[Haskell-cafe] PhD at age 45?

Dennis Raddle dennis.raddle at gmail.com
Wed Dec 4 01:58:03 UTC 2013

Ah, I see. Well, I guess I like both teaching and research. I don't have
enough experience with either to do which I prefer more, or whether I would
be happy doing just one of them for the rest of my life. But I would
definitely be fascinated by the work on my PhD thesis. By the way, I did
very well in national science fairs in high school (with a discrete
mathematics topic). I mention this just to say that I love research and
that I'm self-motivated to learn. It was poor health that derailed my plans
earlier in life to get a PhD.

Regarding my love for teaching, I have tutored high school students in
algebra and I'm currently tutoring a doctor in Python programming. I love
this. So note--I don't need to be teaching an advanced topic to be happy.
I'm fascinated by how to make a topic understandable, whether it would be
teaching a graduate-level class, or figuring out how to help high school
students who struggle with algebra.

So I guess one way to approach this question is to ask

- what path offers me good *options* (i.e., I can spin from there into any
number of possibilities depending on what I learn that I love most)

- what downside is there to a PhD (i.e., possible student loan debt,
deferring earned income and saving for retirement years which are merely 25
years away for me, and merely 18 years after I would probably start earning
again, hard time finding work? [overqualified for everything?], etc.)

Regarding financial considerations and retirement, one question to ask is--
would I be happy doing my job until age 80? I.e. would I love my job so
much that I don't feel a need to retire? I think that I could potentially
love both interesting research and fascinating teaching enough. But a
boring garden-variety programming job, like the one I had before? Yuck.
Couldn't wait to retire.


On Tue, Dec 3, 2013 at 3:40 PM, Andrey Chudnov <achudnov at gmail.com> wrote:

> On 12/03/2013 05:26 PM, Dennis Raddle wrote:
>> 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.
> What I meant was whether you would like to do research or teach (or both)
> -- not a specific area. While you will probably be required to teach some
> classes anyway (as a TA, which means grading, supervising labs and
> consultations), most of your time in grad school pursuing a PhD would be
> spent on research. That's because producing novel and relevant research
> results is an absolute requirement for getting a PhD (while teaching a lot
> of classes, on the other hand, is not). In pursuing a PhD it would  help if
> you enjoy (or at least can tolerate) the very process of research and feel
> passionate about your research topic. Otherwise, you might be in for quite
> a few miserable years.
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