Re: Re: Re: What are useful for a phd?

From: Ben Goertzel (
Date: Wed Dec 06 2006 - 07:05:07 MST

> > Some universities offer interdisciplinary build-your-own PhD programs,
> Any decent professor should let you build your own PhD, as long as it is
> roughly associated with the adviser's field.

This is partially true... a couple caveats though:

1) Funding for PhD study is often tied to professors' research grants,
which are often tied to particular areas of study. So, if you don't
need funding or if you can get funding through a "teaching
assistantship" (common in math, less so in CS for example), then your
odds of doing a thesis in an area you are interested in are
considerably greater.

2) The flexibility provided by a good adviser, in the US system, is
limited. It mostly applies after the MS level. E.g. to get a PhD in
math you first need an MS in math, which where I got mine involved
taking fairly tough year-end written comprehensive exams in abstract
algebra, real analysis and complex analysis. Not much flexibility
there. OTOH after the MS level I was allowed to pick and choose my
subject areas more flexibly, including (if I filled out forms and got
permissions) taking some classes in allied disciplines like CS and

> Yes, even university professors (the good ones) have a
> love of creativity and exploration!

Certainly.... When I was a professor (for 8 year) I found that around
~15% of the other profs had a healthy spirit of creativity and
exploration. This may seem low, but OTOH, I found the percentage of
undergraduate students possessing such a spirit was much lower. I was
far fonder of graduate students, perhaps 1/3 of whom combined
intelligence with true interest in and excitement for their subject
area. I think that grad school, in the right place (which has as much
to do with the community of grad students as with the curriculum), can
be a really nice opportunity to focus on creative research and
learning. Fun and stimulating, though not necessarily good
preparation for the "real world" ;-pp

-- Ben G

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