What makes you an excellent PhD student?

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Here are 10 traits of highly effective PhD students:

𝟏. 𝐂𝐮𝐫𝐢𝐨𝐮𝐬: A good PhD student is curious about the various aspects of his/her research. The student is eager to find answers to what, why, how, and when. Anything not known triggers him/her to dig deeper and find it out. The student asks high-quality questions.

2. 𝐎𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬: An effective PhD student does not restrict oneself to his/her cabin. The student discusses the ideas with supervisors, lab mates, and other relevant people. The student is willing to provide feedback and happy to take feedback.

3. 𝐂𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐞𝐫: A good PhD student develops the ability of critical thinking early in PhD journey. He/she reflects on research pieces to determine what are its strengths and weaknesses, how we can improve the weaknesses, where are the gaps, and so on.

4. 𝐎𝐩𝐞𝐧 𝐭𝐨 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐮𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐭𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐬𝐦: An effective PhD student does not take criticism of his/her research personally. He/she reflects on the criticism to understand how the research can be improved. He/she is not afraid of putting his/her research in front of others just because of the fear of criticism.

How to identify the research gap for your PhD and MS/MPhil?

5. 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐟𝐮𝐥: A good PhD student is respectful to his/her supervisors, lab mates, other researchers, and their research. He/she is able to communicate their points in a respectful manner. He/she does not boost his/her own research nor does undermine other people’s research

6. 𝐆𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐭 𝐜𝐨𝐦𝐦𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐨𝐫: A good PhD student is an excellent communicator. He/she can communicate research in different ways such as through research papers, presentations, posters, and so on. He/she can communicate complex concepts in simple words

7. 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐬 𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐨 𝐡𝐚𝐧𝐝𝐥𝐞 𝐟𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐮𝐫𝐞: PhD life can have failures in one form or another. A good PhD student knows how to handle failures and does not get motivated easily. He/she works hard consistently and does not expect a big return in little time.

8. 𝐄𝐚𝐠𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧: An effective PhD student does not shy away from learning something new. He/she is always willing to learn new things and apply them in their research in the best possible way. The student is not lazy to settle for the bare minimum.

𝟗. 𝐈𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐩𝐞𝐧𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭: The purpose of PhD is to convert the student into an independent researcher. A good PhD student does not expect to be spoon-fed. At the same time, he/she discusses and seeks feedback from the supervisors. As the PhD progress, the student becomes more and more independent.

𝟏𝟎. 𝐑𝐢𝐬𝐤 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞𝐫: A good PhD does not shy away from taking risks. He/she explores adventurous ideas. Moreover, the student takes initiative with well-defined aims as to what to take away from the initiative.

Writer: Faheem Ullah
Assistant Professor
Computer Science, Australia

PhD students — How to 10x your PhD productivity?

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The way to boost your PhD productivity?

𝟏. 𝐀𝐯𝐨𝐢𝐝 𝐬𝐨𝐜𝐢𝐚𝐥 𝐦𝐞𝐝𝐢𝐚 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐢𝐫𝐬𝐭 𝐡𝐚𝐥𝐟 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲: Social media is not controllable. As we scroll, we see content irrespective of whether or not we really want to see it. Some of the content deeply impacts us such as a horrible incident or something bad happened to a loved one. If it happens, you might not be productive for the rest of the day. So, better avoid it in the first half.

𝟐. 𝐀𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐬𝐭 𝟒 𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬 𝐨𝐟 𝐝𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐲 𝐟𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬:  Our mind does not work to its maximum potential all the time. However, it does work in a focused way for 3-4 hours. Make sure to work with full focus for at least 4 hours a day. Get yourself disconnected from mobile phones, emails, etc, and work on the most challenging task. It shouldn’t be 4 consecutive hours, though.

𝟑. 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐤𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐞𝐧𝐝 𝐨𝐟 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐝𝐚𝐲: Not all PhD tasks require equal focus. For example, replying to some emails, marking student submissions, and voluntary tasks for a conference do not require too much mental focus. Work on them at times when you are not too productive.

Do you want to have a CV that can get you a PhD position?

𝟒. 𝐉𝐮𝐬𝐭 𝐬𝐭𝐚𝐫𝐭:  Procrastinating PhD tasks is quite common. Don’t procrastinate. Follow the 5-second rule. If you don’t jump towards the task in the first 5 sec, your brain starts pushing you away from it. Everything is difficult before you do it, just do it.

𝟓. 𝐓𝐫𝐲 𝐏𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐝𝐨𝐫𝐨: It helps especially during paper writing. Some students follow this technique and have shown good results. Set a timer to 25 mins and solely focus on writing during these 25 mins. Once the timer hits, take a 5 min break and come back again.

