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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

(This post is mainly for those junior students who are leading their research projects. If disagree, please read the disclaimer.)

Be polite.
When you disagree with anybody, no matter how stupid you think others’ ideas are, always express your opinions in a respectful way, because it is necessary to maintain a good team relationship and sometimes you are actually the one who is wrong. For example, instead of saying “I don’t believe it will work” or “I don’t want to do this”, it is much better to say “I’m afraid it will have some problems like …” or “I think it may be better to do …”. Also, don’t ignore any explicit question from your collaborators, regardless of how simple it may be to yourself. When they ask, it is a real question and they are seeking answers (or at least some thoughts) from you.

Start from the big picture.
When begin a discussion or a meeting, always try to start from the big picture, e.g., the high level goal of the ongoing test/experiment, before jump into technical details at the very beginning. Furthermore, when communicate with those who are busy with multiple tasks, it usually helps to remind of the context, such as the conclusions in the last meeting.

Provide reasons whenever possible.
I find it very useful to provide reasons together with the conclusions, especially for offline communication like emails. It will significantly reduce the chance of potential misunderstanding/confusion and thus improve the efficiency of the communication. Different people think about the same problem in different ways, even for those who have worked together for a long time. So it might be better not to take it for granted that your collaborators will understand your opinions.

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Before trying to answer the question about how to read papers, I would like to share my experience about which papers to read. My general suggestion is to read as much as possible. The goal of reading papers is pretty simple: you should get a comprehensive understanding of the entire field you are working on, so that to prevent yourself from reinventing the wheels, and to draw inspirations from previous work, especially state of the art.

Every student/researcher in computer graphics may pay special attention to Ke-Sen Huang’s Home Page, which covers almost all the top conferences about computer graphics. I check the update of this page frequently and follow all the latest change there. But just following Ke-Sen’s page is not enough, there are also several major journals (such as TOG, TVCG, CG&A and CGF). Fortunately you can subscribe to the publishers of those journals and get notifications about the latest publications promptly via any RSS reader. Furthermore, for some important papers, it is worth taking a look at the reference lists in those papers as well as all the follow-up work by searching later publications that have cited them.

To read a paper, I think the key point is to get the big picture. Specifically, it’s much more important to figure out what the authors did and why they did this, compared to how they did. I would also suggest to be positive when reading a paper. Every paper got published for certain good reasons. Instead of thinking as “how they can publish such a bad paper”, it would be more helpful trying to find those good reasons.

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I have just realized that to be successful in computer graphics research (and maybe in other fields as well), you should have a strong personality, which is much more important than any technical skills such as coding and writing. To have a strong personality does not mean you should create your own style other than anybody else, but I think in general you should be tough.

I learned this not from my own experience (I don’t consider myself very successful yet), but based on my observation as well as what I’ve heard about some really successful researchers.

The computer graphics community is becoming more and more competitive, in both industry and academia. There are about 200 SIGGRAPH/SIGGRAPH Asia/TOG papers each year, plus hundreds of good publications on other top venues. So to survive this community you have to put dedicated effort into your research for years. It is very inspiring to see so many people who are smarter yet work harder than me all the time.

I feel extremely lucky to collaborate with many great researchers who all have strong personality but work in totally different ways. Some of them can communicate with me on a daily base for years via writing like a robot, while some of them are invisible most of time but will suddenly appear before the submission deadline and clean up all the bugs in my code while I’m near a break point at midnight.

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Disclaimer

Recently I have been advised to share my experience about doing computer graphics research via public blog. I have decided to follow the suggestion so this blog may become more active from now on.

But first of all, I would like to put a disclaimer here. All the opinions to appear in this blog will be based on my personal experience, which may not work for anybody else due to the biodiversity of human beings (including the strong personality of myself as well as my collaborators). So please consider the future posts at your own risk.

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Lucky

I feel extremely lucky to spend about 4 years in MSRA and take part in a very special meeting on the very last day…

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Yesterday I happened to talk to a famous professor on neuroscience including human vision, when both of us were looking for the director of my department. It was a great opportunity for me to learn new stuff from such an expert, and I strongly agree with her point regarding science versus technology as well as discovery versus invention.

When she knew that I’m majored in computer graphics, the professor complaint about the difficulties to create/edit video contents using state of the art software. I actually feel a little bit embarrassed about that, because one of my main research goals is to facilitate content creation for an arbitrary user. It reminds me of a Chinese poem about which the best translation I could find is:

The way ahead is long; I see no ending, yet high and low I’ll search with my will unbending.

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I attended the thesis defense of one of my friends yesterday. This thesis defense gave me a good lesson and a concrete example about in which way a PhD student should understand and think. While a PhD thesis can be a stapling of several papers together, thinking from a rather high level is always much more important and difficult than understanding the technical details.

Actually I knew this guy ever since nine years ago and I’m quite lucky to witness a relatively complete process for him to get the doctor’s degree. Both of us went into the same high school and the same department in the same university, then became PhD students under the supervision of the same advisor, although I’m always in the grade one year lower than him. This is purely coincidence, as each time I graduated from a place, I chose my next stop following my heart, and I believe it would be a bad idea to follow others’ way to success or try to be someone else. As a matter of fact, even the required courses at school are almost the same for us, he and I have been interested in and focused on quite different things all the time, including different research topics during PhD career. And I think this is a good evidence of biological diversity.

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