Monday, January 19, 2004

I'm Back

Thanks to Scott Aaronson for covering for me last week. If you've enjoyed the last week, check out more of his writings. Maybe the weblog bug has bit him and he will start his own blog someday.

I feel the need to remark on Scott's advice post and comments, particularly the following paragraph (having just come back from a week of skiing and no research).

So then, how do you do original research? By throwing your entire life into it. Many researchers play piano, go to clubs, sail, etc., but if they're any good they probably think about research while they're doing these things. I know grad students who never suffer the indignity of working late into the night. They go surfing with friends every weekend and are constantly away on road trips. At this rate, they'll enjoy life more than I will but won't be successful researchers.

Your success in academics, like any professional endeavor, depends in part on how much effort you put into it with the relationship far more than linear. But by no means is social life and a productive research career incompatible. Most academics eventually find a life partner and many of us have children. We have many non-academic hobbies and activities even as graduate students. The trick is to find the right balance between your academic and non-academic activities, a difficult task but far from impossible. I truly admire the massive works of Paul Erdös, but I would never trade my life for the one he led.

And now a message for Warren, the college freshman with a potential interest in graduate school. Take some computer science classes and lots of math classes, particularly probability, algebra and logic. But most important of all, don't worry about research now. Enjoy your college days, get involved in lots of activities, have an active social life. You'll have plenty of time for research in graduate school.

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