Friday, June 10, 2011

Do I even like research?

Disclaimer: These posts are mostly focused on people oriented towards areas such as Math, Physics and of course Machine Learning. Some of the things may not apply to other areas.

"I'm sure I want to study a graduate program.......... Really?"

You would be amazed how many times I've heard people claim they like research, when they usually don't know the first thing about it.

It usually starts with: I like to read, I like math and I want to travel. Then, they ponder how difficult it is to land a job against how difficult is to get in a Grad Program. To finally decide they want to have a PhD. Have in mind that while the labor offer is limited, the Grad Program offers are always raising.

Then, reality kicks in. In order to land a good job once you're finished -and be a half decent researcher- you'll need at least 5 or 6 journal papers, more than a dozen conference papers, and a shinning PhD Thesis ,which you'll probably hate with all your heart.

To finish your PhD on time and do all of these things, you'll need to do 3 basic things:

     Read, and I mean read. Forget your monthly book, to stay ahead and informed on the comings and goings of your topic, you'll need to read at least 1 paper each day and 1 academic book chapter every month (sounds easy?) . This will go up near conference dates, and when new specific journals you follow get published (yes, you have to follow journal publications)

    You'll also will need to write, and you'll need to balance your load of work reading with writing. Most people fail seeing this, and end up doing all-nighters to finish academic journals on the deadline, often unpolished and unfinished. I'll tackle how to handle your time in a later post.

    And finally, you'll need to do real stuff. In most scientific areas, reading is no research, is a part of it, but doing it alone won't take you anywhere. In CS you'll need to implement your ideas on code, and that'll take you more time than you would care to admit. I've spent entire coding sessions working out the bugs of my programs, let alone the real functionality of it.

To accomplish these things, you'll need a lot of self-discipline and in most cases a good advisor is also a plus. Yet, these are hard to find, and a topic I'll talk about in our next post: "How to choose a Grad Program"

See you next time

Remember to visit for my latest research and a list of ML Conferences

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