Saturday, June 28, 2003

Care and Maintenance of Graduate Students: to Do and Not to Do
  • Do provide food. We're not so evolved past grade school, after all. Feed me and I'll love you forever.
  • Do show interest in their research. This works for almost all academics. Just ask a few technical questions and don't obviously fall asleep during the answer. It's a nice bonus if you understand the answer, but it's not a prerequisite.
  • Do say thank you in response to help, and otherwise show common courtesies.
  • Do allow ample time when requesting some piece of work.
  • Do make general overtures of friendliness.
  • Do not observe how pointless and stupid our research is, even if we've been grousing about the same.
  • Do not make disparaging comments about how much less work we do than we might in the real world. In particular, do not make such remarks near paper deadlines, near the end of the term, or at other times when the typical graduate student work day lasts 12-18 hours (possibly just 10 on weekends).
  • Do not ask patronizingly why we have not done easy task X. If it's that easy, you can do it yourself.
  • Do not take cheerleading credit. It's important to give and take credit for monetary and intellectual contributions made. On the other hand, saying go do X, go team! then doing nothing and taking credit for whatever good may result -- that's just bad form.
  • Do not try to coax the graduate student with e-mails in bright colors, large capitals, or other textual gimmicks. After a day spent ruining my vision reading technical papers, the last thing I want to read is a brightly colored e-mail telling me that I'm not doing enough.
  • Do not tell us we're all social misfits in an ivory tower (even if you think it's true).
  • Do not ask us to do something and then ask is it done yet too frequently.
  • Do not ask us to do something in a way that implies that we're incompetent for not having done it yet. At least, do not make such a request when it's something we would need to do as a favor.
  • Do not assume we know everything about fields that are sort of like our own. Not every computer scientist knows all the latest video games, nor do we all carry around soldering irons in our hip pockets. This is not to say that none of us do so...
  • Do not ask when we are graduating.

By following these simple rules, you can extract inordinate amounts of labor and perhaps a few interesting ideas from a typical graduate student. To cause a graduate student to sink further into bitterness and to suffer bouts of pure rage, perform actions in the do not list, preferably with sufficient frequency that your victim has few time resources and emotional resources left to do anything useful.

I played in the pool and ate dinner with friends when I got home from work. I feel so much better now than I did earlier in the day.