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Oops, did I say "finish"? I meant "start". - Lindsey Kuper [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Lindsey Kuper

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Oops, did I say "finish"? I meant "start". [Aug. 14th, 2006|11:01 am]
Lindsey Kuper
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So I've finally decided that I'm 4 rEaLz about this computer science thing!

I've gotten in touch with some Grinnell profs and some other friends for advice and recommendations. In fact, I, uh, sort of sent them a 1,200-word email -- and that was the short version. (I left out most of the whining, and almost all of the existential crisis! After all, LiveJournal has to be good for something.) I'm registered to take the GRE in November, I'm making a list of Ph.D. programs to apply to for next fall, and if everything goes as planned, I might finish by, oh, 2013 or so.

Some of my interests are a little weird, even among CS people. It took a long time for me to figure that out, though, because when I first learned about this stuff, I couldn't conceive of someone not being interested in recursive function theory, or computability, or formal methods, because for fuck's sake, what else is there?! Um. *shuffles feet* But I'm...past that now...yeah...mostly.

I'm interested in studying these things, not because I care about making sure the Mars Rover's flash card doesn't overflow, but because studying them satisfies an intellectual curiosity I have. From time to time, it occurs to me that maybe these aren't really my interests -- that I just think that they are because they happened to be the topics that the best books were about and that the best teachers were teaching while I was at Grinnell. And, who knows, maybe at some point I'll discover that I really ought to be doing graphics or architecture or networking or compilers or operating systems or data mining or embedded systems or any of a hundred other things, all of which it's probably easier to actually make money doing. But it's not like this is about money. I'm going to say that again, because it's important and I'm really tired of people thinking the opposite: I am not interested in computer science for the money, and it is offensive for someone to tacitly assume that I couldn't actually enjoy these things, like, oops, I forgot to hate and fear math!

For me, what it's about is scratching a mental itch. In a nutshell, that's why I want to do this -- so I can scratch that itch long and hard. It's going to be totally sweet.

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Comments:
[User Picture]From: eliciel
2006-08-14 08:19 pm (UTC)
Super many congratulations on this decision! Hurray for finding your interests!
I love it when women don't hate and fear math and computer science!

That reminds me (and this really doesn't have anything to do with your post but I feel like "sharing") about how mad I am that I hate and fear math. Because I don't hate and fear math 'cause I'm a girl; my mom loves math and would teach about muliplying and adding 9 and about the beauty of trigonometry when we'd go on vacations. (Seriously: here's your fire-roasted hotdog. Now, lets look at how all angles add up to 180 degrees!) No, I came to hate and fear math as I started failing all the math classes I took in college. It took years to figure out what was going wrong -- I can't do basic arithmatic. I can understand calculus, trigonometry, etc. but I can't be tested on it because I can't add worth shit. When I start taking tests and having no freaking idea whether I'll pass or fail...
Anyway.
I am so glad that there are gals out there like you and Molly Riley, girls who like math and logic, because I feel like I give our sex a bad name by nature of correlation. Hurray for you!

P.S. Having grown up with and married people who think computer science is super cool, I'm glad you're going into it for the education a terminal degree bestows and not for the money. That really says something. Any shmuck can get a bachelors from ITT tech and write some proprietary software and make some cash. But you are going to be taking theoretical classes. *applause*
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-14 10:34 pm (UTC)
I feel like I give our sex a bad name

I can't tell if you're serious or not, but I hope you're not, because you should never feel that way.
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[User Picture]From: eliciel
2006-08-14 10:44 pm (UTC)
I am actually serious but in a silly sort of way. I am one who thinks that girls aren't innately bad at math (indeed, many are brilliant), and yet I suck at basic arithmatic. Pft. I am irony.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-16 05:03 am (UTC)

Well, I think that if you made it through Calc II, you're probably at least halfway decent at arithmetic. But since this is something I really care about, I'm just going to quote Sarah Bunting, because she says it better than I could:

The definition of feminism does not require a diploma or other proof of graduation. It is not reserved for those who teach women's studies classes, or to those who majored in women's studies, or to those who graduated from college, or to those who graduated from high school, or to those who graduated from Brownie to Girl Scout. It doesn't care if you went to Princeton or the school of hard knocks. You can have a PhD, or a GED, or a degree in mixology, or a library card, or all of the above, or none of the above. You don't have to write a twenty-page paper on Valerie Solanas's use of satire in The S.C.U.M. Manifesto, and if you do write it, you don't have to get better than a C-plus on it. You can really believe math is hard, or you can teach math. You don't have to take a test to get in. You don't have to speak English. If you believe in, support, look fondly on, hope for, and/or work towards equality of the sexes, you are a feminist.

Yes, you are.

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[User Picture]From: eliciel
2006-08-16 08:27 am (UTC)
good quote!

