As someone who is currently working on a computer science thesis this year, one of the things that’s really hit home lately is how the undergraduate thesis serves as a healthy “medium” between the undergraduate student and the beginning graduate student mentalities.
For one’s first few years as an undergraduate, it is expected that he or she focus primarily on courses. Research is an excellent “extracurricular” activity and should be taken seriously, but unless one does an extraordinary job — by that, I mean first-rate conference or journal publications — it is likely that students still need to perform well in courses in order to get accepted into a Ph.D. program.
Meanwhile, the beginning graduate student at a Ph.D. program suddenly needs to break away from the undergraduate mentality in order to succeed.
I’m at the point where my grades are still important, but my research is starting to become a bigger part of my studies. Consequently, I have to find sufficient time away from my “normal” classes to focus on research. It’s tempting to let thesis work slide in favor of another hour or two spent on perfecting a problem set to get that “A” grade, but it can add up. As a time-management technique, I suggest having a schedule for one’s thesis work outlined in a “problem set” format so that it mirrors what a typical science class would be like.
PS: Yes, I know I haven’t been blogging too much lately. I’m sorry.