Friday, October 13, 2006

Computer scientists sit in a cube and program all day...

Science+Professor+Woman=Me has an interesting experience talking to a bunch of freshmen about science (emphasis mine): I gave a guest lecture to a group of freshmen who all said they were not interested in science. It turns out that they had no idea what science really involves. I listed a bunch of scientific questions and asked if these were things they wanted to know. Yes! They did. So we talked about these for a while, and then they thought of more questions, and it was a very fun. We also talked about how research is done - how you come up with the questions,how you go about answering, discovering, testing. The students said they hadn't known that these were the kinds of things that scientists did. They imagined that we just worked in our labs making chemicals or looking at data on computer monitors all day. I doubt if any of them were inspired to become scientists, but I felt pretty good about changing their perceptions of science and scientists.
I wonder what would happen if we did this for CS.



  1. \begin{cynicalviewpoint}
    On the other hand, isn't it actually true that an overwhelming majority of computer science graduates do exactly that?

    Posted by kunal

  2. That's not data they're looking at, it's Friendster. 

    Posted by Anonymous

  3. I'm not surprised these students had no idea what science is. But do they know what philosophers do? Or do they know what the average politician does when he is not on TV?

    The truth of the matter is that careers are usually badly planned based on biased and incomplete information.

    But should we do anything to attract more people into research, leave alone science? Maybe. Maybe not.

    I have two sons and I will not encourage either of them to pursue a career in science. I'm quite happy with my job, I love the work I do and I consider myself to be very lucky to get paid to do research all day... but there are other very cool things one can do, and they don't involve starting your life at 30 and working week-ends for several years before you can finally take a rest. 

    Posted by Daniel Lemire


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