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What would you have done differently if you had to go back?

  1. Jan 31, 2015 #1
    Those who are later in their academic career, what do you wish you know when you were first starting out?

    • What was/is your undergraduate and/or graduate degree?
    • What did you specialize in, if any?
    • What have you know learned about your particular major/specialization that you wish you knew when you were starting out, and what would you have done differently?
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 31, 2015 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    I'd have had more sex ... though it's hard to see how I would have figured that out without becoming a total jerk, without messing up so much like I actually did.

    This is pretty much the problem with this sort of thing - some stuff you just have to work out the hard way.
    The trick is to avoid doing stuff you'll feel upset about people finding out about - thus: no regrets.

    My undergrad degree was Engineering - no Computer science, no physics ... perhaps what I could have done at the start was to settle on something sooner: looks better for scholarships and on the academic record - but then I wouldn't have such a broad experience base which lead me to more varied and interesting tasks, and I would not have developed the outlook I have.

    Speciality was Solid State - but really it was "weird problems". Stuff people didn't see how to handle right away like modelling bacteria growth in food, figuring out how to reduce the foam in beer vats. Things you wouldn't think of as physics problems. There was one about designing bikini strings to handle big boobs better (this one had a grant) but someone else got it first. Poor guy, having to work in close proximity with scantily clad models .... anyway, snap out of it, it also lead into stuff like law and education.

    What I learned about solid state is that it is basically boring - I would advise me to push harder for more interesting problems.

    Mostly I think I'd advise me to take more advantage of my supervisor - really be a pain in the butt.
    But if I'd done that, I'd still be an academic today ... probably would not, i.e. have toured the country with Richard Stallman.
    I would probably be much more of a hard-ass too ... not so laid back. And I wouldn't be here.

    The lesson I want to push is:
    The mistakes you made in the past made you what you are, it is the same for the future mistake ... if you are at the other end of the journey I've just taken, then do not be afraid to make mistakes. Don't be afraid of other people finding out about your mistakes. Don't be afraid to be open and honest - but be smart about it. Follow your passion - intelligently. Do not regret - it's all AP. Apply what you learn - everywhere.

    Oh... and fall in love lots.
     
  4. Jan 31, 2015 #3
    That asking other people about their mistakes does nothing to prevent you from making all of your own. Seems counter-intuitive but you're going to screw up no matter how much advice you get.
     
  5. Feb 2, 2015 #4

    Simon Bridge

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    It is possible to learn from someone elses mistakes. That's part of why we have education institutions to begin with.
    You will still make your own mistakes though. Mistakes are inevitable... it's how we learn new stuff. Since mistakes tend to be personal, it is usually mote productive to ask for advice someone would give [ i]you[/i] tather than the advise they'd give their younger selves. Providing that advise is pretty much what education institutes are set up to do.

    On being wrong and losing arguments.
    http://ed.ted.com/lessons/on-being-wrong-kathryn-schulz
    https://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_h_cohen_for_argument_s_sake?language=en
     
  6. Feb 4, 2015 #5
    I always refer people to The Next Generation episode Tapestry when they ask this question, it has a nice statement at the end...

     
  7. Feb 6, 2015 #6

    mathwonk

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    I would have tried not to miss any classes, and to do more of the reading, and to think and discuss more with others about the ideas being presented. I would also have taken more "appreciation" courses, such as music and art and maybe history and literature. A good course on Shakespeare was probably one of my favorite college experiences. I'm not sure I should have been so cocky as to take so many advanced courses for which I did not have the prerequisites, or maybe I rather wish I had been more diligent at working hard enough to make up for it.
    I have a PhD in math (algebraic geometry). I did find it useful in algebraic geometry to know good bit of several complex variables first and some algebraic topology. It would have been nice to know more algebra, both commutative ring theory and group representations.
     
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2015
  8. Feb 6, 2015 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    I wish I had taken a creative writing class in undergrad (or even as a grad student)- the ability to write a compelling narrative is an essential skill for journal articles and grant proposals.
     
