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					How to Survive
as a Graduate Student


                          Chris Colohan

                       August 31, 2004

    Previously given by: Francisco Pereira, Ted Wong, Sean Slattery, Alma
   Whitten, Rob Deline, Brian Noble, Jay Sipelstein, Jonathan Shewchuk, Benli
                               Pierce, David Dill
                                                                                1
Current Survival Rates
40
35
30                       Got Ph.D.
25                       Gone
20                       Absentia
15                       On Leave
10                       Still Here
 5
 0
  71
  74

  77
  80
  83

  86
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  92
  95
  98

  01
  04
19
19

19
19
19

19
19

19
19
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20
20
                                  2
Current Survival Rates
 35
 30
 25                      Got Ph.D.
 20                      Gone
                         Absentia
 15
                         On Leave
 10                      Still Here
 5
 0
   94

   95

   96

   97

   98

   99

   00

   01

   02

   03

   04
 19

 19

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 20

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 20                                   3
Rules
   No names
   Keep advice relevant to the early years
   Only have 1½ hours today
       This talk is incomplete!
       You decide what we talk about today

   Lots of views, you decide who is right

                                              4
Agenda
   Finding an advisor
   Doing some research
   Classes & other requirements
   Staying sane




                                   5
Who is your Advisor?

   The                 factor in your success
    in grad school
       (besides you)

   You MUST get along well
       Personality compatibility trumps research
        compatibility

                                                    6
Finding an Advisor




                     7
Finding An Advisor: Step 1
Find faculty you might be interested in
     IC Talks
     IC Parties
     Web pages
     Faculty Research Guide
     Suggestions from students & other faculty



                                                  8
Finding An Advisor: Step 2
Find out more about them
     Ask them for a meeting
     Talk to their students
     Talk to their ex-students
     Read some of their papers
     Maybe attend a project meeting



                                       9
Finding An Advisor: Step 3
Come to an agreement
     Tell them you’d like to put them down as
      your 1st (2nd, 3rd) choice
     Verify that they’ll ask for you too
     Fill out your marriage form accordingly




                                                 10
    Finding An Advisor: Questions
Questions to ask:
 Availability – does s/he have room for you?
 Commitment – will s/he stand by you?
 Personalities – will you get along?
 Research style – can you do it that way?
 Research topics – are you interested?
 Resources – do you want travel and toys?
                                               11
     Finding An Advisor: Pitfalls
   Not getting the one you wanted
   Not getting along with the one you got
   Losing the one you got (they leave CMU)

Reassurance: you can change advisors, but
       Don’t do it too many times (more than twice)
       Don’t burn your bridges

                                                       12
 Finding An Advisor: Variations
Multiple advisors
     More benefits, more pitfalls
     Often one has the money, one has the time
     Maybe you want a non-CSD advisor
     Sometimes a tactful way to transition




                                                  13
On Having an Advisor
   Like having a temporary parent
       Invested in you, responsible for you
       Sometimes that makes them act weird
   Communicate lots
       Tell them what you’re doing
       Tell them how you’re doing
       Tell them what you think you need

                                               14
  More on Having an Advisor
Advisors are human and flawed
     Often under lots of pressure
     Don’t always have great social skills
     Often forget to give any positive feedback
     Can unintentionally seem rude or disapproving




                                                  15
Agenda
   Finding an advisor
   Doing some research
   Classes & other requirements
   Staying sane




                                   16
   Research: The Early Years
What you’ll (hopefully) get out of it
     Learn your own research style, and whether it
      meshes well enough with your advisor’s
     A publication or two
     Your hacking/writing/speaking requirements


Doesn’t need to lead straight to thesis work.

                                                  17
      Research: How’s Your Ego?

Undergraduate work
     Get given a task, complete it well, get praise
Graduate work
     Find a problem you want to solve
     Get grudging support for working on it
     Have to justify why your work is worthwhile


          Do it because you want to 
                                                       18
Agenda
   Finding an advisor
   Doing some research
   Classes & other requirements
   Staying sane




                                   19
Classes
   May seem very hard or very easy
       Theory folks hate systems classes
       Systems folks hate theory classes
   It’s not unusual to fail one, nor is it a
    big deal
   Always take more time than they should
       But don’t forget your research!

