Hot answers tagged

40

I was just referred to this question by graduate students that, in my opinion, were far too influenced by the answers. So let me start with two generic advises. To the aspiring scientist: Don't assign too much weight to any answer on such matters, and don't assume that a small and highly non-random sample represents the common views among senior (or non-...


38

I strongly disagree with the "find a list of open problems" approach. Usually open problems are quite hard to make progress on, and I'm thoroughly unconvinced that good research is done by tackling some hard but uninteresting problem in a technical area. That being said, of course solving an open problem is really good for academic credentials. But that's ...


28

No. Publish. The only things that would be actively harmful to your career would be publishing most of your papers in third-tier venues (strongly suggesting that you have mostly third-tier results), or publishing anything in a fake/scam conference (strongly suggesting that you are either dangerously uninformed or a scammer yourself).


27

Let me disagree with the other responses. While there are clearly notable examples of people who can transition to industry and back (see other answers), going to a non-research industrial position, even for a couple years, will make it very hard to return to academia, unless you're already very famous. The reason is not because academics look down on ...


24

In some fields (like e.g. Economics and Mathematics) single authored papers -are- a good thing to have when you go on the job market. In theoretical computer science, collaboration is much more common, and it is not unusual for even relatively senior researchers to have very few single authored papers. It is not at all suspicious if a student on the market ...


21

As someone who helps make hiring and grant decisions involving theoretical computer scientists, I don't care about affiliations. I only care about the quality and impact of the work. If you've been doing high-quality publishable research, you're hirable. If you haven't, you're not. Lots of theoretical computer scientists work in industrial research labs ...


17

Here is one "active" example I know of -- I hope he is not embarrassed... Andreas Bjorklund has been extraordinarily productive in TCS over the last several years, while maintaining a full-time job in industry. You may wish to contact him, to find out how he does it! At this point, I think his research record is impressive enough to gain a faculty position ...


16

Please read William Thurston's answer to the question What's a mathematician to do? on mathoverflow. Just to convince you that it is a must-read, let me quote him. The product of mathematics is clarity and understanding. Not theorems, by themselves. Is there, for example any real reason that even such famous results as Fermat's Last Theorem, or the ...


14

A number of theory faculty (David Karger, Tom Leighton, Shang-hua Teng among others) went to Akamai when it started, and then returned. Rina Panigrahy is not theory faculty, but worked at Cisco for many years before returning to "academia" in MSR. Ken Clarkson was at Lucent the whole time before going to IBM, but spent a number of years "essentially" in a ...


13

I have a CS Theory background and work in industry doing research at a consulting firm. We get hired by people who want to use various types of computer models and don't have the expertise to create them themselves. This is (partially) a research job because our clients typically have interests usually unaddressed in the academic literature, and so our ...


9

I work at a national lab and in a directorate that employs many theoretical computer scientists, of which some do not have PhDs. I think that what would differentiate or establish you would be a quality of your work. If you are a talented theoretician, strong at algorithms and you can/have been publishing your work in reputable theoretical computer science ...


9

A lot of the senior Computer Scientists in Britain have had industrial experience before they came to work in academics. Christopher Strachey, the founder of denotational semantics, was a consultant programmer before entering academics. Tony Hoare, the founder of axiomatic semantics, worked in industry (Eliott Computers) for several years. Samson Abramsky,...


8

I am really not qualified to give an informed answer to your question, but there are many reasons for which a theory-oriented researcher might be a good fit for a more applied environment. The main reason that comes to mind is this: good theoretic foundations are invaluable for a thorough understanding of an application which in turn increases trust, ...


8

David Hilbert is a renowned mathematician. He put forth a list of 23 unsolved problems at the International Congress of Mathematicians in Paris in 1900. I just want to quote part of Yuri Manin interview entitled "Good Proofs are Proofs that Make us Wiser" about Hilbert and his list: This year’s International Congress is the last ICM in this century. Do ...


7

You asked three questions: Q1 is really out of scope for this forum: it relates to GATE and how you gain admission to Indian grad schools. Q2 I interpret as "do I need a graduate degree to study theoretical computer science". In general, of course the answer is "no", but the discipline of studying at the grad level (with the access to professors and other ...


7

In addition to the points given in the other answers, I think any CS department offering an Undergraduate programme must have a reasonable number of faculty from the various CS communities, irrespective of what its broad leanings. Otherwise, a new student joining the department would naturally get aligned with the departments focus, without much of a choice. ...


6

I struggled with the same question while pursuing my undergrad in CS. I performed a fair amount of research, but currently work as a software engineer. I can tell you that for the most part, you won't do too much theoretical CS in the industry (assuming a typical SE, not something tailored for R&D or the like). You may want to consider looking into R&...


6

There is also cstheory-jobs.org, which in principle seems like a great clearinghouse for CS Theory jobs, but appears to be underutilized. Job posters, advertise here!


5

No one here has addressed the practical issues of why someone studying TCS should learn programming. If you are planning to do a PhD in TCS in a Computer Science department, there is a good chance you will need to take some non-Theory courses, and those will almost certainly be very programming-intensive. Depending on the program you are in, you may also ...


5

If TCS is something you enjoy, and you want to pursue a PhD, I wouldn't let the fear of failure stop you. You can also mitigate some of the risk by enrolling in a program that awards you a Master's after a year or two -- that way, if you realize research isn't for you, you won't come out "empty-handed". And if you don't succeed in landing a research job ...


5

There are the obvious academic positions. Apart from that, many industrial research (or research-like) labs are very interested in hiring theoreticians who are comfortable applying theoretical foundations to solving problems as well as coming up with new theorems. Theoreticians also find positions (though may be not as many) in financial institutions as "...


4

In many places (certainly most of USA and Canada) a master's is not required before a PhD. There it is fine, and probably recommended, to just apply directly to PhD programs from undergrad. I am not sure if the situation is the same in the U.K. or elsewhere in Europe. In any case, it's a good idea to meet with one of your math/CS professors to ask for advice ...


3

As a young professor, I wondered the same thing! The short answer is that the ability to secure funding is more or less a requirement for promotion and tenure. This may not seem fair at first (it didn't to me!), but the university has expenses and needs the overhead. Anyway, this is the game I signed up to play, and the rules are quite explicit up-front. As ...


2

excellent/wide responses so far. I suggest some classes not mentioned so far. esp classes that lean toward application of the theory & require the student to write/debug code & visualize [graph results] as part of assignments. or build/debug working systems. etc. differential equations. esp the relationship between it & discrete differential ...


1

this is ultimately a subjective and personal question and "over the long run" what problems are considered important to some degree go in and out of scientific fashion, but there can be some rough common guidelines that many would agree with, and also top experts have considered the question. problems are quite ubiquitous and its more a process of narrowing ...


1

It had been argued that Theoretical Computer Science is a branch of mathematics, so it seems to me that any answer to this question would necessarily be primarily opinion-based. That said, in your place (and this is an uninformed opinion) I would steer clear of subfields in which a tremendous volume of technical work has been done, and in which coding plays ...


1

i really support the answers above. I can add the following that may be useful for the big picture of math in CS: Math can be part of the goal itself; algorithm analysis, complexity bounds, deterministic or probabilistic proofs, parallel algorithms and many more research areas related to time and space of computation. On the other side, math can be the ...


1

Great question. I just recently passed the PhD qualifying exam that was in part an entrance exam - mix of undergraduate and graduate topics. To be practical - it depends on the school you are planning to attend, type of entrance exam they might require and type of the program they offer. Some require GRE, so preparing to enroll is not CS specific. Some ...


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