Xiao-Le Deng

《The Ph.D. Grind 博士磨砺》读书札记1

2017-04-04 11:00
#Notes

本文最初地址为:《The Ph.D. Grind》—《博士磨难》读书札记 - 简书,时隔一年多的时间,再次阅读并整理成此文。

前言

这本小书的原文网址:Philip Guo - The Ph.D. Grind,原书英文版的下载地址:www.pgbovine.net/PhD-memoir/pguo-PhD-grind.pdf,中文翻译到第八章:科学网—csuliweilong的博文

豆瓣里面有一个读书专栏:科研行业傻瓜入门手册,正如其介绍:

科研行业是个充满了不足为外人道的潜规则的行当。除少数禀赋超常人士外,每一位初入行的年轻人少有人可幸免于磕磕绊绊满头是包依然懵懵懂懂的血泪家史。导师们教读书教写作教实验,就是不肯明明白白教给傻瓜学生们科研这行当到底是怎么回事。幸有少数洞察黑幕又毁人不倦的大牛,愿意从ABC开始指点初入此门如我一般的傻瓜们。不敢独享,兹录之。

此文目的:

  • 希望考虑读博士的同学认真读读,一窥博士生活;
  • 希望在读博士认真阅读,思考反思自己的博士生活;
  • 希望教授认真阅读一下,来了解博士生的生活状况;
  • 希望那些了解博士生这个群体的人,认真阅读。

作者自己的总结20点宝贵的经验教训

Results trump intention

用结果说话。成功的博士就是成果多的博士。空谈科研热情,强调自己不发烂文章,是对科研活动没有正确认识。

Nobody questions someone’s intentions if they produce good results. I didn’t have so-called pure intellectual motivations during grad school: I started a Ph.D. because I wasn’t satisfied with engineering jobs, pressured myself to invent my own projects out of fear of not graduating on time, and helped out on HCI projects with Scott, Joel, and Jeff to hedge my bets. But I succeeded because I produced results: five prototype tools and a dozen published papers. Throughout this process, I developed strong passions for and pride in my own work. Incontrast, I know students with the most idealistic of intentions dreamy and passionate hopes of revolutionizing their field who produce few results and then end up disillusioned.

Outputs trump inputs

The only way to earn a Ph.D. is by successfully producing research outputs (e.g., published papers), not merely by consuming inputs from taking classes or reading other people’s papers. Of course, it’s absolutely necessary to consume before one can produce, but it’s all too easy to over-consume. I fell into this trap at the end of my first year when I read hundreds of research papers in a vacuum—a consumption binge—without being able to synthesize anything useful from my undirected readings. In contrast, related work literature searches for my dissertation projects were much more effective because my reading was tightly directed towards clear goals: identifying competitors and adapting good ideas into my own projects. (个人注释:关注点在输出成果上;博士毕业的要求就是有学术上的输出成果。阅读文献的最基本和最重要的目的就是:对我现在的研究有什么直接的帮助和启示。)

Find relevant information

寻找相关信息的能力越来越重要。图书馆员在帮助科研人员提供信息素养上有着不可懈怠的责任。

My Ph.D.training has taught me how to effectively find the most relevant information for what I need to accomplish at each moment. Unlike traditional classroom learning, when I’m working on research, there are no textbooks, no lecture notes, and no instructors to provide definitive answers. Sometimes what I need for my work is in a research paper, sometimes it’s within an ancient piece of computer code, sometimes it’s on an obscure website, and sometimes it’s inside the mind of someone whom I need to track down and ask for help.

Creat lucky opportunities

创造机会。如果你不能反复呈现你的工作在各种talk上,与同事的交流中,asking for and offering help, and expressing gratitude,机会不会自己到来。

I got incredibly lucky several times throughout grad school, culminating in getting to work with Margo at Harvard during my final year. But these fortuitous opportunities wouldn’t have arisen if I didn’t repeatedly put myself and my work on display—giving talks, chatting with colleagues, asking for and offering help, and expressing gratitude. The vast majority of my efforts didn’t resulting serendipity, but if I didn’t keep trying, then I probably wouldn’t have gotten lucky.

Play the game

没有选择,抱怨是没用的,适应它,按照游戏规则来。

As a Ph.D. student, I was at the bottom of the pecking order and in no position to change the “academic game”. Specically, although I dreaded getting my papers repeatedly rejected, I had no choice but to keep learning to play the publication game to the best of my abilities. However, I was happy that I played in my own unique and creative way during the second half of grad school by pursuing more unconventional projects while still conforming to the “rules” well enough to publish and graduate.

