Once upon a time, when I was a student, I had decided to do honours after finishing my degree! Choices ranged from doing something cool in networking to doing something cool in something else. Suffice to say, inspiration was not forthcoming willingly. It was the age of delusions really! All my preconceptions about how easy or enthralling computer science, in particular coding, was, were stripped away and replaced by the non too subtle realisation that it is a ridiculous amount of hard work. But, once I was addicted to it, honours seemed like the natural choice after my degree.
Because it was the age of searching and indexing and making things easy to find on the internet, I decided to do something in search engine optimisation. I sought the two best lecturers and supervisors, namely Andrew Haydn Turpin and Falk Nicolas Scholer and came up with the idea of Anticipating search needs in real time help desk environments. The main aim of the idea was that if someone serving at a help desk got a call from a customer/consumer, then some sort of voice to text translator would take the contents of the callers problem, feed it to my awesome optimiser, which would generate a perfect and relevant query and serve the most relevant documents up. We looked at working on the translator but never thought we would get it working and hence decided to work only on query optimiser part. Work we did, and present I did!
Now that I look back at that year, I have very few regrets but a whole different perspective on what honours really means. It was the appetizer, to see if I wanted the main course (PhD). I saw a lot of people doing honours in cool things, and moving on to industry jobs and I saw a lot of people doing the honours so that they could chalk up four years for their undergraduate degree (Four years is the minimum number of years for an undergraduate degree in some countries). I saw very few people treating the honours year as a research year.
When I look back on how I treated that year, I see only one two interesting subjects and two subjects that I did not like! I loved what I was doing, and I more than absolutely loved the subject I was learning under Dr. James Harland which was based on Mathematical Logic. But the other two I had, were the ones I chose simply because I thought they would be great to do without too much investigation. Suffice to say, I regretted that.
If you are looking to do honours, if you are looking to do research, ask yourself honestly one question. Do I want to do research? Research, good research is taxing. Its hard. Its boring at times, and at times very unrewarding. Do it if you want to learn. Do it if you want to spend hours and hours and hours trying your one idea against a battery of experiments and be prepared for failure. But because research is so hard, the reward is equally high.
On the whole, I have come to realise, that I was not made for research ….. back then.
P.s. I do not know any university other than Melbourne University that actually encourages research. RMIT had a kickass computer science department; emphasis on had.