Starting Out PhD


Today marks the third month of my PhD life. Things finally start to become a little bit clearer. I finally have some potentially concrete ideas to work on.

Finding a research topic was the most difficult part. For several months, I was wondering around like a headless chicken, reading papers after papers: serverless, ML inference, compiler, pathlet routing, RDMA, you name it. The feeling of not having a topic was suffocating.

Talking to other people, especially people not from my own research areas, is extremely beneficial. In fact, I was able to narrow down what I want to work on after discussions with a friend of mine who was working on NLP, an area complete outside of networking. Chatting with lab mates and collaborators are also extremely helpful. They usually would ask questions I would never have thought of, and save me from spending countless hours exploring cluelessly.

To me, current system research feels like application-driven. Many research projects are designed to address a very specific challenge faced in the application level. Thus, it is very likely to find an interesting system problem in a non-system conference like KDD or even ICLR.