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So, You Want Me On Your Committee?
I'm generally happy to serve on your dissertation committee, but to
make the situation mutually beneficial, I request that you adhere to a
few simple guidelines:
- Have a thesis statement.
It should be brief, clearly
visible in all documents and presentations, and thoroughly
supported. Mine was something like "in the battle between expressive
features and exhaustive search, expressive features wins." Think of
it as your elevator pitch if you like.
- Have me be on your proposal committee.
department/university rules are odd in that the dissertation
committee can have almost zero intersection with the proposal
committee. This makes me feel like a rubber stamp. If you want me at
your defense, have me at your proposal. If you must break this rule,
prepare to give me a private proposal with enough lead time that you
can deal with any comments I might have.
- Have at least a year between your proposal and defense.
Otherwise it's not really a proposal. Again, I want to be engaged,
not a rubber stamp.
- Have clearly delineated future work and a realistic
The timeline should have at least four or five
elements to be non-trivial, and it should be connected to what you
declared as your future work. It should be realistic (neither too
long nor too short) based on what you've done and will do, and
should not underestimate the length of time required for writing a
dissertation and making defense slides.
- Have slide numbers on all presentations.
This verges on
nit-picky, but it makes it much easier to have discussions.
- Make clear in the documents and presentations what's new and
This is incredibly important but often difficult
to do. But I need to know what your contributions are
versus what was known before.
credits: design and font inspired by Seth Able's LoRD, some images converted to ANSI using ManyTools, original drawing of me by anonymous.
last updated on eight june, two thousand twenty.