Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not to be repeated

Today, I had my first meeting with the CS juniors.  The purpose of the talk was two-fold.  First, I wanted to tell them about possible research directions for ALLS for next school year.  I walked them through about 7 topics, any one of which would be good for one or two or even three theses.

The second part of the talk was more personal. It had to do with the nuances of working with me.  Over the years, I've had good and bad experiences with thesis students.  I don't want a repeat of the bad.  The formula is simple:  Output is good, no output is bad.

Students can produce output in a variety of ways. They can be self-driven and self-directed, in which case I basically get out of their way.  They can be really collaborative, in which case we meet, we talk.  I take an active role in their work, helping with content, logistics, and so on.

There will always be students, though, whom you have to keep chasing with a stick. They ignore comments you took the time to make on their papers. They don't listen to advice. They don't ask questions. They don't meet deadlines.  Sometimes, they say sorry, but honestly I don't care about excuses or apologies.  I care about work.  If they don't have output, there is no redemption no matter how nice or apologetic they are.

In the best of all possible worlds, there'd be no students like these. In the second-best instance, I'd be able to avoid working with them.  However, the reality is that I can't always control who ends up with me.  All I can do is give the next batch fair warning and just hope that the less motivated will run away from me screaming.