Tuesday, March 30, 2010

To PhD or Not To PhD... advice

Just met with a prospective student for my adviser, which brings to mind advice on doing a PhD.

Work with someone you like working with. You get to ultimately decide who you want your adviser to be, and it will be the only time in your life where you can "choose your boss", so to speak. Don't work with someone who you can't get along with or share mutual respect. A PhD is a 5+ year commitment, there's no sense in being miserable.

Choose a project you love. I was nervous about the idea of starting a whole new project when I move to NM; Felisa pointed out I don't need to start the first week I'm there. Try different things, and don't settle for something you're only luke warm about. You need to have the hots for your project. 5+ years is a long time to be bored and/or uninterested.

Interdisciplinary work, it's where science in headed. You don't need to be an expert at everything, but you should learn to communicate with people outside of your specialty. An interesting problem might arise, and you want those people and skills in your tool box.

Consider the people other than your adviser and committee who you will be incontact with. You want to be in a positive environment, again, 5+ years is a long time. Some departments are more cut throat than others. It's a myth that all of academia is like this, find a department that has a healthy relationship with itself.

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