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OT: Graduate education. What to choose?

by Anonymous Monk
on Sep 19, 2004 at 06:41 UTC ( #392123=perlmeditation: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??


I'm currently looking at possibilities of continuing my professional education in 2005-2006 and became a Master in Computer Science... And want to hear some advices about directions that I can choose...

I'm skilled Perl programmer with 5+ years of expirience. My best skills - perl, DBMS, XML, I've made few complex applications for web sites. I really like this areas. I like research work, my current job related to marketing research and statistics. I really glad when I work with algorithms optimization and huge-volume data mining...

I also have two directions which I would like to choose, but not worked in that area before... (artificial intelligence in consumer products like intellectual home electronic... and all kinds of work related to graphical maps of globe, city, etc)

Could anyone just comment my "unsolid" thoughts? My best side - Perl and I would like to continue work with this basement (although I know C++ and other langs...)

What direction could you recommend? (if someone know awesome universities in USA/Canada, that could be not well-know - I'll glad to hear advices too.)

Thanks for everybody who is with Perl =)

Alex Sergeyev;

  • Comment on OT: Graduate education. What to choose?

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Re: Graduate education. What to choose?
by blokhead (Monsignor) on Sep 19, 2004 at 07:53 UTC
    As a current CS grad student at Illinois, I have a few pieces of advice to offer. I'm currently a little disenfranchised with the whole grad school business, so keep that in mind as you read this. My advice may be a little discouraging, and perhaps completely jaded (in which case I'd be happy for someone to set the record straight). But putting my thoughts on the matter into words might even help me as well!

    First, I'd make sure you understand what's involved. As far as the fields of graphics and AI, I have no direct specific experience. But in general (at least here at UIUC), any graduate-level computer science is more or less about math. It is not about programming, and it is certainly not about Perl. Even research on compilers and programming languages is based on strict mathematical formalisms. AI may have slightly less math depending on the specific topic, but probably more formal logic to make up for it. As Dijkstra once said, "Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes."

    Also make sure you understand what CS research entails. The marketing research you mention is not the same beast as research in a hard science, so don't confuse the two. From my observations, CS research means papers & proofs. Writing and reading lots and lots of papers and proofs.

    Have a fairly specific goal! Not having one is probably the biggest mistake I've made throughout this grad school affair. I came to grad school because I loved a certain theory class as an undergrad, and that's about it. I had no specific area of interest, other than "theory" in general. I got into a good grad school, never really looking at the theory group here, or the research going on here. None of the group's research has looked appealing to me yet, so I'm in a very tough position, having no thesis topic but needing a thesis advisor by the end of the semester.

    So before grad school, you really should have some goal in mind. I'm not saying you need a thesis topic before going in. But look around at professor's websites and see the current research they're doing, and try to narrow down your area of interest as mich as possible. Download the professors' papers and read them (but don't expect to understand them yet). If something sounds remotely interesting, email them and ask to learn more. Finding a professor whose research interest match up with yours is the biggest key to success in my opinion. Even if you're not exactly sure what to study, their knowledge can guide you towards active areas of research, and your mutual interest ensures that you will find something you have passion for.

    In giving you advice, it would also help to know if you have had any formal CS education, like a bachelor's degree.. If not, that might be another option to consider as well. At the least, it seems it would be much more applicable to the programming you enjoy. And you can still take some advanced topics courses to figure out if you really like AI or graphics enough for grad school.

    I've tried to make this not sound too discouraging. ;) I want to help you avoid the mistakes I've made. I also apologize if any of it sounded condescending -- I have no idea from what academic background you're coming from, but it sounded like you may not have a clear idea of the gap between working as a programmer and a Master's education.

    Finally, keep in mind that grad school is supposed to be scary and intimidating. But it is also exciting -- finding new ideas; learning, growing, and exploring. Finding the right research to fuel this excitement is the key to overcoming the scary parts and coming out on the other end with a meaningful education.

    Best of luck!


      Thanks for answers to everyone.

      My background - mathematics. Here in Russia we have weird majors; for example my called "Mathematics and Computer science". The last one was always (except last few years)was connected to something - to Mathematics, to Biology or to Cybernetics. I was graduated with honors, my GPA is 3.86 (of 4.0), my thesis work was (could be not 100% well translated) "fuzzy logic expert systems and their usage in educational tests".

      I understand that science work is more with theories than my real work, but, anyway, I want to do programming... I want to use Perl in my work.... My problem - I want to do everything =) I like many directions of research that offered =) And I don't know how to choose =(

      Again, thanks for your comments guys. I'll try to review researches of faculty professors at universities, and mail to some of them.

Re: Graduate education. What to choose?
by FoxtrotUniform (Prior) on Sep 19, 2004 at 07:47 UTC

    I'm rather happy at the School of Computing Science at Simon Fraser University. They have good faculty, and seem to get a lot of support (i.e. funding) from the university. Rather heavy on theory, though, so if you're thinking about a purely professional degree you might want to look elsewhere. The data mining lab's right next to mine, and it's large and seems well-funded. :-)

    I'm firmly committed to the academic life, so take this with a grain of salt: if you're just looking to make more money and get a better position, you're probably better off with two more years of seniority rather than an M.Sc. On the other hand, if you want to do some real cutting-edge research, it'll be easier to do it -- either in industry or in academe -- with a postgraduate degree.

    (Oh, and my research right now is leaning towards real-time city rendering....)

    F o x t r o t U n i f o r m
    Found a typo in this node? /msg me
    % man 3 strfry

Re: Graduate education. What to choose?
by woodstea (Sexton) on Sep 19, 2004 at 15:08 UTC

    As far as maps go you might also look at geography programs. There's a fair amount of work that goes on there in GIS (geographic information systems) and cartography. The emphasis would certainly be somewhat different, but I can imagine someone putting together a joint program of study with CS.

    Even if you're interested primarily in programming for mapping software, it would seem like a good understanding of cartographic theory would be helpful -- map projections (how a 3D world gets represented in 2D), symbolization (how do you choose symbols in order to effectively communicate information of various types), etc.

    UC Santa Barbara has had a strong reputation in GIS for many years, and you can't beat the location. SUNY-Buffalo is another one, and then of course most of the Big 10 schools like Wisconsin, etc. would be strong and also offer strong CS programs.

    Good luck!
Re: Graduate education. What to choose?
by bwelch (Curate) on Sep 20, 2004 at 02:51 UTC
    Here are some thoughts from someone that finished a masters in computer science four years ago.

    My experience at the University of Colorado at Boulder was wonderful. The classes were top notch and my committee was both supportive and friendly, so I'd recommend that college highly.

    Choosing a college and area of emphysis is tough. After choosing U of C at Boulder, I interviewed professors to see what they liked researching, if they would accept students, and if our personalities matched well enough. Reading papers published by the professors first provided a place to start asking questions. Don't let the research area control your choice, as I believe that part about personalities matching well is critical for success. At the same time, if your research is in something you find fascinating the work can actually be fun. As with life, it's all in finding a balance.

    Looking at industry and employment trends can be helpful. My current employer generally won't look at developers without a masters degree, but we're a bioinformatics research group. For bioinformatics, they seem to look for a masters along with experience or degree in biology, math, or another life science. Data mining seems to be a growing area within bioinformatics.

    I'd agree about GIS being a growing area. A masters with a specialty in statistics also sounds interesting, as many industries then need your skills.

    Good luck and don't forget to enjoy the ride,


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