together we can change ourself

together we can change ourself

Collaboration, sharing ideas, etc.

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Collaboration, sharing ideas, etc.

Talk about your ideas. Help your colleagues work out their problems.
Pay attention to what other people are doing, and see if you can learn
something, or if you can contribute.

Other than the mundane goal of getting your PhD ;), you are in
graduate school to push back the frontiers of knowledge. You do this
by generating and exploring new ideas. There is no way that you will
ever be able to explore all of the ideas that you generate, but some
of those ideas that you discard might be just what some of your
colleagues are looking for.

Human nature tends to make us want to hoard our own ideas. You have
to fight against that. Human nature also tends to make us treat other
people’s ideas with disrespect. The closer the idea to our own area
of research, the more likely some part of our brain will try to find
fault with it. Fight against that even harder.

You will find many people in academia who give in to the dark side.
These Stealth Researchers never discuss what they are working on,
except in vague and deceptive terms. They are experts at finding
fault with the work of their colleagues. The Stealth Researcher
writes papers that make very grand claims, but you can never quite
figure out what they’ve accomplished and what they haven’t. He is a
master at omitting the key detail of the design or process that would
enable others to follow his work. The Stealth Researcher is a
knowledge diode, a roach motel for information. He has replaced the
fundamental goal of discovery and publication with the twin evils of
ego and empire.

Be open about what you are working on. Be honest about what you’ve
done, and even more honest about what you haven’t. Don’t ever hide an
idea for fear that someone will steal it, even if you are talking to a
Stealth Researcher. With patience, maybe we can cure them.

Purchasing Equipment and Supplies

In general: Buy it!

Many graduate students have a hard time adjusting to the idea of
spending thousands of dollars on equipment that they may only need
for one measurement. The reality is that equipment is one of the
most important assets that a lab can have. The more stuff we’ve
got lying around, the more likely we can do experiments the right
way, and do them quickly.

So buy it!

Funding a graduate student full-time for a year costs about $40,000 (I
realize that you don’t see much of that, unfortunately). From a
bean-counting point of view, if you spend a few thousand dollars each
month buying equipment that doubles your productivity or rate of
progress, it’s a big win. Worse, students often waste months or even
years of their graduate careers making lousy measurements with lousy
equipment. Advisors only have a certain amount of time that they can
spend with students, which limits the number of students we can have.
If the students waste their time with lousy equipment, everyone loses.

So buy it!


A research university exists to train students and to discover and
disseminate. Traditionally dissemination has taken the form of
publication (although the web is changing that somewhat, or at least
changing the definition of publication).

Conference publication serves to expose a particular research
community to your ideas and results. A few hundred people will see
your paper within the first few months of its appearance. Very few
copies of the conference proceedings will exist after a decade has

MEMS conferences tend to have pretty fast turnaround. You submit an
extended abstract (typically 1 page of text and 1 or 2 of figures) six
months before the conference. A couple of months later you find out
if you are accepted. If accepted, you have another month or two to
write the full/final version of the paper.

Journal publication (sometimes known as archival publication) serves
to preserve your ideas and results indefinitely. Hundreds or
thousands of libraries will keep copies of your paper for decades.

It’s OK to submit a conference paper to a journal (this is common
and encouraged, if it’s a good conference paper).

It’s OK to submit the same ideas to two different conferences if they
are in two different communities as long as you let both conferences
know that that is what you are planning to do. If you’re working on
the border between two fields (say robotics and MEMS), this may be the
only way to get people in both fields aware of your ideas.

It’s NOT ok to submit the same ideas to two conferences in the same
field, although lots of people do this (see LPI, below).

It’s absolutely NOT ok to submit the same ideas to two journals, same
field, different field, whatever. Your ideas should be archived once

LPI vs. innovation
Many people seem to like to pad their resumes with conference
publications. This leads to phrases like “least publishable
increment” and “epsilon improvement”. Don’t do this.

Most academic communities are pretty small, and the people on top
usually have pretty good memories. As a result, your reputation
is extremely important to your success.

Things to avoid:
– promising more in the abstract than you deliver in the paper
– misleading or vague results, descriptions, etc. (Stealth Research)
– LPI/epsilon publishing

Note that your reputation is intimately tied with the reputation of
your advisor, your colleagues in your group, BSAC, and to some extent
UC Berkeley as a whole. On the plus side, you get a huge dose of
reputation (most of it good) just by being in BSAC. On the down side,
if you screw up you put a little tarnish on the reputation of everyone
you work with.

Highest goal
Publish something that other people find so useful that they start
doing it themselves.
Writing conference abstracts

Be absolutely brutally honest. Describe carefully what you have done,
what you haven’t done, and what you expect to do by the conference

Give clear reasons why your work is important
– best performance so far (cite specific examples)
– completely new capability
– completely new idea

The abstract will never be published, so you can afford to be a little
more harsh and forward in your comparisons to other work. Sadly, this
often makes a big difference in getting accepted. Don’t forget that
some of the people you compare to will be reading the abstract!
Author lists for publications

There are no simple guidelines for who should go on the author list, or
in what order. If someone is involved in the creation of the ideas that
are in the paper, then they should definitely be on the author list. If
they helped out with some of the testing, or helped you debug a design,
or edited a version or two of the paper, then they deserve a mention in
the acknowledgements for sure, but not necessarily inclusion in the
author list. In general, adding another person to the author list doesn’t
“cost” you anything in terms of credit, so it’s ok to err on the side of

Written by Bhushan Kulkarni

January 4, 2007 at 11:37 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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