"Superman" Ph.D. student

Submitted by chaky on Wed, 08/03/2016 - 07:10

I heard a lot of discussion among my colleagues what they think is a good Ph.D. student.  In this post, I summarize down some of the important characteristics of a Ph.D. student that was often talked about.  Knowing these characteristics will allow you to know what is important and strive to improve.  Remember, this is not given to anyone since birth, and that anyone can reach this point through self-improvements.

  1. Obsessive (and a bit crazy) - you are obsessed with what you do.  Outside people see you as mildly crazy. But craziness and foolishness make one different.  
  2. Independent - they can independently carry out their research.  They know that their supervisors are busy and they are on their own.  They are self-motivated.  Rather than asking or waiting for other people to tell what should they do, they fully leverage the resources around them.  This is probably one of the most common characteristics that almost all of my colleagues talk about. 
  3. Hard working and perseverance - they can work really hard on things they care about.  I mean...really hard...   They also hardly give up.   One wise man once said, “a good student is always three steps ahead of their professor”.
  4. Logical and detailed - know what is important and what is not, know what to prioritize and what is secondary.  Basically, they ask the right questions and they have a great sense of how to do research “systematically”.    When it comes to communication, they can express what is in their brain clearly.  when writing a paper, they know how to clearly and logically articulate their research argument.  They discuss concrete ideas, they show graphs and prototypes, rather than saying some vague ideas.   They prefer actions.  They are very careful and attentive to details because they know these things make the difference.
  5. Intelligent and creative -  they are blessed with a great number of skills, e.g., math, machine learning, coding, etc.  When they do not know something, they can quickly grab the concept and learn within weeks.  They are also extremely creative with their solution. Somehow, they can link all knowledge and come up with some very good ideas, and no one knows how they do that...