akawil: Powerpuff Wil (Default)
[personal profile] akawil
So my advisor just told me that my Black Friday letter will tell me that I'm being asked to take a leave of absence.

Background. I started in the Ph.D. program in Computer Science in September 1994. In January 1997 I switched to my current advisor. Since then I've gotten some papers written, but (apparently) not enough of them, and created quite a lot of software, but of actual thesis writing I've done none, though the papers should be recyclable into a dissertation.

Every semester, the faculty of the department meet to discuss all the grad students. This is known as "Black Friday", even though it's always held on a Thursday. At the end of last semester, my letter told me that I'd be expected to have a thesis written by the end of this semester; I don't.

What my thesis advisor told me, which I agree with, is that it's pretty clear that the "It didn't work last time, so let's try it again" strategy (so beloved by World War I generals) is no longer an option. Sitting in my office, alone, with little communication from the outside world is a good way to get me to read LiveJournal, Usenet, fanfic, and many other exciting things on the web, and a very bad way to get me to write papers and a thesis.

My advisor told me that if I can convince my committee, by the beginning of next semester (January 21, roughly) that I have a clear plan of Doing Something Different which they believe will lead me to actually finishing a thesis in a reasonable timeframe, they'll convince the chair to let me stay.

Alternately, I could take the leave of absence, and get a Real Job (for Real Money). The economy's pretty bad right now, but I'm pretty sure I could find something -- I seem to actually have connections, surprising as it seems. (Though it looks like my expected default choice, Bell Labs, wouldn't be able to hire me right now -- Lucent's in a terrible financial pinch.) In the future, I can try to convince the department to let me come back.

Or not, if I don't feel like it.

I don't know what I want to do, where I want to go, how I want to proceed. On the one hand it seems so terribly stupid to stop now, when I've put this much time into the whole Ph.D. thing. On the other hand, there's the question of throwing good money (or time) after bad, a.k.a. not basing future decisions on sunk costs. On the gripping hand, I don't actually like writing papers all that much; I'd much prefer to write software. (This LJ post is probably the most prose I've written all at one sitting in quite some time.)

Sigh. Sigh sigh sigh.

Bah.

Anyone have any thoughts about what I should do?
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