How I Realized I Had to Do a PhD

For some people the realization that they are really meant to do a PhD comes only after having got some research-related work experience. In fact Dr. Harchol-Balter recommends it before jumping into a doctoral program. Here’s how her career path led her to the realization that she should be doing a PhD:

“After I finished my B.A. in CS and Math, I went to work at the Advanced Machine Intelligence Lab at GTE in Massachusetts. At first I was very excited by my paycheck and the great feeling of being independent. I also really enjoyed my area of research at the time: pattern recognition and classification. I was working with frame-of-reference transformations involving eigenvectors of autocorrelation matrices. It was exciting! However I quickly realized that I wanted to know more. I wanted to know why some algorithms produced good results and others didn’t. I wanted to come up with my own algorithms. I worried that I didn’t have enough of a mathematics background to answer my own questions. In summary, I wanted to delve deeper. Everyone around me thought I was odd for wanting these things. I left after 2 years and went to graduate school. That first month of graduate school I looked around and realized that everyone there was just as weird and obsessed as I was, and I knew I had made the right decision.”

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