2 months into the PhD now, and we are very much still exploring this grand academic environment at Berkeley. Here are a few of the questions that many of us are asking ourselves and one another. And even though we fully realize that our answers will develop, warp, and combust over the course of the next half decade, we at least have some established prior from which we can begin our journey. The discussions have been extremely insightful and provocative, and I look forward to many more.

About the past

  • How did you get here? Why are you here, at Berkeley? Perhaps differently, why do you think they admitted you?
  • How do you value money? What is your cost for agreeing to not pursue a PhD? 20 million vs 500 billion?

About the future

  • What do you care about? What is your big problem/idea/area?
  • What would you consider to be the biggest problem for society?
  • Do you consider your role in society? What do you consider it to be? Do you feel an obligation to serve society in the way that you are best suited? How does happiness factor in?
  • Do you think your time is best spent via a career in academia? Via research? In industry? As a parent?
  • Do you want to become a professor?

And about the present, quite literally

  • How many projects are you working on now? Which of them with professors?
  • How many group meetings of different professors are you attending?
  • What’s your plan for this semester? For the first year?

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