Saturday, April 22, 2006

Why should you choose me as a PhD adviser?

Well, for a start, don't choose me unless you want to participate in all phases of research and publication. I'm currently in a College of Engineering, but I'm a scientist, not an engineer. Engineers tend to know exactly what they are doing. If you have an engineer as a PhD adviser, he or she will put you on a project and tell you exactly what to do. You will get your hand held, which is a good thing. But when you graduate and leave, you won't necessarily know how to work on your own. If you work successfully with me, I will make sure you have the ability to work independently after graduation.

My philosophy of research is like the quote from Werner von Braun: "Research is what I'm doing when I don't know what I'm doing". I like to futz around on a number of different projects at once, not all of which will lead to publications or funding.

If you want to be my PhD student and you don't know what problem to work on, I'll start you out by reading papers and books to get background knowledge in whatever it is I'm currently thinking about. Eventually you'll discover something that you think you can do better than what you've read. Put enough of those things with a common theme together, and you've got a PhD thesis.

I'll teach you how to measure the importance of your contribution. It can be the first solution of a problem, or the best solution. In either case, you'll need to do a literature search to find out what research has been done before in this and related areas, and you'll need citations to those papers in your work to demonstrate that you are a contributing member of the scientific community. You will enter the "web of research", the interconnected network of papers connected by citations.

If your solution is the best, you'll need to set up the metrics by which you determine "best", and justify your claim. Is your solution of higher quality, or faster perhaps? Those claims can be justified either theoretically or experimentally. Experiments can be by simulation, or with a human audience. Either way, it is that measurement of the outcome that distinguishes academic research from the kind of development things that are done outside academia and are often erroneously called "research".

After you've done the research, there's the writing up of the thesis, the writing of the papers, the submission of the papers, dealing with refereeing and manuscript requirements. There's the giving of talks on your work at conferences and workshops. I'll give you advice on how to do that. (While we're on the subject, your name will come first in the author list of any publications we write together.)

I may even get you involved in writing funding proposals too.

Oh, and it may come as a surprise to you, but there will come a point when you will know more about your chosen subject than I do. That is as it should be.

I have high standards, which may scare you a little. I've had 5 PhD students, which is admittedly not many for 22 years in academia. I put high value on significance of research though, not just on the number of publications generated. What use is it writing 200 papers if nobody cites them?

My PhD antecedents go back a long way, you can read about them here.

For more information about the kind of research that I do, look at my publication list, and also look at the scientific papers that have cited my publications here.

For more information about me, you can always Google me to find out more.
My personal philosophy is a blend of three modes of thought:

  • Stoicism: Relax, go with the flow. Whatever happens, happens. Enjoy the good times, suffer through the bad times, and above all endure. Bend with the wind, but never break. See clearly, and act from the heart.

  • Zen: The right path will open naturally. If you can't see the right path, then relax and let your feet find the way. Everything you need will be provided for you, but just out of your reach. It's up to you to make the effort to obtain them.

  • Viking: Sometimes you've got to put aside this philosophy crap, take up your sword, and fight for the things you value. Take joy in the fight, because fighting is living. Life puts challenges in your path, you show your worth by how you deal with them.

The problem is knowing which mode to be in, n'est pas?

Just don't bug me on a Monday morning.

Friday, April 21, 2006

"God doesn't give you more than you can handle"

Everybody says that "people say that", but have you ever wondered where that saying came from? Even Google doesn't come up with much more than hearsay.

The closest I can come up with is this.

Nothing happens to any man that he is not formed by nature to bear.
Marcus Aurelius
Huckleberry Finn, where are you?

I named this blog "The Adventures of Ian Parberry" to make an allusion to Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Any resemblance of mine to Huckleberry Finn is purely accidental though.

I do have great adventures, some of which I will describe on this blog in due course.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

A little about me.

I'm Ian Parberry, a middle-aged professor of Computer Science. Computer Science, yeah, that makes me a dinosaur, I know. I used the internet back when it was called the arpanet.

In 1993 I got bored and started teaching and doing research in game development. I thought I was a year or two ahead of the pack, but it turns out I was 13 years ahead. Game dev is insanely popular this year.

To find out about my professional life, take a look at my webpage at You should follow all the links, of course.

I grew up in England, emigrated to Australia at age 10, returned for my PhD at age 22, and moved to the US at age 25. Now I live in Texas. I can be recognized as a foreigner on three different continents. I own 4 parrots, 1 dog, 2 frogs, and a toad. I've been married for 23 years to the same woman, and I have three daughters, the youngest of whom is 7.

So google me if you want to know more. That's what computers are for, isn't it?

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

This is me, Ian Parberry. This is my blog.

I'm the one mugging it with the redheaded superhero. And this is my dog.

Well, it's my wife's dog, technically, but I'm the one who pays his vet bills. Don't you love the stylish doggie footwear?