My life as a Ph.D. student, S01E07: Pondering life and others’ life

While my life has been not quite eventful for the past months, I do want to mention one thing I didn’t see coming.

Two professors came to ask me about my former Yao-class classmates who are applying to their open PhD positions. Incidentally both of them will be hiring their first batch of students, so that’s presumably an important decision for them.

And one of the two students in question also turned to me for help. That’s very important to them for sure!

I wondered why my classmates are applying for PhD now instead of at this time last year in the first place… Maybe they did a one-year Master’s program. Maybe they took a one-year gap. I really didn’t know. I should have known better about my classmates. That’s my bad.

Well, you can’t really blame me on that. In a place like Yao-class, everyone cares about themselves.

It feels strange. Just months ago you were still classmates. Now you kind of have a say on their future. I don’t even feel qualified to give my opinions on their performances that could be taken very seriously! But I said what I knew and what I thought. Even if I can’t help them, I hope that I at least didn’t hinder them.

Life is so strange and unpredictable after all.

When you have nothing to do, you think about life. Like what I did several days ago when I left my laptop in the lab at night and was sitting at my desk in my apartment, facing the wall, grabbing a Subway.

“If you are what you eat, then after years half of me would be made of Subway!”

Well, I didn’t think about sandwiches.

Why do PhD? That’s the one question every PhD student keep asking himself. It’s a hard one. Sometimes you also ask, why is everyone doing PhD?

Look at ourselves. We are Yao-class graduates. It’s good to be humble but we can just be bold and say that we are the top CS students from China and among the most intelligent ones of all Chinese students. We could probably achieve success easily in many fields with our talent. But most of us choose to do the one least cost-efficient thing. It seems that it has become some kind of obligation. If you are the best student, you do PhD.

Let’s not think too hard about it. For us is has been a long and lonely journey to get where we are, and let’s hope that the answer would become clear further down the road.

My life as a Ph.D. student, S01E06: Entering working mode

I haven’t written anything here for two months… That’s what happens when you have research to do and no interesting story to tell. Now that several months has passed since I arrived here, the feeling of freshness is completely gone, and its time for serious work.

I don’t know how an average student spend the very earliest stage of his academic career – before his first publication. It must take some unusual talent to give big results and publish first-author top conference papers outright! I guess many have to do some mundane task as part of a large project, then get his first publication as a credit for his work. Then I should be happy that I don’t have those mundane task to do!

I’m basically still exploring GANs. I’ve probably found a way to generate high-resolution images with a single model. It would be really exciting if I can beat the state-of-the-art, but I’ll still consider it to be a good experience even if I can’t. I’ve learned a lot about neural networks, and I got a lot of interesting ideas to try, which I won’t tell you before I publish 🙂

The life is kind of dull, though. This is probably the first time in my life when I could keep working hard for weeks, but also the first time when I sometimes feel mentally exhausted. I know that that’s gonna be the norm. The world is in turmoil, but as long as WWIII does not happen and no one is shooting at you, it won’t make your life any different. As long as progress in your work keeps you cheered up things would be fine, but if you got stuck in your work and at the same time does not have a life, it would be bleak…

The semester is over. But you don’t really have holidays as a PhD student. You always have one conference submission deadline after another, and for me next year’s SIGGRAPH would be the first one. We are not sure if we could do what we want yet, but I hope we could, of course.