Your students are your legacy

Sometime this year I was clearing the pile of journals and magazines that had built up for months and years. I found an article by David Patterson on advising students. I liked it, and it can be found in the ACM digital library: Patterson, D. (2009). „Viewpoint: Your students are your legacy“. Communications of the ACM 52(3):30-33. Patterson sums up his decades-long experience with an emphasis on students over papers.

Thirty-two years later, I can confirm that hypothesis: your main academic legacy is the dozens of students you mentor, not the hundreds of papers you publish. My advice to advisors is to get your students off to a good start, create stimulating research environments, help them acquire research taste, be a good role model, bolster student confidence, teach them to speak well publicly, and help them up if they stumble, for students are the real coins of the academic realm.

 I joined faculty in Gjøvik in October, well after the semester had begun, so I have not been teaching or advising any students this fall. And in contrast to industry – where I spent the last years – there is no existing team waiting for you when you arrive, you need to recruit and build your own. In January, I will be starting with two groups of students. The first group will work on ways to hide information on USB memory sticks as their bachelor thesis project. The second group will do some vulnerability analyses as part of their MSc elective course in software security. These will be two exciting projects and I am looking forward to that research and development.

Among my New Year’s resolutions for 2011 will be to get in touch again with students I advised in the past, find out how they view their time spent in college, and what they do today.

About Author: Hanno Langweg

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