Well, I never said I wasn't a feminist because I suck at math.
:-p :-)
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-16 04:10 pm (UTC)
Oh, yeah, I know. But no matter what you said, I would probably find some way to work in a quote from that essay, because it's that awesome!
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From: (Anonymous)
2006-08-16 04:21 pm (UTC)
That is entirely reasonable. It is indeed a good quote!
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[User Picture]From: jes5199
2006-08-14 10:00 pm (UTC)
Man, I wish I was interested enough in those things to make myself understand them. They're fascinating, but the cost of mental entry is pretty high

(Doing things that aren't for money)++
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-14 10:56 pm (UTC)
Yeah, sometimes it is, but sometimes things that seem impenetrable from one angle aren't so bad when you approach them from a different angle. One of the things I really like about studying theory is that often you have to start by throwing all your assumptions out the window. Which is kind of how I'm trying to live.
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[User Picture]From: cerulicante
2006-08-15 12:06 am (UTC)
Be sure you have 5 to 8 years to commit to it before you commit to it. Graduate school is not an endless string of discovery and wonderment, it's a long, slow slog through one or two problems that you beat yourself over the head with for years and years. If you don't get in on a good thing that you can take and run in different directions with, you will be miserable.

I would recommend not writing as much to professors at colleges you are not applying to and writing more to professors whose work you like at colleges you are applying to. Meet them, talk to their students and others at the school and be 100% sure your chosen prof has money BEFORE you commit. BEFORE.


Do not fall for the "I've got 3 pending grants and one of them is SURE to hit!" Without money, nothing in science ever happens. You might not be interested in computer science for the money, but you will probably have to be interested in money for computer science.


I don't want to be a downer, but a PhD program is rough as all hell on the mind, body and soul. A suggestion would be to check out a MS program and try that. If you like it a lot, a PhD is just a couple of extra years on top of that. If you don't like it, then you at least have a Master's instead of nothing.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-15 02:29 am (UTC)
Be sure you have 5 to 8 years to commit to it before you commit to it.

I've had a couple years to think about it, and yeah, I'm sure.

I would recommend not writing as much to professors at colleges you are not applying to and writing more to professors whose work you like at colleges you are applying to.

Well, of course, eventually (and soon). But I wanted to talk to my Grinnell profs first, to figure out where my head is at and see what suggestions and recommendations they might have. It's been very helpful.

A suggestion would be to check out a MS program and try that.

I've gone back and forth on that a lot. But most of the masters programs that I see are designed for industry professionals who want to continue on that path while pursuing a degree, which is often their first degree in CS. I'm pretty sure that's not for me.

At each of the schools I'm considering, you have the option of leaving the Ph.D. program early with an M.S. It's more or less of a pain in the butt, depending on the program, but it's possible. I'd rather be accepted to the Ph.D. program first, knowing that I have the freedom of leaving early, than join an M.S. program and then have to apply all over again in order to continue.
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[User Picture]From: cerulicante
2006-08-15 11:18 pm (UTC)
Good luck, then. Your tenaciousness will serve you well.

As for me, I am a good scientist, but my heart's not in it. I should have 3 first-authored pubs by this time next year and then I can work on my dissertation and be out by late 2008. I want to go back to Japan...something inside of me seems to be empty. I wonder how much of myself I left back there and how long it will take me to find it?


Good luck. (But don't forget about the money thing.)
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[User Picture]From: pixelherder
2006-08-15 03:05 am (UTC)
Don't write off the money just yet. Intel employs the largest formal verification group in the world. After losing billions on the whole Pentium FDIV bug fiasco, they went ape and bought into formal methods in a big way. And now other chip manufacturers have had to follow suit. (And no, I'm not implying that you should do it for the money. But if you can be paid well to do what you love, then "bonus!")

One other thing it also means is that there's grant money there.

In any case, good luck!
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-15 11:23 pm (UTC)
I'm not implying that you should do it for the money. But if you can be paid well to do what you love, then "bonus!"

Yep, definitely! But it's not a requirement.

Intel employs the largest formal verification group in the world.

And if I worked for Intel, I could maybe even live in Portland. I'm not sure if hardware verification is so much my thing, though (although it might be). I'm having a hard time pinning down what I'm interested in. Right now (as in today, heh), I'm leaning more toward things like type theory, knowledge representation, and ontology...
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[User Picture]From: the_great_leigh
2006-08-20 07:01 am (UTC)

I am so with you.

In the "I'm not going to grad school for the money" boat. When people hear I'm going to law school, they assume it's because I want to be a filthy-rich (and probably soulless) lawyer. I look at it this way: law school is the only think I can see myself being satisfied doing at this point in my life. It scratches that "intellectual itch" you described (or at least I think it will). And if I come out of it in a position to make a lot of money, sweet. If not, I've still got a great education and the intellectual foundations to keep growing even when I'm done with school.
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[User Picture]From: lindseykuper
2006-08-25 11:15 pm (UTC)

Re: I am so with you.

law school is the only think I can see myself being satisfied doing at this point in my life.

Yeah, I know just what you mean.
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