Wednesday, June 9, 2010

PhD Doubts

When I started talking about getting my PhD on this blog, I told myself that I would share both the ups and the downs.  After a long stream of ups, I'd like to take a moment to talk about some of those downs.

Inside of me, there is a ball of doubt.  It varies my size day by day, but it remains there.  A portion of this ball is reserved for various tasks required for me to get accepted into any PhD program.  The biggest piece of the ball is for getting letters of recommendation.  Even getting one.  Yes, I can ask my supervisors from work, but their words will mean little to an acceptance committee.  I need letters from published researchers.  I don't know any, and don't see how I will get to know any.

Another good sized piece is for my lack of research skills in general.  My academic transcripts show this is plain back and white.  The experimental psychology class mentioned in my previous blog post will help push a bit of this away.  But not much.  Doing research on my own is another way to reduce my doubt.  I don't know where to start.  There are two many areas I want to learn about, but I never feel like I know enough to start something.  I realize, in my head, that I can start anywhere and learn from my mistakes, but that still doesn't make starting any easier.

I also have to question my programming skills.  Despite my graduate degree in computer science, I haven't coded since last fall.  And that was a little known proprietary language.  I haven;t coded anything in a mainstream language (Java) in over two years.  To resolve this, I plan to focus on C for now.  A good knowledge of a low level language, I think, makes it easier to learn higher level languages.  To practice (since I know the language from my undergrad days), I found programming katas (repeatable programming exercises) at http://codekata.pragprog.com/.  I'm going to work my way through them as I start to come up with my own projects.

Those are my main doubts.  Others exist, but those are more prosaic worries that everyone has.  These three are just ones I need to work through. 

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