Lead from below

博士是科研金字塔的底层人员。底层人员也有策略去发挥影响力。

By understanding the motivations and personalities of older Ph.D. students, professors, andother senior colleagues, I was able to lead my own initiatives even from the bottom of the pecking order. For example, after I learned Margo’s research tastes by reading her papers and grant applications, I came up with a project idea (Burrito) that we were both excited about. If I were oblivious to her interests, then it would have been much harder to generate ideas to her liking.

Professors are human

教授也是人,有癖好,有偏心,有兴趣,有动机,有弱点,有恐惧。更进一步的意思,自己去理解吧。

While this might sound obvious, it’s all too easy to forget that professors aren’t just relentless research producing machines. They’re human beings with their own tastes, biases, interests, motivations, shortcomings, and fears. Even well-respected science-minded intellectuals have subjective and irrational quirks. From a student’s perspective, since professors are the gate-keepers to publication, graduation, and future jobs, it’s important to empathize with them both as professionals and also as people.

Be well-liked

好人缘很重要。但是不可能跟所有的人都很好,那选择关系好的人一起合作,并花时间经营关系。

I was happier and more productive when working with people who liked me. Of course,it’s impossible to be well-liked by all colleagues due to inevitable personality differences. In general, I strived to seek out people with whom I naturally clicked well and then took the time to nurture those relationships.

Pay some dues

尽到自己的责任。把自己应该做的工作做好。

It’s necessary for junior lab members to pay their dues and be good soldiers rather than making presumptuous demands from day one. As an undergraduate and master’s student at MIT, I paid my dues by working on an advisor-approved, grant-funded project for two and a half years rather than trying to create my own project; I was well-rewarded with admissions into top-ranked Ph.D. programs and two fellowships, which paid for five years of graduate school. However, once I started at Stanford, I paid my dues for a bit too long on the Klee project before quitting. It took me years to recognize when to defer to authority figures and when to selfishly push forward my own agenda.

Reject bad default

拒绝不合理的安排。不要一味屈从老板的安排。

Defaults aren’t usually in the best interests of those on the bottom (e.g., Ph.D. students), so it’s important to know when to reject them and to ask for something different. Of course, there’s no nefarious conspiracy against students; the defaults are just naturally set up to benefit those in power. For example, famous tenured professors like Dawson are easily able to get multi-year grants to fund students to work on default projects like Klee. As long as some papers get published from time to time, then the professor and project are both viewed a ssuccessful, regardless of how many students stumbled and failed along the way. Students must judge for themselves whether their default projects are promising, and if not, figure out how to quit gracefully.

Know when to quit

发现方向性错误,赶紧改变。

Quitting Klee at the end of my third year was my most pivotal decision of grad school. If I hadn’t quit Klee, then there would be no IncPy, no SlopPy, no CDE, no ProWrangler, and no Burrito; there would just be three or more years of painful incremental progress followed by a possible “pity graduation.”

Recover from failure

博士期间的失败是不可避免的,必然会走弯路。要做的是从失败中康复,让每个挫折都能激发我们的热情投入要建设性的活动中去。 Failure is inevitable in grad school. Nothing I did during my first three years made it into my dissertation, and many paths I wandered down in my latter three years were also dead-ends. Grad school was a safe environment to practice recovering from failures, since the stakes were low compared to failing in real jobs. In my early Ph.D. years, I would grow anxious, distraught, and paralyzed over research failures. But as I matured, I learned to channel my anger intopurposeful action in what I call a productive rage. Every rejection, doubt, andcriticism spurred me to work harder to prove the naysayers wrong. Lessons learned from earlier failures led to successes later in grad school. For example, my failure to shadow professional programmers at the beginning of my second year taught me how and who to approach for these sorts of favors, so I later succeeded at shadowing computational researchers to motivate my dissertation work; and my failure to get lots of real users for IncPy taught me how to better design and advertise my software so that I could get 10,000 users for CDE.

Ally with insiders

与内行合作。与内行合作好发文章。

I had an easy time publishing papers when allied with expert insiders such as Scott andJoel during my second year, Tom during my MSR internship, and Jeff during my fifth year. They knew all the tricks of the trade required to get papers published in their respective subfields; the five papers that I co-wrote with these insiders were all accepted on their first submission attempts. However, struggling as anutsider with Dawson on empirical software measurement in my second year and then on my solo dissertation projects was also enriching, albeit more frustrating due to repeated paper rejections.

