My opinions on Graduate Studies
See also a related web-page addressing
Asked Questions about Graduate Studies at the Weizmann Institute.
Graduate Studies in General
Some of the following may be applicable mostly to theoretical sciences
and in particular to the Theory of Computation.
- A phase transition:
Entering graduate studies requires a phase transition
in comparison to undergraduate studies. It may be analogous
to the phase transition encountered when moving from high-school
to undergraduate studies.
Whereas undergraduate studies focus on study of what is known,
the focus of graduate studies is on the study of the unknown.
The latter is called research.
- But do we know all that is known,
and if not why study the unknown?
Indeed, we are far from knowing all that is known,
but no human will ever get close to know all that is known.
Thus, if we want to contribute to the growth of knowledge,
we have no choice but to try to do so although we do not know
many things that are known.
- How to study the unknown:
Indeed there could be no definite answers,
only a few suggested attitudes and even
they may not be universally valid.
I would suggest to cherish truth,
be patient (especially with yourself),
follow your feelings, and avoid prejudice.
The first thing you should do is choose an area or a topic
that you want to explore. Do so based on your feelings,
and do not hesitate to change your mind if you feel
you made a mistake. Of course, you may want to learn
a little about the various areas before making up your mind
(and indeed attending courses and reading books or surveys is helpful),
but keep in mind that your decision cannot be more than
an educated guess.
Research itself (as one should expect from the study of the unknown)
is often frustrating and emotionally demanding. This is why I
have suggested to be patient towards yourself and follow your feelings
(e.g., do not force yourself to do something if you are not in the mood).
Indeed, all the above sounds vague and may feel unhelpful.
As a starter you may feel that this (i.e., research)
is beyond your reach, but it is probably not so.
It is natural to feel the way, and almost everybody feels that way,
but the fact is that others (indeed many) have been through
the same experience and have somehow succeeded.
I regret that I cannot cannot explain how this happens;
I can just tell
the story of some master theses
(in an attempt to demystify the task of completing a master thesis
and doing research in general).
- Entering a student-advisor relationship:
Typically (but not always),
a student-advisor relationship plays an important role in the
first stages of the research. Since such a relationship is
quite intimate, one should not commit to it without proper
two-sided "examination" (in the sense of each
of the parties seeing that the other is suitable for him/her).
Graduate Studies at the Weizmann Institute (FGS/WIS)
- Areas of CS research 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 have 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 Computer
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 to find out more information about what
we have to offer.
- Admission to 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 in the
beginning of each Fall (typically, October).
- 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 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.
The important thing is the substance (i.e., the study and
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