Justin R. Erenkrantz Where do you want to go today?

This is a continuation of my FAQ. If you don't know the drill by now, go read the other one first!

For Quick Reference

Q: You're boring. Stop it!
A: Well, if you say so. I think I'm lots of fun. My friends might think so, but perhaps I shouldn't ask them. Some things are better left unknown.
Q: Shouldn't you have graduated by now?
A: Oh, but I did! I graduated Cum Laude from University of California, Irvine with a Bachelors of Science from the Department of Information and Computer Science. I just liked it so much, that I decided to stay for the rest of my natural life.
Q: Rest of your natural life?
A: Indeed! I signed up for the infinite length "piled high and deep" degree. It was one of those spur of the moment things. In case you haven't caught on, this degree is better known as the PhD program.
Q: Why would you do something that stupid?
A: If I thought it was stupid, I wouldn't be doing it. So, I certainly don't think it is stupid. After completing my undergraduate degree in computer science, I felt that I should pursue an advanced degree. Call me crazy, but the economic situation when I graduated wasn't very tempting, either. So, that made my decision a little easier. Not to mention that I found a research area that I really liked.
Q: What area did you like so much?
A: Software Engineering, particularly Software Architecture. How can you design software to scale well, be extensible, etc, etc. While I have a passing interest in other areas of computer science, nothing is quite as interesting as this to me.
Q: Why Software Engineering?
A: While slaving away to earn food money at eBuilt, I ended up working for a guy who said he had something to do with the one of the core protocols of the World-Wide Web. Due to his prompting, I eventually became a contributor to the market-leading HTTP server - the one you can't buy even if you wanted to. Mainly because it's free.
Q: Nah. I don't believe you.
A: Seriously. As you can see, I'm a contributor to the Apache HTTP Server Project. We're the group that is responsible for Apache HTTP Server, which Netcraft says is the market leading web server. I'm also a member of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF). Call the ASF a big moose lodge and you got the right idea. The foundation is built around providing open-source projects to the public.
Q: Open source - you're a commie. I knew it!
A: Actually, I'm not a communist. I'm a capitalist and free-market supporter through and through. Greed is good. Perhaps the better question is why do I work on something that I give away to others for free? Namely, I work on this stuff in my free time - it's fun in a sadistic manner. If you'd like to hire me to work on your stuff, I'll do it for an agreeable price (I'm not cheap - good but not cheap). Yet, for something I like to do, I'll do it for free if I can afford to. Since I'm now otherwise employed, I can do that.
Q: Otherwise employed?
A: See that's the biggest difference about undergraduate and graduate school. You have to pay the school money to go to get an undergraduate degree, but for a graduate degree, you can usually get your way paid. While the money isn't great (can't buy that Lexus I've always wanted), it's enough to buy enough peanut butter, bread, and Coca-Cola™ with a decent roof over my head. Which is more than I can say for some of my friends who are unemployed.
Q: Where did you look at for a PhD?
A: Given that my interests were in Software Engineering, it narrowed down my choices for graduate schools considerably. In the United States, the following schools are the only real choices: While I'm sure there are some other worthy schools I've omitted, pretty much everyone in the field descends from someone at these schools. Going anywhere else would definitely meant that I wouldn't be doing Software Engineering.
Q: Where did you apply?
A: For a number of reasons, I only decided to apply to three PhD programs. If I didn't get into any of those programs, I felt that it wouldn't be worth my time to go to a PhD program. The three schools were Carnegie Mellon, Georgia Tech, and University of California, Irvine. Overall, I believe these schools have the largest number of faculty members doing research in the 'broader' area of Software Engineering. Not all of the faculty members are doing Software Architecture per se, but these groups are fairly large with more than a few in Software Engineering. I also decided not to worry too much about the overall PhD program. I was reasonably certain that I wasn't going to switch from Software Engineering to Graphics. So, these schools may not be the same caliber across the entire degree program, these three are roughly in the same ballpark for Software Engineering. Note that when I was on recruiting trips, I encountered other graduate students who had the same three finalists. So, be aware that I'm not alone in my view.
Q: Did you get accepted anywhere?
A: Heh. The same silly thing that happened to me as an undergraduate happened as a graduate: I got accepted everywhere. I had good grades and (hopefully) good recommendations, so this wasn't as much of a shock as my undergraduate acceptance rate, but it was good to get in everywhere again. For the most part, the financials were about equivalent to each other. So, a conundrum awaited.
Q: How did you choose where to go?
A: Similarly to my undergraduate decision, it wasn't an easy decision. I don't think there was a wrong decision - all three of these schools are very good and I'd probably do fine at any of them. In fact, I think this one might have been a little bit harder. For the most part, I made my undergraduate decision without knowing a lot about my choices (for better or worse, I really didn't!). This time around, I was able to visit all of the colleges, talk to the individual professors at length, and able to understand how their research areas fit in with my own goals. In the end, for an entirely different set of reasons than I did four years earlier, I once again chose to go to UC Irvine. It wasn't like I really wanted to stay - it just turned out that was the best choice yet again. So, I get to stay here in Irvine for a while more. I can say that I turned down Carnegie Mellon twice. I really do like Pittsburgh though (cold weather and all). Georgia Tech was great, but the research fit wasn't as exact as I would have preferred.
Q: Who are you working with?
A: My advisor is Dr. Richard Taylor. Among others, Dr. Taylor has been the PhD advisor to this guy, that guy, this dude, and, of course, that dude. I'm probably in better company than I deserve. And, surprisingly, there is a large percentage of Dr. Taylor's students that got their undergraduate degree from UC Irvine. Odd. Since we can't stay once we get our PhDs (departmental policy to prevent inbreeding), we have to go elsewhere. But, if you've been in Irvine for ten years (if not more!), you want to leave really badly by then.

Any other questions, you can e-mail at the address below (see my name down there?).

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