Kevin's Advising Philosophy in a Nutshell
Our students are the most valuable product of university, even more so than
the research we perform here. New ideas come and go; students continue to
contribute to society for their entire careers.
In addition to the obvious skills required for sound experimental work,
success requires the talent to work independently, be a self-starter, write
well, and be creative! I work one-on-one with my students to develop these
capabilities. Although my strategy will be unique for each student and
evolve as they progress through the program, in general I try to adhere to the
- Students should develop their own research ideas. I help
guide the research in directions that I think will have the most impact and
likelihood of success, but the Ph.D. program is about learning how to do
research. Taste in selecting a good research project and effective
approach are essential skills
- Students should do their own writing. If students can't
express their ideas clearly and persuasively, they won't have impact.
I coach the writing, but generally expect the students to develop initial
drafts and revise themselves.
- Students should present their own work. An effective
conference talk is a great advertisement for the student, and I encourage
frequent presentations in group meetings to help develop the necessary
skills in crafting the slides and delivery.
- Students should be involved in professional activities that are
aligned with their career goals. This develops skills that will be
necessary after graduation and helps ensure that students appreciate the
various activities their career will entail. Depending on specific
career goals, this includes participation in proposals, reviewing, and
reports; organizing workshops and tutorials; releasing open-source tools;
and sitting in on various forms of professional meetings whenever possible.
- Students should network. This includes attending
professional events such as conferences, spending time with visiting
speakers, and emailing directly with colleagues working on related research
(without me as intermediary)
- Students should collaborate. Almost every career, whether
in academia, industry, or government service requires collaboration in the
development and implementation of ideas. Collaboration during graduate
school is valuable training. Furthermore, collaboration usually
produces a synergy as ideas and implementations, are combined, challenged
and improved, making collaboration one of the most effective routes to
success and impact. Most of the work in my group involves
collaborations in groups of 2-3 students and often with the guidance of 2-3
- Students must learn how to balance work and personal lives.
Grad school can be consuming, and the department can easily become the
extent of one's social life. It is important to work when at work and
have fun when away from work!
- Students must learn time management skills. It is
increasingly rare to be able to dedicate oneself to a single task. I
try to help students learn how to multi-task and avoid procrastination.
- Students should stand up for their ideas. I expect and
encourage students to challenge their peers and me in a tactful way when
they have ideas, questions, or clarifications. This is an essential
skill for career success.