Having the ownership of my research

Having spent 4 years outside of my home university, I finally came back to KAIST. I couldn't appreciate more that I have one last year I can spend here the day I return to the campus.

Whom should I work with?

To add a nice capstone to my undergraduate study, I decided to do an individual study. KAIST School of Computing and School of Electrical Engineering have world-class faculty working on exciting projects. I had meetings with two professors individually to work on research with one of them. Then I began to vacillate between two options.

One professor I met had numerous research problems to solve. The professor told me he needs a student to work on one of the projects and planned to submit several papers to top-tier conferences in his field of research. The project looked promising to me.

The meeting with the other professor was totally different from the one above. The professor first showed interest on the work I had done in UIUC before talking about a project to work on. The professor suggested me to do a seminar on what I did last year. However, I wasn't sure what I'll do with the professor since I don't have a specific problem to solve yet.

It seemed that there's definitely more chance to publish a paper if I work with the first professor. Since I plan to apply for a PhD program in the US, publishing a paper in a top conference would make my application much more stronger.

At the same time, however, I was attracted by the second option as well after the meeting. I imagined I'm presenting the works I had done last year in front of the professor and other PhD students. It somehow made my heart beat faster.

My resolution: Find my own problem

Meanwhile, I stumbled upon one of the article regarding the advice for graduate students which my advisor in UIUC sent to me. The title is Some Modest Advice for Graduate Students written by Stephen C. Stearns, a Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale. Reading the following paragraph, I was finally able to decide who should I work with.

... if someone hands you a problem, you won’t feel that it is yours, you won’t have that possessiveness that makes you want to work on it, defend it, fight for it, and make it come out beautifully ...

Though I've done some research so far, the problems to solve were already decided by my advisors as they already have problems they want to solve and I thought that I would learn enough from just solving specific sub-problems to achieve the overarching goal of the projects. Indeed I've gained a lot of valuable knowledge and skills for doing research but haven't thought the projects are really my own work.

Today, in the beginning month of 2016, I come to my resolution. I'll find a problem in my field that I think is truly important, working with the great advisor and graduate students. Even if I don't publish a paper this year, if I find a problem and I can explain why it is important in confidence, that'll do.