                                            20
Fulfilling requirements
   Teaching
       Teach a basic and an advanced class
       Keep close watch on the clock (1/2-time)


   Writing and speaking
       Practice these skills early and often
       Get lots of feedback before trying to pass

   Programming
       Talk to your advisor about expectations
                                                     21
    Avoiding common distractions
              usually

   Hacking is not research!
              usually

   The web is not research!

   Community service is not a "distraction"!


                                                22
Black Friday


           23
      Black Friday - How it works

   The faculty meet and discuss each student
   Key question:
    Are you progressing and do the faculty believe you
      will finish eventually?
   Your advisor writes a letter giving you
    feedback and setting goals for next semester
   Frank signs the letter
                                                    24
        Black Friday – Why?

Black Friday is a good thing:
 Gives you official feedback

       From more than just your advisor!


   Gives your advisor official feedback
       Teaches them how to advise!


                                            25
        Black Friday – What to do
   Make sure your advisor will be there, or has
    arranged for someone else to be
   Talk to your advisor about what they’ll say
   Give your advisor information to work with
   Then, stop worrying
       Go back to your work
       Go to the Black Friday TG

                                               26
Agenda
   Finding an advisor
   Doing some research
   Classes & other requirements
   Staying sane




                                   27
Staying Sane
   Don’t get isolated
       spend time with people
       talk to people about your work
   Remember
       there’s life after CMU
       there’s life outside CMU
       you do this because you want to
   Work on something you love
                                          28
      Staying Sane: Maladies
Imposter syndrome
     You think you’ve been successfully faking being
      good enough to be here, but one day you’ll fail
      and everyone will scorn you
     Is very, very common
Best cure
     Talk to other students, admit feeling that way


                                                       29
  Staying Sane: Maladies
Spiraling perfectionism
     Your work is too trivial for anyone to care
      about and you freeze up
Best cure
     Read papers, go to talks, go to conferences,
      recalibrate



                                                     30
 Staying Sane: Maladies
Trouble and panic
     Failed exam or course
     Research stalls or doesn’t pan out
     Fight with advisor
Best Cure
     Remember it happens to everyone sometime
     Remember help is available

                                             31
 Staying Sane: Maladies
Depression
     Loss of energy and interest
     Unhappiness
     Change in sleeping or appetite
     Fuzzy thinking
Best Cure
     CMU counseling center
     Many grad students encounter this!
                                           32
Resources
   Sharon (busy, but wise)
   The Ombudsperson (Pat Riley)
   Your advisor
   Other students
   The CMU counseling center
   The Zephyr anonymoose (see the FZQ)


                                      33
Fortune cookies


Never surprise or be surprised by your
               advisor.




                                         34
Fortune cookies


Once an advisor, always an advisor.




                                      35
  Fortune cookies
   There is more than one partner in a
               marriage.

Being concerned with only one of them is a
             BIG problem.




                                             36
  Fortune cookies


You probably cannot write or speak as well
as you can hack. Practice early and often.




                                             37
Fortune cookies

    If you want to work, work.

    If you want to play, play.




                                 38
Fortune cookies

   Work at least an hour a day.

  Make that hour the first hour.




                                   39
  Fortune cookies
Your thesis has less to do with your career
              than you think.

 What you can say about your thesis has
more to do with your career than you think.




                                              40
 Fortune cookies


Be honest to yourself about your abilities
               and limits.




                                             41
Fortune cookies


    Be your own advocate.




                            42
Fortune cookies


   Work on your weaknesses;
    turn them into strengths.




                                43
Final fortune cookie


          Have fun!




                       44
Sample Black Friday Letters




                              45
Saga of Student X: Part 1




                            46
Saga of Student X: Part 2




                            47
Saga of Student X: Part 3




                            48
Saga of Student X: Part 4




                            49
Saga of Student X: Part 5




                            50
Some Advisors Have a Sense
of Humour




                             51

				
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