  9. Feb 6, 2015 #8

    symbolipoint

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    The problem about that for some people is that they are not mature enough at that age to best handle a creative writing course. With that thought, a creative writing course IS beneficial for some people, even if a person takes such a course several years after finishing the undergrad degree. In my case, I went through one much after graduating, at a time that I could make the course more meaningful.
     
  10. Feb 6, 2015 #9
    Not mature enough at that age? Maybe its because I'm young, but once you get to your college age range anyone who is capable of taking that course and making use of it should be mature enough at that age. Its not like we're talking about a 14 year old here. Is there something I'm missing?
     
  11. Feb 6, 2015 #10
    I wish I'd started at community college. I went straight from high school to a private university. Getting all of the math and science I'd need for electrical engineering out of the way at junior college would have cost a few thousand dollars rather than the 75 grand for those two years at private college.
     
  12. Feb 6, 2015 #11

    symbolipoint

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    ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE. Even someone 20 to 25 years of age in college is not necessarily very mature.
     
  13. Feb 6, 2015 #12
    Wow that's a very good piece of information to hear. I'm currently enrolled into a community college and I feel like such a low-level student because of it. I feel that I'm inferior to those at a university, but in the grand scheme of things I do realize its a better choice. However, that thought still doesn't escape my head.
     
  14. Feb 7, 2015 #13

    Choppy

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    I'm not sure I follow this line of thought. How can someone not be mature enough for a creative writing course and yet mature enough to handle other university courses?
     
  15. Feb 7, 2015 #14

    symbolipoint

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    Too common so just follow it; you have probably seen it yourself and not recognized that someone or few or several are less mature. I HAVE already seen too much immaturity among college students. To you, it MAY look like something else. It might appear as lack of experience; it may look like a dislike for a group of people or a particular subject/subject area; or it may look more like ... anything different from how you would expect.
     
  16. Feb 7, 2015 #15

    Choppy

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    I'm fairly confident I can recognize a lack of maturity in it's various forms. I agree that there are some, and perhaps many, students who suffer from a lack of maturity in university. But your comment seemed to imply that a creative writing course somehow required more maturity than other courses, such as those in physics or mathematics, and I was curious what the line of reasoning was.

    Speaking from my own experience with English literature, I know that when I was introduced to Shakespeare in high school, my own lack of maturity prevented me from really understanding a lot of the material. I could memorize it, explain it, and identify the literary devices as I was taught. At the time I really disliked it. Studying Shakespeare felt like a horrible waste of time for someone who planned to go on to become a scientist. But now that I'm older, I realize that there was a lot of context that I missed out on. At the time I didn't know what unrequited love really felt like, for example. It was only later in life that I looked back on some of the Shakespearian prose that thought, oh, that's what he was talking about.

    The thing is though, I didn't need to have all that life experience in order to take the course. I needed to be mature enough to sit through an hour and fifteen minutes of it two or three times a week. But that was it.

    And when you start to impose maturity as a threshold for something, it becomes incredibly difficult to enforce or even objectively identify. If you could reliably an easily do that we would use maturity thresholds instead of minimum age requirements for issuing driver's licences or for identifying who can legally purchase alcoholic beverages.
     
  17. Feb 8, 2015 #16

    symbolipoint

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    choppy comments:
    Possibly a different kind of maturity.

    Also, Mathematics and natural sciences generally require less maturity than social-type sciences. Maybe this is debatable, since one can say that persistence at examining and studying something is part of maturity.
     
  18. Feb 8, 2015 #17
    There is one thing I would do differently, more than anything else (be it love, sex or anything non-academic): get a summer internship or two. Then I wouldn't have had to do a masters at home (even if it meant attending a lower-ranked PhD program than Minnesota, although whether I will attend Minnesota for a PhD after all will depend on the rest of the application season)
     
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