Sunday, September 28, 2014

Pleasures of Being a Professor II: Hangouts

Professors are available to graduate students in different ways:  in dept coffee rooms, in their office behind open doors,  at weekly dept talks,  via email,  who knows, maybe some via their own apps!  I do a video hangout with CS graduate students of Rutgers every week. It lasts 1 hour and is open to all: not just my students -- they dont make it --- or theory or database students, but all students. I did this in Spring and am doing this again in Fall.  In Spring, we explored questions such as:

T1: How to apply for jobs.
T2: how to apply for internships.
T3: How to attend a conf
T4: How to give a talk.
T5: How to polish a research paper 1 hour before the conf deadline.
T6: How to start a company, if you want to...

There maybe like 10 students in many sessions, most students speak freely during the hangout (because I do), and even though I schedule it for 1 hour, the informal nature of the conversation continues for 1.5--2 hrs. New topics emerged and we abandoned a few of the topics above. Some sessions got technical, eg., into machine learning, others remained more social. Two topics worth mentioning:
  • On collaboration:  I summarized that students collaborate with their advisor or summer internship mentees: in both cases, for most part, the other party takes the responsibility to think ahead and steer the course of the research as needed. Most students dont know what I called "peer collaboration" which is to approach another prof or student at conf or elsewhere and successfully collaborate. This involves one to start off describing some problem, may be even feeding initial observation, and when other part is not hooked,  up the ante and maybe even send initial latex docs, the collaboration gets to a new place when the other party contributes some observations and starts editing the joint latex doc., and pronto, you are collaborating. Latex is the matchmaker! Is this all worth it? Yes, collaborations once begun, dont typically die, they begut more research and even academic friendship over time. 
  • On attending conferences. I communicated that even the social moments -- coffee breaks, banquet cruises --- are in academic context and one should not break away from professional or academic behavior. 
For Fall, the topics are:
T1: What did you do in the summer, re.  CS Research
T2: How to set research goals for the semester and follow up
T3: How to find an advisor and research topic.
T4: How to make use of NY area research resources.
or whatever comes up.



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