What advice do you have for current and future Google PhD Fellows?
Flora: Take advantage of the opportunities it provides, apply to Google internships, go to more conferences, collaborate and meet PhD Fellows in other fields. By becoming a Google PhD Fellow, you are joining a community of incredibly talented researchers and gaining influential mentors. As for the PhD, you will still go through the ups and downs of doctoral research. But it will be much easier as a Fellow. Stay the course. If you are an undergraduate considering a PhD pathway, invest energy and time in figuring out if there is a problem or a field that you care enough about to dedicate many years of your life to it.
Minsuk: My advice is to look for opportunities to cross the boundaries between disciplines. My work was made possible by collaborating with people across multiple research areas, such as information visualization, machine learning, human-computer interaction and databases. While research from different fields might seem unrelated at first, combinations of ideas can create unique research opportunities. Before starting my PhD, I conducted research on making recommendation algorithms more accurate, but found myself being much more motivated by different flavors of research. This experience led me to find my research direction and vigorously pursue it in my PhD.
Nicolas: I recommend that you do not optimize for short term rewards (like publishing papers) but instead focus on solving the problems that you find the most interesting. Research is often a random process and it is hard to predict what work will have an impact, so optimizing for short term rewards can quickly remove the “fun” out of doing research. While an undergraduate student, you have many opportunities to learn about topics that are diverse and possibly far away from the topic you will eventually choose to work on if you start a PhD. This breadth of knowledge will not only make you a more interesting person but help you in your research, because the most interesting research questions are often the ones that require an interdisciplinary approach to find an answer.