Guidelines to Current Ph.D Students

All students of Dr. Peng should follow the following lab rules.

  • Consult your advisor first! When you have any official questions regarding your PhD work (including the dept exams, major/minor, course requirements, TA, etc), you must read the official website and resources first. If you still have quesitons, you should talk to me or at least notify me BEFORE you officially consult others at the department.

  • Email Check: first and last thing every workday! You need to check your email whenever you start and finish your work every day. When you receive the email from your advisor or the group member, you are expected to respond right away in most cases or no later than 24 hr in all cases. Stay reachable in your work day.

  • How to reach your advisor? Email! I am usually on the email and reply quickly. For anything urgent, you can call me or Skype me. I am almost online during any work time. If you need to discuss the research problems in person (out of our regular meetings), you are OK to walk-in after you send an email to briefly describe your intent.

  • Can I work at home or somewhere? For most CS projects, research work can be done at any place (with your laptop, not necessarily in the lab). However, it is usually counterproductive working at home or some other places. As a result, you are expected to work at lab for certain quality hours on every weekday. If one day you do not come to the lab because you are sick, or you work from home, or any other reason, please let me know by email. If you work from home, email responsiveness is expected. If you are sick, all my wishes of quick recovery.

  • How much time are I expected to work everyday? There is a rule of thumb, called The 10,000 Hour Rule. The idea is that you need to work 10,000 hours to master a skill. As a PhD student - say you plan to finish in 5 years -, roughly speaking, you need to work 10,000 /5 /365 = 5.5 hours each day for 5 years. Of course, you won't be working on holidays and weekends. Say you work for 5 days a week, you roughly need to work 5.5 x 7 /5 = 7.7 hours per day. However, the key is not the quantity, but the quality. I feel that it is enough for you to work a minimum of 5-6 quality hours (with no or little distraction) on weekdays, except those just prior to the deadlines. quality hours means that you are fully devoted to your work and work efficiently ( Most importantly, as a PhD student, you are expected to spend most of your time mentally THINKING about research problems rather than technically coding/writing. In most cases, thinking is much more time consuming and least evident. We usually can't think for a long time every day. There is no need, either. So just plan your time well and work hard when your brain works well. Relax or work on easy stuffs (e.g., figure plotting, presentation, memo, paper reading, others) when your brain needs a context switch.

  • Vacation and traveling back to your home country. Please send me an email BEFORE you book vacations (Yes, before you book the flight). I usually approve, but I want to know. Even if you told me orally, you still send me an EMAIL. It is usually “natural” to take a vacation right after the deadline of MobiCom, MobiSys, SIGCOMM, NSDI or other decent conference venues, you should still let me know if you want to take a vacation. If you are involved in a project, it is probably not reasonable to take ten days without working within 3 months to the deadline. For example, for a MobiCom submission, 10 days off around the Winter break is not reasonable. You're welcome to work remotely though. I consider 2-4 weeks of vacation per year (if you work with me for the whole year including the summer) a reasonable amount. Of course, this can be modulated by your efforts and productivity (e.g. if you work 80 quality hours a week and publish 2+ top conference papers a year, I probably don't mind your request for your fifth/sixth week of vacation).

  • Putting your work in one place. For each paper (project), I advise you to dedicate a separate working folder in our internal server (wiki or owncloud). It is extremely strongly recommended that you post all relevant materials online (internally shared), including but not limited to src (source code), doc (documents, slides, reports, memos), data (raw and processed data), paper (latex source files, figures, bibtex files), ref (reference relevant to this project. It is up to your preference to put all the reference in one folder and please add important references into bibtex (copying and revising googlescholar cite formats). You are also expected to keep one accumulative doc (slide is preferred) which link to all the useful progress you have made for this paper. Putting code online is greatly encouraged and managing it via github/gitlab is a great habit.

  • 1:1 meeting, project meeting and weekly report. We will have regular project meeting or 1:1 meeting, depending on whether you are teaming up with someone else on one project. Everyone has to work on a weekly report which records what you have done (in course, research, study, any work relevant to your PhD) unless you get my approval and send it one night before our meeting. Before the meeting, you are expected to send me the “written” document on the meeting agenda, which includes the key things we are going to discuss, at least 1 hour ahead. Usually, at the meeting, we discuss the progress so far, the problems we face and figure out solution (discussion) and action items. Be prepared and organize yourself well. After the meeting, it is REQUIRED to write down the memo and archive what we have discussed. They likely cover the new thoughts/progress, planning, and action items for next week. Please upload and archive your report and all the relevant documents to owncloud (under your personal account) or other places that we agree on (e.g, the place for your ongoing project).

  • Submission rules and internal deadlines. (1) No submission is allowed without an approval. It is fine that you want to submit a paper without your advisor (e.g, during your internship, working with someone else), but please let me know before you submit it. (2) A complete draft must be ready at least 2 weeks ahead of any submission deadline. It is safer to finish it one month before the deadline, particularly for a top-conference submission. Please start the draft early and you may need to double the internal time window as you can see how many rounds we need to revise the submisison. Writing makes you thinking. Once you start to write, you will realize what you do not notice (what is in your mind is different from what you write). (3) A better habit is to organize your thoughts and write them down during the project.

Advices and Tips from Others

PhD: Goals and Lessons

  • Twenty things I wish I’d known when I started my PhD, Nature’18, particularly,

    • Maintain a healthy work–life balance.

    • Discuss expectations with your supervisor.

    • Invest time in literature reviews.

    • Decide on your goals early.

    • Be honest with your supervisor.

    • Back up your work!

    • Socialize with your lab group and other students.

    • Attend departmental seminars and lab-group meetings, even (or especially) when the topic is not your area of expertise.

    • Present your research.

    • Aim to publish your research.

    • Have a life outside work.

    • Don’t compare yourself with others.

    • The nature of research means that things will not always go according to plan.

    • Never struggle on your own. Talk to other students and have frank discussions with your supervisor.

    • Enjoy your PhD!

  • Top 10 Tips to Succeed in Your PhD, link

  • Richard Hamming, You and Your Research (MUST READ): text, Youtube.

    • Some of the reasons why so many people who have greatness within their grasp don't succeed are: they don't work on important problems, they don't become emotionally involved, they don't try and change what is difficult to some other situation which is easily done but is still important, and they keep giving themselves alibis why they don't.

  • Steven Weinberg, Four Gold Lessons, link

    • No one knows everything, and you don't have to.

    • Go for the messes — that's where the action is.

    • Forgive yourself for wasting time.

    • Learn something about the history of science, or at a minimum the history of your own branch of science.

  • Harry Shum, Seven Things I Learned on the Way to Not Achieving My Career Goal, 2019 link

Skills (writing, presentation, review, research/teaching etc.)

  • Nick Feamster, Advice blog, advices on research/teaching, review, writing, presentation, time management, etc.