Answers to Frequently Asked Questions and Requests
This webapge is NOT intended for Weizmann students, postdocs
and or faculty members. My duties towards them are definitely
incomparable to my duties towards the community at large.
In particular, I will be happy to answer any question or
request they may have, regardless if it is on the following
list or not.
It is great to live in an era that allows rapid and convenient communication.
Yet, also good things have dark sides:
The amount of communication grows, and consequently the total time spent
in communication may grow rather than decrease. In particular,
at times I get more questions and requests than I can possibly handle,
especially if I am to continue doing other things.
Since some of the questions and requests keep recurring,
I am posting my answers below.
This page includes frequently asked questions and requests regarding
About Graduate Studies at the Weizmann Institute (FGS/WIS)
All graduate studies
at the Weizmann Institute of Science
(WIS) are administrated
by the Feinberg
Graduate School (FGS).
Applications should be made using
the school's forms which can be obtained together with more detailed
the FGS homepage.
You may also contact the school via e-mail
or by ordinary mail to the Feinberg Graduate School,
P.O.B 26, Rehovot, Israel.
Following are my view regarding certain questions.
- Q: Who can apply to Graduate Studies at FGS/WIS?
Formally, anybody with an undergraduate degree can apply to
graduate studies in computer science at FGS/WIS. However,
we tend not to admit applicants lacking good background in computer
science; that is, we expect applicants to have good knowledge
of algorithms (rather than good programming skills).
PhD versus Master:
Please note that an application to PhD studies requires an advisor
(i.e., a statement by a faculty member that he/she is willing to
serve as an adviser for the candidate),
whereas an application to Master studies does not require an advisor.
On the other hand, one can enter our PhD studies at any point in
time, whereas entering our Master studies is only possible at the
beginning of each Fall (typically, October).
- Q: Who should apply to Graduate Studies at FGS/WIS?
Assuming that you can apply to our graduate studies,
you should ask yourself whether you are indeed interested in what
our graduate studies program has to offer. Note that we do not cover
uniformly all areas of Computer Science, but rather specialize in
several areas. Specifically, we have very strong research groups
in Foundations of Computer Science and
In general, our areas of expertise are the sum of the areas of
expertise of our faculty. Thus, it is recommended to look at the
homepages of the faculty in order to find out more information
about what we have to offer.
- Foreign (non-Israeli) students.
We encourage applications by foreign (non-Israeli) students.
In fact, the Weizmann Institute is the only institute in Israel
in which all research and teaching activity is conducted in English
(rather than in Hebrew).
However, in some cases applications from foreign countries are
harder to evaluate (especially, in case the undergraduate degree
is from a less known institute). Furthermore, a decision is taken
without an interview (whereas local applicants are typically
invited to a personal interview). The situation is even worse
when applying to our PhD program, because such an application
must be supported by a faculty that is willing to advise the
student (see above). We therefore make the following
- Unless you have a master degree from a top university,
apply to the Master program rather than to the PhD one.
Note that it may be possible to later switch to the PhD program
(see ``direct PhD'' below).
- Obtain letters of recommendations from people
who know you and who are known internationally.
- Admission standards (or chances of being admitted).
Our admission standards are quite high, and we typically have
more suitable candidates than the number of fellowships that we
can offer (all regular graduate students get fellowships).
In certain cases, we propose to suitable candidates to join our
non-regular program, which does not offer fellowships.
Typically, this is done when the candidate plans to continue to
work concurrently to his/her studies (students with fellowships are
not allowed to maintain outside jobs). Furthermore, unless
specified otherwise, we assume that a foreign candidate is not
interested in this possibility.
- Insufficient background.
Sometimes, people who lack the suitable background apply to our
programs because they are interested in graduate studies in
computer science. We typically recommend to such people to first
obtain the suitable background elsewhere (e.g., in courses given
by the Open University, etc). Recommended courses include
courses on the Design and Analysis of Algorithms,
and an Introduction to Computability and Complexity Theory.
- The direct-PhD program.
