- You can never underestimate how little your audience knows/cares about what you are talking about (so be clear and start with the “why”).
- Perfect is the enemy of good (so do something good and perfect it later).
- Learn about as many different areas as you can. You have to focus on one problem to get a Ph.D. (your dissertation) but the best way to get new ideas is to talk to people in areas with different problems than you have. This is the source of many of the “Big Impact” papers. Resources for talking about new ideas ranked according to formality: seminar, working groups, meeting with faculty/other students, going for a beer with some friends.
- Here are some ways to come up with a new method: (i) create a new method for a new data type, (ii) adapt an old/useful method to a new data type, (iii) an overlooked problem, (iv) changing the assumptions of a current method, and (v) generalizing a known method. Any can be impactful, but the highest probability of high impact in my experience is (ii).
This is the second in my series on pro tips for graduate students in statistics/biostatistics. For more tips, see part 1.
- Meet with seminar speakers. When you go on the job market face recognition is priceless. I met Scott Zeger at UW when I was a student. When I came for an interview I already knew him (and Ingo, and Rafa, and ….). An even better idea…ask a question during the seminar.
- Be a finisher. The key to getting a Ph.D. (other than passing your quals) is the ability to sit down and just power through and get it done. This means sometimes you will have to work late or on a weekend. The people who are the most successful in grad school are the people that just nd a way to get it done. If it was easy…anyone would do it.
- Work on problems you genuinely enjoy thinking about/are
passionate about. A lot of statistics (and science) is long periods of concentrated effort with no guarantee of success at the end. To be a really good statistician requires a lot of patience and effort. It is a lot easier to work hard on something you like or feel strongly about.