TITLE: Computational Complexity and Academic Awareness AUTHOR: Eugene Wallingford DATE: December 20, 2004 4:14 PM DESC: Tall, Dark, and Mysterious shares her academic self-analysis and a serious bit of computational complexity. ----- BODY: From Tall, Dark, and Mysterious' professional self-assessment, here's a wonderful nugget:
My Master's thesis was in many ways the serendipitous culmination of three years of near-paralyzing apathy on my part for the academic path I had chosen for myself: a Maple program that may have the worst runtime of any program ever written (O(4^n*n^8n) - it crashed at n=5), thirty-five pages of painstakingly-formatted LaTeX, and a competent but tepid distillation of a subject that fully twenty people in the world give half a crap about.
For you students of algorithms: O(4n*n8n). Of course, that simplifies to O(nn), but still -- ouch! That's some serious computational complexity, my friends. For you graduate students: Don't be too disturbed. I think that many people feel this way about their research when they get done, especially those in the more abstract disciplines. Research in mathematics and theoretical CS are especially prone to such sentiments. This feeling says as much about how academia works and the state of knowledge these days as it does about any particular research. They key is to sustain your passion for your research area in the face of the external demands your advisor and institutions place on you. Tall, Dark, and Mysterious seems to have lost hers long before completing. I know the intellectual fraud feeling she describes, too. During the semester, classes and conference travel and conference committees and administrative duties combine to leave me much less time to do computer science than I want. But the feeling passes when I remind myself that I'm doing CS in the small all the time; it's just the sustained periods of doing CS that I miss out on. That's what makes summers and those too-infrequent research leaves so valuable. If you like to think about teaching, especially at the university level, you should more of Tall, Dark, and Mysterious. She's a reflective teacher and an engaging writer. Her recent blog I like most of my students tickled my fancy. I only wish I'd written such a post first myself. That may be a great topic for grid blogging among university profs... -----