Some of the discussions reminded me of an endemic problem that I have, which I like to call persistence of knowledge. For example, over the last 4.5 years, I've spent time bringing at least 3 generations of B.S. and M.S. students up to the task in areas of:
- Machine learning
- Pattern recognition
- Graph theory
The turnaround time for grad students, however, ranges between 1 and 4 years for my students, with the average around 18 months for M.S.E. and M.S. students. And when they graduate, they take their earned expertise with them, leaving me with a fresh generation to train. This is part and parcel of the academic circle of life - as Dr. Michael Loui writes in his talk How to Choose A Thesis Advisor: "although you start as an apprentice, ideally, you should end as a colleague".1 It reminds me slightly, however, of the ending of Fahrenheit 451 by Rad Bradbury:
"What have you to offer?"
"Nothing. I thought I had part of the Book of Ecclesiastes and maybe a little of Revelation, but I haven't even that now."
"The Book of Ecclesiastes would be fine. Where was it?"
"Here," Montag touched his head.
"Ah," Granger smiled and nodded.
"What's wrong? Isn't that all right?" said Montag.
"Better than all right; perfect!" Granger turned to the Reverend. "Do we have a Book of Ecclesiastes?"
"One. A man named Harris in Youngstown."
"Montag... Walk carefully. Guard your health. If anything should happen to Harris, you are the book of Ecclesiastes. See how important you've become in the last minute!"
Anyone have any ideas for maintaining sustainable expertise? hfx_ben, who's run big software development projects before, and f00dave, who's finishing up a major long-term paper, can probably speak to this particularly well.
Other notes from the Grad Council:
- We are having a Graduate Forum again soon, with the abstract submission deadline set for 15 Mar 2004.
- We are about to institute an application fee for domestic students for the first time, and raise the application fee for international students, in order to defray graduate recruiting and admissions costs (namely, to maintain and expand clerical support for the Graduate College, develop software for applications processing, and also to put together some basic recruiting materials).
- The Provost's Targeted Excellence might be sustaining a funding hit. All indications are that the expected number of 3 or more funded proposals (out of 14 that made the preproposal cut) will come to pass, but at a reduced level.
- Compliance with the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) was achieved last year, and acclimation to SEVIS system is almost a reality.
1 ObFoE: There's some relevance here for the Jedi (and perhaps the Sith), as well. Opinions?