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PhDs and the Art of Balancing

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  1. PhDs and the Art of Balancing Simon Colton

  2. Why Me? • From Julie: • “Talk about your PhD experiences • Both the actual work and the experience of doing it” • “I'd thought you'd be good as its not long since you've finished [you’re PhD] and you are up-beat etc., and would tell it like it is.”

  3. But More Importantly • “I asked Marek [Sergot] to give the talk, but he turned me down, so I thought I’d ask you instead!”

  4. This Talk • Who on Earth is Simon Colton? • My PhD Topic • My PhD Life • Some Advice??

  5. Story so far Computational Bioinformatics Room 407 Lectureship Imperial 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 PostDoc Edin+York PhD in AI Edinburgh Masters (+maths) Liverpool BritCoal+MidSoft BSc. Maths Durham

  6. My Research Interests Scientific Discovery Artificial Intelligence Maths Bioinfo Bioinformatics Music? Machine Creativity Teaching Research

  7. My PhD • Topic • Automated Theory Formation in Pure Maths • Supervisors • Alan Bundy and Toby Walsh • Started: 1996 • Handed in thesis: 2000 (exactly 4 years) • Thesis ~450 pages (350+80+20) • External examiner: Stephen Muggleton • Graduated: 2001

  8. Automated Theory Formation • Devised a theory for math. theory formation • And implemented it in a program called HR • Basic cycle: Choose best old concept Assess the theory Invent new concept Attempt to settle conjs Make conjectures

  9. Scientific Highlights of PhD • HR first to work in different domains • Group theory, Graph theory, Number theory • HR first to talk to third party maths software • Otter theorem prover, MACE model generator • Complete the cycle of theory formation • HR added to the mathematical literature • Encyclopedia of Integer Sequences • Journal paper about these sequences

  10. Some Nice Examples • Taken from work in number theory • Concepts invented and conjectures made by HR • Theorems proved by me • Perfect numbers are pernicious • Odd refactorable numbers are square • If the sum of divisors is a prime • Then the number of divisors is prime • tau(sigma(n)) = 2  tau(tau(n)) = 2

  11. Other Highlights of PhD • 2 journal, 2 conference, 6 workshop papers • Free trip to America (AAAI’98 Doc. Consort) • Paid for by US Navy and Microsoft • Best paper award at AAAI’00 (written during Phd) • Wrote a successful EPSRC grant (£150k) • Chaired a workshop on scientific creativity • My work was mentioned in the New Scientist • Won distinguished dissertation award • Thesis published by Springer in 2002

  12. How Did I Do All This? • By only ever doing something if: • It eventually put (quality) words into my thesis • Writing code, doing research • Writing papers, giving talks, arranging workshops • It put bread on the table • Marking, tutoring, private maths tuition, bar work • Writing grant proposal

  13. My Devotion to Avoiding Everything Else • I attended some AI classes • But did my own research at the back • I submitted a thesis proposal • But six months late, when it could be turned into a journal paper (literature survey) • I didn’t participate in “thesis defence” talks • There’s no way I would have taken exams at the end of my first year!! • The (majority) of good students are punished because of the (minority) of bad students

  14. Only Two Things in Life Are Guaranteed Lectureship Imperial 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 2002 2001 2000 1999 1998 1997 1996 1995 1994 1993 1992 1991 PostDoc Edin+York PhD Carreer Development PhD in AI Edinburgh Student Loans Masters (+maths) Liverpool BritCoal+MidSoft 1st year PhD take home: £3,500 BSc. Maths Durham Study Debt

  15. Some Advice(take it or probably leave it) • You are no longer “students” • You’re advisor should learn as much from you • Creative research is (more?) important than learning • Supervise your supervisors • Academics are busy people • But they have a commitment to you • Write papers • And then write some more • Nothing focuses the mind more than a 6 side limit • Getting a PhD is 10% effort • And 90% choosing the right external examiner • Try to balance everything…

  16. The Art of Balancing #1 • Work and play • You’re only human after all • Learning and creating • Beware the dreaded PhD-itis • Real work and thesis avoidance • Writing shell scripts to organise your life! • Being a Beethoven or a Mozart (Bundy or Walsh?) • Does your PhD have to be a masterpiece? • Is it more important to get on with your life?

  17. The Art of Balancing #2 • Credit where credit’s due • Acknowledge supervisor, but take credit where possible (NS) • Single author papers are very valuable • And deserved towards the end of your PhD • You are meant to be the expert in this area • Today and tomorrow • Think about post-Phd long before your money runs out • I wrote my grant proposal at the end of my 2nd year • You can’t write your thesis if you can’t eat! • Writing a thesis while employed for a company is very hard

  18. The Art of Celebrating • Bear in mind how great it will be to hold your thesis in your hand and call yourself “doctor”. • My seven days of celebration • Handing in thesis • Passing Viva • Finishing corrections (bye bye thesis) • Graduation day • Notification of award for thesis • Collection of award • Publication of book

  19. The Life-Change-O-meter Change in Lifestyle Others Hand In Viva Corrections Graduation

  20. But what do I know? • I did only one Phd! • And that was in AI, not CS • Everyone around here knows better than me • PhD organisers • PhD supervisors • Everyone else • Especially you guys • Good luck with your PhDs