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Help Choosing a Graduate CS Department

I'm looking to get a masters in CS, but I don't know how to begin searching for a school.  I'm an undergrad now, and the department I'm in seems to have a very mean and unhelpful culture.  The most important thing for me is that the character of the department be helpful and enjoyable - but I can't find this ranked anywhere.

I did undergraduate degrees in Math & Philosophy at this same school, and professors were eager to sit around and chat about a cool proof or a interesting school of thought in philosophy, but the CS professors are cold and disinterested in students.

* Has anyone had a great grad school experience with enthusiastic professors?
* How do you research something like this?

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Here are a few thoughts. My experience is about 10 years old, but the principles remain true.

1. Figure out what area you want to study. (Databases? Networking? Languages? Usability? etc...)

2. Figure out where the powerhouses (people/univ) are who do this research. This is where you want to go to school.  Make sure they're well funded.

3. Get in contact with the profs and get your name known. This will help you get in. Show interest in their research. Make them want to "hire" you as their research assistant.

To do step 2, ask your current professors about who does the active research. If they are no help, figure out what the prominant journals are and see who publishes in them.

See, it's really important to be in a program that has research money. These professors who have grants are teaching less, and are working on the cool projects more, and hopefully working with you (and paying you so you don't have to be a TA also!)  You need the professors to be actively involved in your graduate program so that you will have the experience and credentials you'll need when you graduate.

This is essential if you are considering going into academia. It's less important if you are pursuing professional work after earning your degree. If you aren't sure, remember that it's easy to step out of academia, but it's really, really hard to step back in.

Hope this helps.

Lauren B.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Going to a "powerhouse" in your chosen field is a good way
to get access to the latest and best ideas in that field.  But
the original poster seemed more concerned about finding
a school in which some kind of mentoring would be found.

You might find that the "powerhouse" professors have a
schedule that is packed to bursting, and that you might be
waiting weeks to get an appointment with your advisor to
discuss your thesis. 

You might get more out of the college experience by
signing on with a more junior member of the faculty,
one who is more readily available to grad students on a
daily basis.  If you want a professor who is available to
act as a mentor, send email to current students at the
department that interests you.  Find out which profs
are accessible, versus those who are always out of town
giving a keynote at yet another conference.

finished dissertation eventually
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

My experience as an undergrad is that the professors in the engineering departments were generally very cold - to the undergrads. Once you hit grad level you've got a whole different environment, and a much better relationship with your advisor.

My recommendation: try to talk to current grad students at the institutions you're interested in to get a better idea of how they're treated.

Chris Tavares
Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Everybody, thanks for the help.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

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