Confessions of a researchaholic

June 9, 2012

Be the best

Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 7:16 pm
Tags: ,

This is the most important suggestion I have for research students.

I am only interested in doing the best kinds of work. If I want to publish a research paper, I go for the top venue (e.g. SIGGRAPH for graphics or CHI/UIST for human computer interaction). There is nothing inherently wrong about not aiming for the best; it is just not what I want to spend my time on. Life is too short.

I do not care where you came from or what kinds of performance you had before; if I take you as my student I am going to help and push you to be the best. I will not allow any excuses. Do not join me if you are not fully committed to this.

Some frequently asked questions below.

Q: why?

I am actually not sure how to answer this question, because it is an integral part of who I am. (My first name literally means “the best” in Chinese.)

But if you insist, here are some reasons that I can pull out of my head.

I just see no fun and no point otherwise. Imagine asking an ugly girl/guy out and getting rejected. Go for the prom queen/king.

This is the best kind of training, both mentally and intellectually. If you can pull off the best kinds of research work, you will gain the confidence to tackle whatever other challenges you will face in your life.

This is a transformative kind of experience. There are many very smart and hardworking folks out there. To compete with them, I have to be at my best. And this requires me to eat well, sleep well, exercise a lot, maintain good personal relationship, etc.

I want my students to land the best kinds of jobs after graduation. And the quality of jobs is positively correlated to the quality of publications.

Q: how about people who do not have enough talents?

Talent is overrated, especially for endurance sports like research. What matters most is passion and toughness. I have seen more people who lack hearts than who lack brains.

None of my (current and past) students attend Stanford, but many of them can perform in Stanford level. I just need to bring out the best of each one of them.

Q: what if I fail?

Failure is a natural part of research; if you do not like the former, you should not undertake the latter. However, even in the very worst cast that you have all your papers rejected, if you can develop solid programming skills, you should have no problem finding a good programmer/engineer job.

Q: how do I know what it takes?

Talk to my current and past students, and if possible, try to work with me for a little while before full commitment.


  1. […] and probably only those can score the internships anyway. So, just like my general principle of being the best, make sure you perform well with me, and having some SIGGRAPH/CHI papers definitely cannot hurt. […]

    Pingback by » My take on internships Confessions of a researchaholic — July 9, 2012 @ 5:16 pm | Reply

  2. There are so many researchers (if they can be called researchers) in the world. But the best venue to publish papers is just a few. Most of them will never be the best. How do you suggest them to deal with themselves, since they ought to be the best? They definitely go for it but they just cannot get it.

    Do passion and toughness mean sleeping very little everyday for a long time, like what people were doing in MSR Asia?

    Comment by loser — August 18, 2012 @ 5:02 pm | Reply

  3. […] my very first internal research group, the culture I want to instill is “have fun and be awesome“. I realized, through interviewing hundreds of students (within just one year) and working […]

    Pingback by » Initial culture Confessions of a researchaholic — August 27, 2012 @ 5:07 pm | Reply

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