As I took my daily stroll in the park, enjoying the crisp air, the chirping birds, the sunlight reflect off the leaves, I saw a young person sitting on the bench in the park reading through a stack of profiles. He put the profiles aside and took a break to take in the scenery. I thought to myself “Why not enjoy some company? I’ll sit down and shoot the breeze for a bit”.
After some chit chat, it turns it his name was Nesef Gref. Yes his name was quite unusual, but it helped to spark up further conversation. I asked him “So, what do you do for a living?”. His candid reply was “I spend my days reading about graduate students and what they do.” And I thought sarcastically to myself, “Oh ok, that’s not…strange at all”.
But, he was a kind young man, and I thought to put aside that awkwardness and continue to chit chat. After opening up I quickly realized that he was indeed quite friendly and ambitious! And so as he said, he was looking for ambitious graduate students as well, graduate students who are excited about what they are doing, who have a vision and a passion, and are able to successfully complete graduate degree programs in various disciplines.
It turns out that I myself was a starting PhD student, and I thought “Oh man, I haven’t even taken my first class! There’s no way I could be fit for this.” But the kind young man instantly corrected me saying “Actually, you would be perfect for this! We are looking for students who are in their early stages of their graduate study.”
As we continued to talk I learned that what he is interested in most are students who can articulate specific details about their goals rather than mere generic and vague ambitions. Nesef is looking for graduate students who have innovative and clear ideas, and have a concretely defined topic with a limited scope. Furthermore, he mentioned his interest in those who seek cross-disciplinary work, rather than working within one’s own discipline.
Nesef and I had quite an enjoyable conversation that morning sitting on the park bench. He shared a lot with me of his work. What stuck with me the most is how he emphasized that the most successful graduate students are able to find a new way forward in a problem where the field is stuck by developing either a 1) new model 2) new analytical technique or 3) new conceptualization.