Mar. 26th, 2017

alexr_rwx: (Default)
I got an email from a student at IU, recently. I'd met him briefly while I was at Indiana; he'd just started his PhD, but then we moved out to California. He'd been turned down from a Google internship, and wanted to know if I could see his interview feedback to help him figure out what went wrong in the interview.

I can't see his interview feedback. But I *can* harsh on him unnecessarily about IU and professors there and dying academic labs, such as the one that I came from and the one in which I suspect he's currently toiling away the best years of his life...

Here's what I wrote. I think these questions should be posed to early-stage grad students at middling state universities, broadly.

Hey $NAME,

Even if I'd referred you, I still couldn't see the interview feedback! It's really super secret.

Oh man, time flies. Your fourth year already!

How's it going with $PROFESSOR? His lab didn't seem all that active when I was around, but maybe things are picking up?

Really sorry -- this is about to get more real than you might have expected. I don't really know your situation or what your current research interests are like, but in retrospect I think I probably should have switched advisors to somebody with a healthier lab, back in my 3rd or 4th year. I should have asked myself "OK, is $MYADVISOR teaching you things? Are his other students graduating in a reasonable time? Are they publishing in good venues? Do they work together and hang out? Is he teaching you how to be an academic in the current environment? Is he paying you to do research that will help you graduate? ..."

... and at least when I was around, $MYADVISOR's group didn't have good answers for any of those questions. In fact, nobody in computational linguistics or in knowledge-based AI had good answers for any of those. $MYADVISOR's students seemed like they were getting strung along for years, never publishing in any good venues and then never graduating. They just burned out eventually and faded away. $MYADVISOR never had any grants to pay me, and he never seemed to try very hard to get grants to pay me. I put up with it at the time, because I'm apparently not very smart, but you'll note that I still haven't graduated.

So I hope the situation's improved with $PROFESSOR -- maybe he's publishing a lot and you're on those papers! But you seem to be doing a lot of
TAing. You should ask yourself if this situation is OK, and if it's going to help you get where you want to go.

There *are* labs at IU where they're doing good work, getting money, publishing all over the place. Fil Menczer's group, who I worked for briefly, because I needed to get paid and $MYADVISOR had no money, seemed/seems like one of the healthiest and happiest at IU. I'm sure there are other good ones.

Ha, yeaaahhhh. That was pretty real.

On a more cheerful note, hooray for your upcoming wedding :D Best wishes!

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Alex R

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