[Haskell-cafe] PhD at age 45?

Richard A. O'Keefe ok at cs.otago.ac.nz
Wed Dec 4 01:20:07 UTC 2013

On 4/12/2013, at 11:26 AM, Dennis Raddle wrote:

> Hi Andrey and list,
> All replies have been helpful. I realize my question is vague, and that's partly because I don't know what area within CS interests me. I may have to do at least an MS to find out.

As someone who has supervised a number of MSc and PhD students,
let me say "absolutely!" to that.  Quite a lot depends on the
student, quite a lot on the supervisor, and quite a lot on the
working relationship between them.  Your supervisor will help you
with University administration procedures; your supervisor will
help you look for funds; your supervisor will direct your
attention to relevant related research; your supervisor will help
you understand novel technical material; your supervisor will in
fact be quite a helpful person.  BUT your supervisor is going to
expect you to take responsibility for your own work and to do it.
Some of it is going to be really enjoyable, thinking up new
algorithms or data structures or analysis methods or whatever.
Some of it is going to be DRUDGERY grinding through getting the
experimental results to show that your ideas _work_.  And for a
lot of students, a major thing that will help you get through
the drudgery is the feeling "This is *MY* project; d--n the
supervisor, *I* want the results!"

> I've been struggling with health problems for many years, so my work in programming has been part-time, minimal, and not very interesting to me. I'm not in a good position right now to determine what I would really like to do.

Health problems need not be an issue.  I can't speak for universities
where you live, but this one is pretty supportive of people with
health and disability problems.

As for what you would really like to do, there's really no
substitute for talking to people to find out what it's like.

Had you considered going to _any_ nearby University with a CS
school and asking around if anyone needs a part time research
assistant?  That will give you an insider's view of what it's
like to do research.

> Right now I have a small gig teaching Python and numpy to a local psychiatrist who wants to write software for voice analysis. He is a smart guy, but of course we are starting at the beginning. It's quite pleasureful to see things click in his brain. We are working on just basic ideas, like organization of code into functions and modules. He previously dabbled on his own, and ran into problems with disorganized code, so he really appreciates the ideas I'm presenting.

Have you looked at Keng-hao Chang's PhD thesis
"Speech Analysis Methodologies towards Unobtrusive
 Mental Health Monitoring"?
His AMMON library might be of course to you,
but I was thinking that reading a PhD in an area related to
something you are currently working on might be illuminating.

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