𝟔. 𝐓𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐧𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐬: As a PhD student, you should be eager for ideas. These ideas you can take from many places – meetings, conferences, and your own thoughts. Don’t let them fly away. You can easily take notes even on your mobile phone. Take notes and reflect on them later.

𝟕. 𝐃𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐫𝐭𝐞𝐫 𝐭𝐚𝐬𝐤𝐬 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐭𝐨𝐦𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐨𝐰: Replying to an email, passing your paper through Grammarly, and sending a group meeting agenda are shorter tasks. These tasks take 5-10 min. However, when you are on the way back ending your day, you will feel like you have done several tasks – a feeling of accomplishment for the day.

𝟖. 𝐀𝐯𝐨𝐢𝐝 𝐭𝐨𝐱𝐢𝐜𝐢𝐭𝐲: Some activities, people, and content around you can be toxic. A 5-sec toxic engagement can ruin your day. It can demotivate you and keeps you unproductive for the whole day. Identify these and keep yourself away.

PhD students — Do this and 90% of your PhD problems will disappear.

𝟗. 𝐃𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐫𝐲: Being worried is something not unusual for PhD students. However, being worried doesn’t solve any problems but the right actions do. For the right actions, you first need to get yourself out of the worry bubble. Taking PhD worries out of your head will double your productivity.

Writer: Faheem Ullah
Assistant Professor
Computer Science, Australia

 

Do you want to have a CV that can get you a PhD position?

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The best way to prepare your CV…

𝟏. 𝐋𝐢𝐧𝐤𝐬 𝐭𝐨 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐟𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐬: In the personal information section at the top of your CV, include links to your online profiles such as google scholar, LinkedIn, DBLP, homepage, and research gate. It will help the assessor to view your profile via a familiar forum.

𝟐. 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐬: After the personal information section, mention your 4-5 research areas such as machine learning, cyber security, big data analytics, and so on. This directly shows whether or not your profile is relevant to the advertised position.

𝟑. 𝐍𝐨 𝐏𝐚𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐩𝐡𝐬: Do not include paragraphs in your CV. It makes it hard to read. Instead of paragraphs, include concrete bullet points.

PhD students — Do this and 90% of your PhD problems will disappear.

𝟒. 𝐍𝐨 𝐨𝐛𝐣𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐬: Often students mention one big paragraph at the start as an objective/aim. This is not required as the assessor already knows the position for which you have applied. Hence, this becomes redundant.

𝟓. 𝐇𝐲𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐤:  As much as possible, add hyperlinks. For example, you can add links to your university, your workplaces, and so on. This helps the assessor to directly check where you studied or worked.

𝟔. 𝐇𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐥𝐢𝐠𝐡𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐭𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐠𝐭𝐡𝐬:  If you have something in your profile that makes you unique, bring it to the first page. For example, if you are a gold medalist in your undergraduate or you have won some programming competition, add them as achievements on the first page. This will make you stand out in comparison to other applicants.

𝟕. 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐩𝐮𝐛𝐥𝐢𝐜𝐚𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬: If you have publications even under review, do mention them upfront. If the papers are already online, add a link to each paper so that the assessor can directly check it out. Add all relevant details to each publication such as journal/conference ranking and impact factors.

𝟖. 𝐍𝐨 𝐌𝐒 𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐝 𝐟𝐨𝐫𝐦𝐚𝐭:  Do not share or submit your CV in MS word format. It does not look good even at times MS word formatting is distorted. Submit or share your CV in PDF format.

𝟗. 𝐌𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐄𝐧𝐠𝐥𝐢𝐬𝐡 𝐒𝐜𝐨𝐫𝐞:  If you have undertaken IELTS/TOEFL kinds of tests, do mention your scores. These English scores are one of the admission requirements and help a professor in student selection.

PhD students — How to 10x your PhD productivity?

𝟏𝟎. 𝐀𝐬𝐤 𝐭𝐨 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐂𝐕: At least ask 2 experienced people to review your CV. This will help to polish your CV by removing any typos, grammar, and evident issues.

 

Writer: Faheem Ullah
Assistant Professor
Computer Science, Australia

How to identify the research gap for your PhD and MS/MPhil?

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8 Way to identify the research gap for your PhD and MS/MPhil: 

A research gap is an unanswered question or problem in your field. Answering this question or solving this problem will be the objective of your PhD/MS research.

Here is one way to identify the gap.

