRA, Independent Study, or volunteer
  • Research topic often comes from the work, not
    work from the topic.

Getting Things Done
  • Set deadlines or milestones... And keep them!
  • Break big tasks into subtasks
  • Tackling the Dissertation
  • Intersperse writing with working
  • Documenting literature review is an ongoing
  • Constantly write progress reports
  • Publish along the way if possible

The Advisor
  • A key person in your academic/professional career
  • Pick the best compromise (for YOU!) of the
  • Research area
  • Support opportunity
  • Physical environment for getting work done
  • Intellectual environment for getting work done
  • Peer support system (research group)
  • Personality Interaction at a personal level
  • Personality Management style (hands on/off)
  • Level of attention
  • Track record on timely graduation
  • Professional advancement