Give many talks

在读博期间,我做了大量的research presentation,包括有在学校组会的非正式的talk,或会议报告。在talk中,获得了有用的idea,良好的反馈,发现研究的不足。每次talk都是对在公共场合表达技能的促进。最后,有时talk后的讨论会激发出意外的发现。

I gave over two dozen research presentations throughout my Ph.D. years, ranging from informal talks at university lab group meetings to conference presentations in large hotel ballrooms. The informal talks I gave at the beginning of projects such as IncPy were useful for getting design ideas and feedback; those I gave prior to submitting papers were useful for discovering common criticisms that Ineeded to address in my papers. Also, every talk was great practice for improving my skills in public speaking and in responding to sometimes-hostile questions. Finally, talks sometimes sparked follow-up discussions that led to serendipity: For example, after watching my first talk on IncPy, a fellow grad student emailed me a link to Fernando’s blog post about Python in science; that email encouraged me to reach out to Fernando, who would later inspire me to improve IncPy and then to invent CDE. Over a year later, my Google Tech Talk on CDE directly led to my super-chill summer 2011 internship.

Sell, sell, sell

推销自己的研究成果。在激烈的学术竞争中,要学会推销自己的ideas给有影响的人,否则你的工作就有可能被埋没。

I spent the majority of my grad school days heads-down grinding on implementing research ideas, but I recognized that convincingly selling my work was the key to publication, recognition, and eventual graduation. Due to the ultra-competitive nature of the paper publication game, what often makes the difference between an accept and a reject decision is how well a paper’s “marketing pitch” appeals to reviewers' tastes. Thus, thousands of hours of hard grinding would go to waste if I failed to properly pitch the big-picture significance of my research to my target audience: senior academic colleagues. More generally, many people in a field have good ideas, so the better salespeople are more likely to get their ideas accepted by the establishment. As a low-status grad student,one of the most effective ways for me to sell my ideas and projects was to get inuential people (e.g., famous professors such as Margo) excited enough topromote them on my behalf.

Generously provide help

慷慨地给予帮助。不要跟你的同班同学竞争。他们好,不代表你就差。彼此慷慨地给予帮助,特别是对ideas和paper drafts提出反馈意见。

One of my favorite characteristics of the Ph.D. experience was that I wasn’t incompetition with my classmates; it wasn’t like if they did better, then I would do worse, or vice versa. Therefore, many of us generously helped one another, most notably by giving feedback on ideas and paper drafts before they were subject to the harsher critiques of external reviewers.

Ask for help

陷入困境的时候,及时的找人帮忙。可以是找自己的朋友,可以是找某个referrals,或发cold-mail给专家。

Over the past six years, I became good at determining when, who, and how to ask for help. Specifically, whenever I felt stuck, I sought experts who could help me get unstuck. Finding help can be as simple as asking a friend in my department,or it might require getting referrals or even cold-emailing strangers.

Express true gratitude

表达真挚的感激。对别人给予的帮助表达真诚真挚的感激。尽可能尽力感谢每个人的特别贡献。

I learned to express gratitude for the help that others have given me throughout the years. Even though earning a Ph.D. was a mostly-solitary process, I wouldn’thave made it without the generosity of dozens of colleagues. People feel good when they find out that their advice or feedback led to concrete benefits, so I strive to acknowledge everyone’s specific contributions whenever possible. Even a quick thank-you email goes a long way.

Ideas beget ideas

从一个想法产生后面的想法。

As I discovered at the end of my first year, it’s nearly impossible to come up with substantive ideas in a vacuum. Ideas are always built upon other ideas, so it’s important to find a solid starting point. For instance, the motivations for both IncPy and SlopPy came from my frustrations with programming-related inefficiencies I faced during my 2009 MSR internship. A year later, some of my ideas for extending IncPy, mixed with Fernando’s insights on reproducible research and Dawson’s mention of Linux dependency hell, led to the creation of CDE. Also, ideas can sometimes take years to blossom, usually after several false starts: I started pondering Burrito-like ideas during my second year and then at the end of my fourth, but it wasn’t until my sixth year that I was able to solidify those fuzzy thoughts into a real project.

Grind hard and smart

没有一个PhD,不是经过一万个小时单调乏味实实在在的磨练得来的。所谓有创造的想法不是别的,就是极端的努力。在办公室里,老老实实坐在椅子上,做出微小的但实质的进步,休息一下,然后在日复一日的连续的重复。聪明的努力也很总要。从错误的角度提出问题,用了错误的工具,干了无用的差事,这些都是要不得的。要想聪明的努力,需要洞察力、直觉、和寻求帮助的真诚意愿。

This book is named The Ph.D. Grind because there would be no Ph.D. without ten thousand hours of unglamorous, hard-nosed grinding. This journey has taught me that creative ideas mean nothing without the extreme effort to bring them to fruition: showing up to the office, getting my butt in the seat, grinding hard to make small but consistent progress, taking breaks to reect and refresh, then repeating day after day for over two thousand consecutive days. However, grinding smart is just as important as grinding hard. It’s sad to see students blindly working themselves to death on tasks that won’t get favorable results: approaching a research problem from an unwise angle, using the wrong kinds of tools, or doing useless errands. Grinding smart requires perceptiveness, intuition, and a willingness to ask for help.