Some advice for those doing the advising
(and what the advisors can learn from the advisees).
No tWo DoCtoRal students
are the same, and the things
an advisor needs to do for
each vary accordingly. I can
look back over my career
and see several approaches that work,
and one approach that is popular but
doesn’t really serve the student well. To
begin, the goal of the advisor is to teach
someone how to become an independent thinker, inventor, and problem-solver. You must take someone barely
out of their teenage years and convince
them that they can do something that
none of the most experienced people
in the field have been able to do. And
they must do that not only once, but
throughout their professional lifetime.
Frankly, when I went off to study for my
doctorate, I had no idea what writing
a thesis entailed; had I known, I never
would have gone to graduate school.
What not to Do
I was a student, and later faculty member, in an electrical engineering de-
partment, where the widely held opinion was that the way you wrote a thesis
was to read many papers. Look at the
last section, where there were always
some “open problems.” Pick one, and
work on it, until you are able to make
a little progress. Then write a paper
of your own about your progress, and
don’t forget to include an “open problems” section, where you put in everything you were unable to do.
Unfortunately this approach, still
widely practiced today, encourages
students and colleagues attend Jeff ullman’s retirement celebration in 2003.
PhotograPh By hector garcia-molina