Game of Human | Book Review: The Ph.D. Grind

Recently I read the The Ph.D. Grind: A Ph.D. Student Memoir by Phillip Guo. The book is a memoir about the six-year-long Ph.D. program of the author at Stanford University.

The author spent the first three years working on a project called Klee which he is not interested in at all and made no paper published about it. Later on, he explored based on his own interests in programming efficiency and built five different tools to improve programming efficiency, and finally combined these five projects into his dissertation.

In this memorial, the author reflects on his programs and talk about several useful tips and common properties about Ph.D. program and academia. Compared with the book The A-Z of the Ph.D. Trajectory, this book is more private and more emotional instead of only a reference book.

From my perspective, what impressed me most from the book is that we should remember that everyone in this academic game (advisor, professor, colleague, classmates..) is human-being instead of some academic/writing machine---- It is straightforward but ignorant easily. They have their own motivations or purposes. When the author tries to propel one project with his advisor, the project doesn't align with the research field of his advisor. So though the advisor agreed with his proposal, the professor doesn't so focus on this project which leads to the failure.

Another example is 'Klee' itself. The advisor of the author is tenured, which the advisor can take risks of making difficult and long-term projects. But the cycle of a Ph.D. program is pretty short, it can be dangerous for a student to devote to such a project with the risk of no output in five or six years. The inconsistency of the purposes of the advisor and students thus leads to the failure (drop) of the student.

The book is helpful also in many other aspects. The author talks about how the process of the publication of the paper and the process of the whole Ph.D. program from the view of a student. What's more, the book discusses what we should do if some paper gets rejected.

The book is about the Ph.D. program in the computer science department, but it did show some common features of any Ph.D. program. And I'd like to recommend the book to any Ph.D. student.

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