𝟏. 𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚: Before identifying the gap, you need to identify the area. This is quite easy. The area can either come from your previous interests or your supervisors can give it to you. For example, detecting cyber-attacks is a research area.

𝟐. 𝐑𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝟓-𝟏𝟎 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰𝐬 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐚: Once the area is identified, search for 5-10 most relevant literature reviews/secondary studies in the area. These papers have already reported a summarized view of the existing primary studies. Read these papers carefully to understand what literature already exists in the area.

𝟑. 𝐅𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐬 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐟𝐮𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐜𝐡 𝐢𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰𝐬: While reading these 5-10 literature reviews, focus on the future research areas, open challenges, and discussion section. Identify 3-5 research directions from these literature reviews. Detecting data exfiltration attacks is a research direction.

Are you about to start writing your PhD thesis?

𝟒. 𝐂𝐡𝐞𝐜𝐤 𝐞𝐱𝐢𝐬𝐭𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐥𝐚𝐭𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬: Just to make sure that you don’t end up doing something that already exists, search primary studies related to the research directions. Drop the ones where exactly similar works exist.

𝟓. 𝐃𝐢𝐬𝐜𝐮𝐬𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐬𝐮𝐩𝐞𝐫𝐯𝐢𝐬𝐨𝐫𝐬: Make a few slides to present the remaining directions to your supervisors. From here, you should pick the direction where you and your supervisor see the most potential.

𝟔. 𝐂𝐨𝐧𝐝𝐮𝐜𝐭 𝐚 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐢𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐞𝐝 𝐝𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧: Once the direction is picked, do a literature review on the specific direction. If no paper exists at all in this direction, this could mean two things – either the topic is not worth doing research or the topic is good but too new.

𝟕. 𝐈𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐢𝐟𝐲 𝐜𝐫𝐢𝐩𝐬 𝐠𝐚𝐩𝐬 𝐯𝐢𝐚 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐥𝐢𝐭𝐞𝐫𝐚𝐭𝐮𝐫𝐞 𝐫𝐞𝐯𝐢𝐞𝐰: This literature review process should get you the crisp gap. However, it won’t come automatically. While reading each paper, note down the points that you think could be worth future research. This will become part of your discussion or future research section. For example, detecting data exfiltration attacks in real-time is a gap.

𝟖. 𝐂𝐡𝐞𝐜𝐤 𝐫𝐞𝐬𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐜𝐞𝐬 𝐫𝐞𝐪𝐮𝐢𝐫𝐞𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐟𝐢𝐥𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐠𝐚𝐩: Once you have identified the research gap, check what kind of resources, data, infrastructure, etc, you need to conduct this research. Make sure that you can have access to these resources before you start working on the gap.

Writer: Faheem Ullah
Assistant Professor
Computer Science, Australia

PhD supervisors/advisors – How you can help your PhD students to do an excellent PhD?

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𝟏. 𝐁𝐞 𝐚 𝐠𝐨𝐨𝐝 𝐫𝐨𝐥𝐞 𝐦𝐨𝐝𝐞𝐥: Your PhD students follow you in many ways – how you approach a research problem, how you present, how you collaborate, and so on. Subconsciously, the students inherit many research traits from you. Be a great model to produce great researchers.

𝟐. 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐝 𝐛𝐲 𝐞𝐱𝐚𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐞: Lead your team by example. If you expect the student to be on time for a meeting, you should be on time too. Similarly, if you expect the student to be well-prepared for the meeting or presentation, so should you be. This will give an impression to the student that you have a keen interest in his/her PhD.

𝟑. 𝐒𝐡𝐨𝐰 𝐯𝐚𝐥𝐮𝐞: Instead of asking the student to do a task, show him/her the value of the assigned task. For example, doing task A will help you get this skill and lead to a publication too. This way the student is more likely to do the task in an effective way.

𝟒. 𝐁𝐞 𝐬𝐩𝐞𝐜𝐢𝐟𝐢𝐜: Generic guidance can leave a student in confusion instead of putting him/her on a concrete path. In fact, a student can get generic guidance from anywhere. Be concrete and specific, especially in the first year. Also, give the student the confidence to comfortability asks for any clarifications.

PhD students — 10 things to do in the first year of your PhD.?

𝟓. 𝐋𝐨𝐨𝐤 𝐢𝐧𝐰𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐭𝐨𝐨: If a student is not progressing, the supervisor should look inward too. Assess in what other ways you can help the student to progress.

𝟔. 𝐍𝐨𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐢𝐬 𝐀𝐥𝐛𝐞𝐫𝐭 𝐄𝐢𝐧𝐬𝐭𝐞𝐢𝐧: Do not expect the same kind of excellence and productivity from every student. Every student is different – different IQ levels, different personal circumstances, and so on. Do not compare them with yourself either.

