Sarah Guthals
Dec 5, 2015 · 4 min read

PhDs — hmmm.

Be Mentally Prepared (Well you can’t be, but know that :P )

Identify an Interest

Steps for Coming up with an Idea:

  • People don’t know where their partners are throughout the day.
  • Networks require too much infrastructure, which is difficult to achieve in 3rd world countries.
  • People have many devices that they need to work with throughout the day.
  • People don’t want to keep their receipts, but then when they need to return something they can’t find them.
  • People don’t know how to keep their bodies healthy in a typical work environment.
  • Apple’s Find my Friends app
  • (I actually don’t know much about networks :P )
  • Chrome allows you to sign in to every device.
  • Store Cards that keep track of all of your purchases with your phone number.
  • Percko (Awesome Kickstarter! :P )
  • People are on different devices and want to give different levels of information to different people
  • (I actually don’t know much about networks…still )
  • What about people who code? It’s not easy to leave one computer and start on another, unless you use something like git…but that can be a hassle.
  • Now you have to have an “account” with every store and what if you change your phone number?
  • What are the aspects of “health” that matter to different people?

How much do you have to know NOW?

The Non-Research Questions

There are also a lot of other things that you have to consider.

  • Where do you want to live? You will live there for a while probably and, for example, I wouldn’t have been able to do it in Washington State — It would have been too hard for me because of the weather.
  • What do you want to do afterwards? This will change probably 5 times throughout, but identify your goal for getting the PhD. Is it so that you can move up in the company? Is it to explore cool ideas you have? Is it for the status of getting one? Is it because you’re bored at work? Is it because you want to be a professor? All of these are valid — so don’t feel guilty for feeling any or all of these!
  • Know that it is OK to walk away at any point. If you identify (and keep changing and identifying) your goal for the PhD as you go — know that it might come to a point where finishing isn’t really something you need. And that is OK too! Leaving with a Master’s, or just getting out, all of that is perfectly OK.
  • Know the type of work environment you will need. Different advisors and different schools have different ways of engaging with their students. So make sure you really think about what kind of advisor you want (very hands on?), what kind of lab (a large one where 5 people all work on the same project?), and what kind of other requirements you might be interested in (TAing required?). These — though not the actual research — can make or break you throughout the PhD. And it’s OK to change your mind while going through it, but it’s worth thinking about now so that you can ask those kinds of questions when and if you identify schools you are interested in.

    Sarah Guthals

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