Excerpt from PhD Grind


Past performance is not an indicator of future results.

“Dawson gave high-level strategic advice from time to time, but like all tenured professors, his role was not to be “fighting in the trenches” alongside his students. It was our job to figure out all of the intricate details required to produce results”

Be proactive in talking with professors to find research topics that are mutually interesting, and no matter what, don't just hole up in isolation.

In the cutthroat world of academic publishing, simply being passionate about a topic is nowhere near sufficient for success; one must be well-versed in the preferences of senior colleagues in a particular subfield who are serving as paper reviewers.

Properly calibrating your pitch to the academic sub-community you’re targeting is crucial for getting a paper accepted.

Only about 1 out of every 75 Ph.D. students from a top-tier university has what it takes to become a professor at a school like Stanford (or maybe 1 out of every 200 Ph.D. students from a regular university)

“Since Dawson had tenure, his job was never in danger. In fact, one of the purposes of tenure is to allow professors to take risks by attempting bolder project ideas. However, the dark side of this privilege is that professors will often assign students to grind on risky projects [such as new enhancements to Klee] with low success rates. And the students often can't refuse, since they are funded by their advisors' grants.”

I learned about the importance of being endorsed by an influential person; simply doing good work isn't enough to get noticed in a hyper-competitive field.

The combination of a well-defined, short-term goal and continual helpful feedback made my internship workdays much more productive than those during my previous three years of grad school.

That's how research marches forward bit by bit: Each successive generation builds upon the ideas of the previous one.

So why would anyone spend six or more years doing a Ph.D.? Everyone has different motivations, but one possible answer is that a Ph.D. program provides a safe environment for certain types of people to push themselves far beyond their mental limits and then emerge stronger as a result.

It was fun at times, but more importantly, it was fulfilling. Fun is often frivolous, ephemeral, and easy to obtain, but true fulfillment comes only after overcoming significant and meaningful challenges.


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