Jerónimo Rodrigues and his Qualifier Exam Experience

José Jerónimo Moreira Rodrigues Jerónimo Rodrigues is a Ph.D. student in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), under the Carnegie Mellon | Portugal Program. In an interview, Rodrigues talks about his Ph.D. Research and about the qualifier exam experience.

Question (Q.) After just two months of study at Carnegie Mellon University, you have taken your Ph.D. qualifier in ECE. What are your thoughts on this experience?
Answer (A.) It is good to know early on that we meet the requirements that Carnegie Mellon sets for a student. However, looking behind in time, I feel that I could have done better if I had postponed it. Since I did it just two months after arriving at Carnegie Mellon, it was not veary clear how I should prepare for the exam. By postponing the exam for one semester, you will have time to talk with other students who took the exam, to interact with faculty members, and to research before taking the exam. Therefore, you will perform better.

Q. What advice do you have for your colleagues?
A. My first advice is related with the qualifier. Given its importance, you should be sure that you know all the steps and requirements of the qualifier and the main capabilities that are expected from the student who is taking the exam. This link may help: http://www.ece.cmu.edu/graduate/forms/ECEQualSummaryForStudents.pdf . Also, reviewing the background area related to the work that you will present is very important. My second advice is that you take one course in the first semester. If you are not sure about the course that you like most, subscribe to several, but be sure that you choose one of them within the first two weeks. The advice that I emphasize the most is that you must have frequent meetings with your Carnegie Mellon University advisor, right from the beginning, even if he/she is very busy. I also emphasize that you should maintain good contact with your Portuguese advisor(s). Although it may not be easy, given the spatial distance, it is important! The last thing that I recommend is that you should go to the Carnegie Mellon University orientation, occurring in the first week. It is important to meet people the right people in the beginning. It is also an easy way to know some important information about the university (EGO, ICC, Physical Education, OIE, HUB, etc..).

Q. What is your current research project?
A.
I am currently working in a Vision algorithm compiler, for the Honda industries. The ultimate goal of this project is to create a vision system that automates the process of inserting parts onto an assembly line.

Q. What are your main goals?
A.
Learn as much as I can with the project, understand the important research topics behind it, and contribute with my ideas and my work.

Q. You have two advisors, one at Carnegie Mellon and other at IST. What kind of role do they have in your research?
A.
Since I am a student pursuing a Ph.D., my advisors play a very important role ion the way that my research evolves. The guidance provided by each one of my advisors is complementary and change my way of learning in a very positive way.

Q. How do you comment your work with your advisors?
A.
I tend to generate several ideas for discussion during the meeting. I think that the role of an advisor is to stress important research topics, give advice about new research directions, and help in developing ideas. Therefore, discussing several ideas/problems in the meetings is what I consider the best way to evolve in my research.

Q. What do you think of your experience of being part of the Carnegie Mellon | Portugal Program?
A.
I consider the experience of doing my Ph.D. in these two universities, Carnegie Mellon and Instituto Superior Técnico, very enriching. I have found in each one a complement of the other, which makes me consider this Ph.D. more valuable than doing it just in one of the universities.

Q. What are your goals in the future?
A.
I want to find topics where I can give good contributions with my research, I want to improve my relationship with my advisors, and I want to improve the way that I learn about new topics and address new challenges.

January, 2010