Typically, to be admitted as a PhD student, one should have a
master degree. However, there is a possibility of doing
a ``direct PhD'' (without a Master degree). Typically, one
can enter the `direct PhD' program only via the master program.
That is, if you are interested in a `direct PhD' then you should
enroll to the master program and perform outstandingly well there.
In such a case, your master adviser may recommend that you pass
to the `direct PhD' program.
I, personally, do not consider the difference between
`direct PhD' and `Master first and PhD afterwards'
to be very important. For sure there are some benefits in the
`direct PhD' program (e.g., less course-work), but even they
may turn out to be disadvantages in some cases
(e.g., less time in graduate studies).
Thus, I usually recommend to my students not to take this program.
In any case, the important thing is the substance
(i.e., the study and research itself).
- Entering a student-advisor relationship
My own view/policy is that a student-advisor relationship
is something very demanding, and that one should not enter it
without proper two-sided "evaluation" (in the sense of each
of the parties seeing that the other is suitable for him/her).
Thus, I personally will not agree to serve as an adviser
of a person whom I do not know well enough (e.g., a person that I
only know via email correspondence). This means that, typically,
I will not agree to consider serving as an advisor of a person
that I never met or have just met. My decision can be based
only on seeing the candidate cope with research problems,
which may allow me to see if we fit (regardless of the success
or failure in coping with these research problems).
Needless to say, the phrase ``person that I have never met''
does not include Weizmann students, let alone ones that I have
seen in courses and/or seminars. In such cases a process
of mutual estimation of ``fitness'' can be conducted at leisure
and with much lower level of stress (especially on me...).
- On being my student
The following information may be relevant to you in case you consider
becoming my student.
(This entry [as well as the preceding one]
is neither meant to be discouraging nor encouraging candidates.
I merely try to be informative. And, if you wonder, yes I did
have some students in the past...)
- In general, I am interested in working with students on topics of
my expertise in areas such as Randomness and Computation,
Property Testing, Complexity Theory, and Foundations of Cryptography.
I have no expertise in applied aspects of cryptography.
Actually, in recent years, I have not been actively interested
in the Foundations of Cryptography, and so it may not be a good idea
for me to advise students that are interested in doing research
in this area.
- Typically, I do not have concrete/specific research projects to offer,
but rather expect such suggestions to come from the student.
What I can offer is mainly constructive criticism.
- In general, I will not serve as adviser to part-time students.
- Summer students:
In general, I am not interested in having summer students.
About PostDoc-ing at the Weizmann Institute (FGS/WIS)
Postdocs at the Weizmann
Institute of Science (WIS) are administrated
by the Feinberg
Graduate School (FGS).
Applicants are expected to contact a potential host,
but the host is not the one deciding on the application;
all decisions (including funding) are determined at the faculty level.
Details regarding the application and selection procedures can be
found at the relevant
webpage of FGS.
Some of the comments made above
regarding entering a student-advisor relationship
and being my student apply also to postdocs,
but indeed to a lesser extent.
About My Areas of Past and Present Expertise
My past areas of expertise are Randomness and Computation,
Foundations of Cryptography, and Complexity Theory,
but for more than a decade I have not been following
research in the Foundations of Cryptography
and hence can no longer be considered an expert in that field.
The fact that I have expertise in some areas does not mean
that I can afford to answer typical questions and requests
that are referred to me regarding these areas.
In particular, I cannot afford to offer research problems,
and typically (see exception clause below)
cannot afford to evaluate new work or answer various questions
about existing work (including my own). Details follow.
If you are sure that your question or request does not fall
within the above categories (i.e., that is does justify asking
specifically for my help), then start your email by articulating
the reasons for your belief. (A generic reason like my being an
expert in the general area does not suffice.)
Indeed, there are very few cases in which such a reason may exist.
For example, if you have fundamental doubts regarding a central claim
in anything that I have published (e.g., you believe there is an error),
then it should be my duty to consider this seriously.
Same if you have resolved an open problem
mentioned explicitly or implicitly in any of my works
(but not a famous open problem
like P versus NP).
Finally, if you find any (fixable) error in any of my books (or papers),
please call my attention to it.
