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Finding and Training Your Advisor. 2013 CRA-W Graduate Cohort Workshop. Diane Litman PROFESSOR COMPUTER SCIENCE DEPT UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH. *Thanks to prior speakers for these slides and content. Diane Litman. Education MS/PhD: University of Rochester, 1986

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2013 cra w graduate cohort workshop

Finding and Training Your Advisor

2013 CRA-W Graduate Cohort Workshop

Diane Litman




*Thanks to prior speakers for these slides and content.

Diane litman
Diane Litman

  • Education

    • MS/PhD: University of Rochester, 1986

    • AB: College of William and Mary, 1980

  • Positions

    • 2001-present: University of Pittsburgh

      • Computer Science Department (Associate/Full Professor)

      • Intelligent Systems Program (Secondary Appointment, Past/Upcoming Director)

      • Learning Research and Development Center (Research/Senior Scientist)

    • 1985-2001: AT&T Labs - Research (formerly Bell Laboratories)

      • Artificial Intelligence Principles Research Department (Member of/Principal Technical Staff)

    • 1990-1992: Columbia University

      • Computer Science Department (Assistant Professor)

  • Service

    • Chair (elected): North American Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics, 2000-2001, 2002-2003

    • Editorial Boards (current): Journal of AI Research, Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics

    • Member of many technical program committees

    • Speaker: CRA-W Graduate Cohort, 2007

My research areas
My Research Areas

  • Speech and Language Processing

    • Spoken Dialogue Systems

    • Enabling Technologies

  • Artificial Intelligence in Education

    • Tutorial Dialogue

    • Web-Enabled Peer Review

    • Automated Essay Assessment

  • Knowledge Representation and Reasoning, Natural Language Learning, and User Modeling

Advanced degree research need an advisor mentor
Advanced Degree == researchNeed an Advisor/Mentor

  • At some point in your graduate career, you need to find a research adviser/mentor

  • How do you do that? What is important about the process and that choice?

What is a research advisor
What is a Research Advisor?

Learning to do research – Apprentice relationship: Explains, shows and helps you do research

  • Find a research problem

  • Get a proper background: literature, skills at critical reading and understanding

  • Apprentice research --

    • How to identify problems worthy of Ph.D

    • How to tackle problems

    • Organize and write papers & proposals

    • Give talks

What is a mentor
What is a Mentor?

  • A Mentor

    • acts as advocate for your professional & personal development as well as research

    • develops and lasts over an extended period of time

    • provides help, advice, contacts, and information

    • provides encouragement and acts as advocate

  • Research advisor may or may not be a mentor

Need both or more
Need both , or more

  • If advisor not a mentor, need to find one – or more

  • Could be in department or not

  • Could be in research area but in different university or industry

  • Can have more than 1 mentor

  • Finding a research advisor that is also a mentor is ideal, but you can find a mentor elsewhere!

Expectations from the combination of advisor and mentor
Expectations from the combination of advisor and mentor

Beyond research:

  • Help build confidence – encouragement

  • Helping with networking

    • Conferences, workshops, email

  • Helps prepare you for talks

  • Helps prepare you for interviews

  • Helps with funding

Finding an advisor
Finding an Advisor

  • Two important components

    • The research

    • The personality

Doing a phd is not easy
Doing a PhD is not easy

  • It takes sustained work in an area

  • There are many hurdles to get over

    But the rewards are amazing!!!

  • You need a research area/topic that you truly enjoy and can have passion about

  • You need an advisor that will help you achieve your potential

  • Where are you now
    Where are you now?

    • Best case situation: you know what research you want to do before you even choose your school

    • In this case: you don’t shop for a school, you shop for an advisor

    Don t know your research area
    Don’t know your research area?

    • You need to shop for one – but you should consider advisor personalities as you do so

    • How?

      • Take classes

      • Talk to professors

      • Do projects with professors

      • Talk to other students about the faculty

    Finding evaluating an advisor
    Finding/evaluating an advisor

    • Is the person in a research area you like?

    • Is the person’s work current and relevant? Funded? Where published?

    • How many students does she supervise?

    • How long does it take students to finish?

    • What is the placement of past students?

    • Are students given responsibilities?

    • How responsive is advisor?

      • How long to return written materials?

      • How accessible?

      • How helpful?

    Finding evaluating an advisor1
    Finding/evaluating an advisor

    • How much freedom does the student have?

      • Learn to do research – find problems

    • Does the advisor publish with students? What is the order of names?

    • Who presents the papers that are co-authored?

    • Does the person take students to conferences and help with networking?

    • Are the person’s work habits compatible with own?

    How to find out
    How to find out

    • Look at faculty’s web page

    • TALK to current and past students!

    • Work on a small project with her/him

    • Take a class from faculty member

    Advisor student relationship
    Advisor/Student Relationship

    • Not one size fits all!

    • There needs to be a match for you

      • What motivates you

        • Praise/criticism?

      • What is your working style

        • Groups (what size) versus alone?

        • Pressured or relaxed?

        • One track or multi-task?

        • Quiet or hustle and bustle?

        • Regular meetings or on-demand?

    Barriers to good mentoring
    Barriers to good mentoring

    • Faculty member doesn’t have enough time to devote to mentoring

      • Being too busy is not acceptable

    • Faculty member and student are in competition with each other

    • Faculty member and student lack personal experience with people of different backgrounds

    • Trust/Respect is not there – different agenda

    • Communication problems – listening

    • Unrealistic expectations

    Do and don ts
    Do and Don’ts


    • Listen and consider advice of adviser

    • Talk to adviser if you have problem in research

    • Make sure you are getting what you need from an adviser

    • Talk to adviser if not satisfied

    • Make sure (mutual) expectations are clear


    • Criticize your adviser in public

    • Get too involved personally with adviser – including intimate relationship

    It doesn t always work out
    It doesn’t always work out

    • Sometimes an advisor/advisee don’t work out together

    • The earlier this can be identified, the better off you are

    • Be honest and open about any problems

    • May need to simply find another advisor!

      • Funding implications?

      • Hard feeling? (hopefully not!)

    • Don’t bad mouth your advisor even if you switch

    Advisor mentors

    • Advisors and Mentors – very special people in your life. Relationship will have lasting effects on your career and your life

    • A mentor relationship(s) grow over time – and may be found in unexpected places

    • These are important relationships and having a match is something that takes some thought.

      Take the time to do it right!

    2013 cra w graduate cohort workshop