Notes (from Prof. Dapeng Oliver Wu)

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  • Be open-minded.   Always challenge oneself with intellectually stimulating problems.
  • Pursuing Ph.D. is to push forward the frontier of knowledge and develop new ways of thinking.  For an undergraduate, finishing programming/simulations, collecting data, and plotting performance figures are the end of the task.  But for a Ph.D., these are not the end.  The final result should be original contributions that are somewhat surprising to the community of science and technology.
  • A Ph.D. in Engineering is expected to apply fundamental approaches to solving practical problems.  It could be application of new approaches to new/old problems.  It could be application of old approaches to new problems. To achieve this, mastering the related theories is critical.
  • Memorizing a theory does not mean mastering the theory.  It is essential to thoroughly understand the underlying principles, the way of thinking and the insights of the theory.  When the theory looks very natural and logical to you, you are at the stage of commanding the theory.   Then you do not have to forcefully memorize it at all.
  • The cornerstone of Ph.D. education is cultivation of independent, critical, and creative thinking.
  • The key to success is keeping yourself motivated.  In my view, long-distance running is an effective way to stay motivated and improve mental toughness.
  • Passion and enthusiasm are the best way for success.
  • Insatiable curiosity is a driving force for doing excellent research.
  • Put teaching, learning, and understanding ahead of any thought of impressing colleagues with the esoteric or the obscure.
  • A good research paper consists of clean problem formulations, clean notations, and clean solutions.
  • Many practical problems do not have closed-form solution.   So people resort to numerical algorithms or simulations to get solutions.  What distinguishes a good researcher from the rest is not on nice numerical or simulation results, but on how to analyze (mathematically justify) the results and provide sound physical interpretation/insight/intuition.
  • The hard part of doing research is to be a leader rather than a follower.
  • Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and he'll take care of himself.
  • To some, academia is all about the disinterested pursuit of truth; another view is that academia is all about politics. People with mature outlooks fall into the realistic middle between these extremes.
  • An important goal of education is to help students develop the learning strategies needed to acquire new knowledge and skills.
  • Life is good.  Life will become good if it is not good now.  Do what you like.   Like what you do.
  • Jogging is a life style.  It can improve your health, de-stress your busy life, release your frustration/anxiety/animosity/fear of uncertainty, and make you more efficient/optimistic.  Jogging may be the best medicine for many of your problems in your everyday life.
  • A way to develop creativity: When you read a book, try to write another book (which may be as short as one page); the new book may include your new interpretation about the problem, new angle to look at the problem, new methods to solve the problem, even new theory to address the problem.
  • In system modeling, a model should be accurate enough to be useful and should be simple enough to be implementable.