𝟕. 𝐋𝐞𝐚𝐯𝐞 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐚𝐜𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧 𝐩𝐨𝐢𝐧𝐭𝐬: A meeting with your student should end with concrete action points. If a student leaves the meeting in an increased state of confusion, the meeting has served no purpose. One effective way is that the student shares the meeting minutes and action points with the supervisor.

𝟖. 𝐄𝐧𝐜𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐚𝐠𝐞 𝐭𝐨 𝐝𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩 𝐬𝐨𝐟𝐭 𝐬𝐤𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐬: Encourage your student to take part in activities that develop the student’s soft skills such as communication, presentation, networking, and so on. Of course, this should not be at the cost of primary research. Keep track of the trade-offs if any.

𝟗. 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐯𝐢𝐝𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐦𝐞𝐥𝐲 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐝𝐛𝐚𝐜𝐤: PhD students are often short of time, especially at the end of the PhD. Whilst you are very busy, try to give timely feedback, especially on papers. This will help them to complete their PhD on time.

𝟏𝟎. 𝐁𝐞 𝐤𝐢𝐧𝐝: Being kind is a very rare trait – try to be one. We don’t know exactly what the other person is exactly going through. Put yourself in the shoes of the student. Try to understand the student’s concerns and support him/her in whatever way possible.

Why should you do a PhD?

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10 reasons for doing a PhD?

Here are 10 benefits of doing a PhD.

𝟏. 𝐄𝐱𝐩𝐨𝐬𝐮𝐫𝐞: You will likely travel to another country or city for your PhD. During your PhD, you will also travel to different countries for conferences, workshops, research visits, and field trips. All of this will get you a lot of exposure. You will learn and experience many interesting things.

𝟐. 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐞𝐞𝐫 𝐠𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐭𝐡: One undeniable benefit of PhD is that it will boost your career. This is especially true for academics. Other than this, PhD qualification is also required to work in advanced positions in industry and government agencies.

PhD students — How to 10x your PhD productivity?

𝟑. 𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐡𝐚𝐫𝐝 𝐬𝐤𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐬: You will develop deep technical skills in your field. For example, you will learn the implementation of ML/DL systems if your PhD is focused on AI. These deep technical skills will make you stand out among your competitors.

𝟒. 𝐃𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐩𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐬𝐨𝐟𝐭 𝐬𝐤𝐢𝐥𝐥𝐬: PhD will enrich your personality with several soft skills such as presentation, communication, collaboration, networking, critical thinking, and so on. You will often practice these during your PhD.

𝟓. 𝐆𝐫𝐨𝐰𝐭𝐡 𝐢𝐧 𝐲𝐨𝐮𝐫 𝐩𝐫𝐨𝐟𝐞𝐬𝐬𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐚𝐥 𝐧𝐞𝐭𝐰𝐨𝐫𝐤: You will interact with several individuals during your PhD. These interactions will happen in multiple places – conferences, workshops, seminars, and so on. This network will open doors for future opportunities.

𝟔. 𝐊𝐧𝐨𝐰𝐥𝐞𝐝𝐠𝐞 𝐜𝐨𝐧𝐭𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐮𝐭𝐢𝐨𝐧𝐬: You will contribute to the body of knowledge in your field. This will get you a strong feeling of accomplishment. Your findings may have a direct impact on the well-being of people.

Do you want to have a CV that can get you a PhD position?

𝟕. 𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐞: Your PhD journey will test you in many ways – paper rejections, criticisms, financial hardships, and so on. All of this will make you resilient. Eventually, you will be unbreakable in front of many such challenges.

𝟖. 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐛𝐥𝐞𝐦 𝐬𝐨𝐥𝐯𝐞𝐫: You will become a problem solver. Since most of the PhD is about identifying and solving complex problems, your mind will get trained for it. Then, this mindset can help you solve many non-research problems too.

𝟗. 𝐁𝐞𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐩𝐚𝐢𝐝 𝐭𝐨 𝐥𝐞𝐚𝐫𝐧: Most PhD students have scholarships covering their tuition fees and living expenses. In return, you work on things you are passionate about and learn many skills.

𝟏𝟎. 𝐆𝐞𝐭 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐭𝐢𝐭𝐥𝐞 ‘𝐃𝐫’:  If you are interested in titles, PhD will get you that too. You can call yourself ‘Dr.’ after successfully completing your PhD :).

Writer: Faheem Ullah
Assistant Professor
Computer Science, Australia