Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Masters to Graduate Diploma

In 2008 I commenced a coursework Masters in mathematics at the University of Queensland. I have downgraded this to a Graduate Diploma and should officially graduate in a few weeks.

My original goal for commencing postgraduate study was to improve my knowledge in programming languages and make the current research more accessible. Unfortunately the local universities teach very little (relevant) theoretical computing science, so I enrolled in mathematics with a focus on discrete mathematics, logic and abstract algebra. After the first year I discovered that there is no real future in programming language research here in Brisbane. I had achieved my goal in the context of the courses available and so switched my study to statistics as data analytics is both interesting and hopefully more viable locally.

To complete the Masters I need to do the equivalent of four courses in research. As I am enrolled in a coursework masters, I pay 2-3 times the standard undergraduate fees. The last course cost $2010. Therefore there is approximately $8000 in fees remaining.

I would enjoy the remaining Masters research component if could find the right supervisor and topic. However employment as a researcher now generally requires a PhD, not a Masters and while a PhD is longer, it also has no fees. So if the circumstances were right to do the Masters research it makes more sense to consider a PhD anyway.

The value proposition for completing the Masters is too low. I have fulfilled the requirements for a Graduate Diploma and so will finish with that.

7 comments:

Steven Shaw said...

Hi Brad! Two questions.

I had thought about heading to UQ for some discrete math after I returned from the UK. I had had trouble getting into TaPL because I lacked the math... Was the math at UQ worthwhile for accessing the latest Computer Science Programming Language related research?

Could you expand on the point you made about "I discovered that there is no real future in programming language research here in Brisbane.". I thought there was a fair bit of stuff happening at QUT. There certainly used to be. Not so sure about UQ. I've been thinking about doing a master/phd around a programming languages & systems topic. It looks like UNSW would be an ideal Australian university for PL research (they seem to be doing some good stuff). I don't really have the option to move to Sydney though and I'm imagining that we haven't entered the 21st century when it comes to remote study yet :). Any advice would be appreciated!

Brad Clow said...

Hi Steven

I just had a quick look through TAPL and I expect the first year discrete maths subject would get you a fair way there. It is also enough to be comfortable with basic abstract algebra like semigroups and monoids.

There are no subjects on category theory.

I did a 3rd year logic and set theory subject, not sure if it is still running. This would be somewhat useful if you are interested in formal proofs. Only covers first order logic. You would have to look elsewhere for other types of logic and type theory.

Brad Clow said...

Hi Steven

Regarding your second question, I don't know of any companies doing PL research/implementation work (e.g. Google, IBM, MS, Oracle, Galois, etc.) here in Brisbane, so that leaves academia.

The PL group at QUT was very small when I left earlier this year. There was a greater focus on eScience. I am aware of a few people at UQ. Not sure about Griffith. In general my perception is that PL and theoretical CS is diminishing here.

Some of these groups still have international links, so you could possibly study here and they could help you move on for employment.

IMHO you will need to relocate from Brisbane to be successful in the PL field. YMMV.

Steven Shaw said...

Thanks for the answers, Brad. I'll certainly take another look at discrete math at UQ. I am also interested in proofs but I don't think I could justify more than 1 year's study ATM. Perhaps I won't have so much trouble when I get back into TaPL. It was a while ago when I tried to tackle it last. I have at least a vague understanding of semigroups and monoids now. Plus, I now longer thinks it's hard. Only the terms are scary, the concepts seems simple and sensible.

I've already started doing some PL research - mostly self-funded and partly supported by my consulting work. In fact, it's hardly research yet - just study. I have a few ideas that may be innovative enough to be classed as research. I'm interested in developing a programming language for games development (which would likely be suitable to other "low-level" systems programming tasks like OS and DBMS development and perhaps even to general purpose application programming). I'm hoping to find a suitable university to do a Masters/PhD around it - to tap the talent and knowledge available so I avoid some of the dead-ends. Plus, I've always wanted to continue my studies in this direction. I haven't looked much at Griffith. I'll check it out. What are folks doing out at UQ? I can't find much PL related stuff at UQ via Google...

I imagine I could do with some help once I start to tackle TaPL again. Hope it's ok to ask a few questions at the BFG from time to time.

Oh, I recall talking with Richard Thomas who mentioned that enrolments are down in Information Technology at QUT, particularly international enrolments. Maybe that means less funds available for the PL research. At QUT, they renamed their centre from PLASRC to Microsoft Research a few years ago. Is that where you were with Paul Roe, John Gough, Wayne Kelly and Diane Corney? John's so enthusiastic about PL - he was my favourite lecturer. Seems he's retired/semi-retired now :(. Is there not much new Microsoft funded project going on in PL? The PLAS page doesn't mention any new projects except for ELP maybe.

Steven Shaw said...

Thanks for the answers, Brad. I'll certainly take another look at discrete math at UQ. I am also interested in proofs but I don't think I could justify more than 1 year's coursework ATM. Perhaps I won't have so much trouble when I get back into TaPL. It was a while ago when I tried to tackle it last. I have at least a vague understanding of semigroups and monoids now. Plus, I now longer thinks it's hard. Only the terms are scary, the concepts seems simple and sensible.

I've already started doing some PL research - mostly self-funded and partly supported by my consulting work. Actually, "research" overblows it - I'm just doing the background study right now. However, I have a few ideas that may be innovative enough for a research topic. I'm interested in developing a programming language for games development (which would likely be suitable to other "low-level" systems programming tasks like OS and DBMS development and perhaps even to general purpose application programming). I'm hoping to find a suitable university to do a Masters/PhD around the topic - to tap the talent and knowledge available and avoid some dead-ends. Plus, I've always wanted to continue my studies in this direction. I haven't looked much at Griffith lately (a high-school friend of mine went their years ago and they used to teach Miranda as the first PL!). I'll check them out. What are folks doing out at UQ? I can't find much PL related stuff at UQ via Google...

I imagine I could do with some help once I start to tackle TaPL again. Hope it's ok to ask a few questions at the BFG from time to time. I'll grovel if I have to ;).

Oh, I recall talking with Richard Thomas who mentioned that enrolments are down in Information Technology at QUT, particularly international enrolments. Maybe that means less funds available for the PL research. At QUT, they renamed their centre from PLASRC to Microsoft Research a few years ago. Is that where you were with Paul Roe, John Gough, Wayne Kelly and Diane Corney? John's so enthusiastic about PL - he was my favourite lecturer. Seems he's retired/semi-retired now :(. From the PLAS home page, it doesn't look like any new projects have been started recently - except for maybe ELP. I did miss a talk recently from a guy doing a flow language at QUT with a LLVM based implementation/JIT which sounded very interesting.

Brad Clow said...

Steve

I was working with Paul Roe in their sensor networks project. John Gough was around the office sometimes. Talk to Matt Brecknell at BFPG for the latest news in PL work at QUT.

Steven Shaw said...

Thanks for the tip. I will.