Note that this last case actually refers to a service you offer me,
whereas in the other cases this may be help you seek from me.
- Q: Could you offer some ``good'' research problems?
Of course, there are many well-known open problems (few offered by myself);
these can be found in various surveys and papers, but suggesting these
to somebody seeking a ``good'' (i.e., tractable and nice) research problem
is not very wise.
Suggesting `tractable and nice' research problems is very difficult;
in the rare cases that I manage to come across
such a problem, I work on it myself or suggest it to my own students.
- Q: Could you read and/or evaluate an enclosed work or idea?
(but see exception clause below).
I cannot even afford to superficially read and/or evaluate
all work and ideas sent to me. Let alone, that I cannot afford
to provide a non-superficial evaluation of all work that do merit
such an evaluation. Typically (i.e., unless the work/idea is
obviously wrong or commonly known), it is very hard to provide
a useful evaluation of a scientific work or idea.
- Q: Could you explain this or that?
Maybe (i.e., preferably not,
but see exception clause below).
I may try to answer technical or conceptual questions that you
may have, but do try to seek alternative ways before asking my help.
In particular, try to think hard of the question before asking me;
you will learn much more this way and in addition you will help
ensure that I have the time me to answer the
few questions that seem to require my help.
Please bear in mind that I cannot afford to answer all
specific questions (even regarding only my areas of expertise)
that are referred to me. Thus, I ask you to assist me in
focusing on answering only questions that seem to require
my specific expertise. These are very few.
- Questions about my papers
and my books
Again, try to resolve these by yourself.
(Please take into account that it is not reasonable to expect me
to answer individually each reader of my papers.
Again, see exception clause below).
That is, I ask you to assist me in focusing on answering only questions
that seem to require my specific expertise. These are very few.
- Q: Can you send me solution manuels for your book(s)
or any material not found on your website?
In general, I posted all my web-site all material that I can
afford to share with others.
This includes various versions of my papers,
various drafts of my books, etc.
If some material (e.g., solution manuels for my books or old papers)
is not posted, then it is almost certain that I do not have it.
About My Areas of Non-Expertise (e.g., Applied Cryptography)
I believe that sound practice of Cryptography has to be based on
firm theoretical foundations. Still, this necessary condition is
not sufficient, and expertise in applied (or practical)
aspects of cryptography requires more than understanding of the
theoretical foundations of Cryptography. For example, although I
considered myself (in the past) an expert on the theoretical
foundations of Cryptography, I never had more than very little
knowledge of the applied (or practical) aspects of cryptography.
In particular, please do not ask me to evaluate the security of
any specific construct.
My above statement of limited knowledge
of the applied (or practical) aspects of cryptography
means that I'm not the right person to ask for consulting
regarding the latter aspect. On top of this, I am not interested
at all in consulting to or being involved in any commercial enterprise.
My main reason is my unwillingness to make any commitment
to spend time on anything other than my research and personal
interests. Unfortunately, for lack of time, I properly pursue
only a tiny part of my research and personal interests, and I
have no intentions of making this part even smaller.
Asking for general advice
I cannot possibly provide personal advice
(e.g., regarding studying cryptography)
to anybody who may seek it.
Giving such advice requires learning the person
and his/her specific needs, which I really cannot afford.
Whatever general (or generic) advice I can give,
can be found in my web-pages
(starting from my homepage).
Regarding review requests
Being an editor of a few journals,
I do sympathize with the effort of editors seeking adequate
referees for submitted papers.
However, being overloaded by referee requests, it is my policy to
decline any request that does not require my specific expertise
and can be handled as easily by dozens of other researchers.
(Even under this policy, I'm handling a lot of review requests...)
Needless to say,
I will definitely decline referee requests that refer to works
that do not lie in the core of my research expertise (see above).
But what I am saying here is that I may decline
even requests that refer to this core.
- Summer students
For a variety of reasons,
I am not interested in having summer students.
Other WIS faculty may be interested in this venture.
- Using web-servers for review
Due both to practical and principled reasons,
I will refuse to use web-servers
for submitting reviews and/or recommendation letters.
the top or to
Oded Goldreich's homepage.