Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Top Prof

The success of reality TV shows that feature creative professionals in competitive situations has convinced me that it is time for a reality show for CS professors. Let me propose TOP PROF -- a new Bravo series featuring 12 junior CS profs all competing for the ultimate prize -- tenure at a top department, say -- in which each week one professor is voted out of the department until only one is left. The judges would include recent Turing award winner Barbara Liskov, the irascible but highly respected Andy Tanenbaum, industry bigwig and firebrand Al Spector, and (for comedic relief and 80's throwback cachet) the voice of WOPR from War Games.

Each week the contestants would have to face a different challenge that tests their ability to be the Top Prof. For example:
  • Review 25 conference paper submissions in 72 hours flat;
  • Prepare an undergraduate lecture on a topic you haven't seen since sophomore year;
  • Write a multimillion dollar grant proposal with six Co-PIs from three other universities in a week (and get all of the budget spreadsheets to work out!);
  • Juggle submitting 4 papers to the same conference, including one poorly written paper by a new grad student that requires a last-minute rewrite;
  • Write a dozen thoughtful recommendation letters for students you only saw briefly in your class three years ago;
  • Respond to hundreds of emails with no more than one-line responses; and
  • Hold a series of back-to-back half-hour meetings all day and manage to stay awake at the colloquium talk at 4pm.
I think this would do wonders to raise the stature of our field. Any volunteers?


  1. Matt, I love this. Especially since the bullet points are so true to life. I have done all of these things too, and in fact doing #2 this week!!

  2. I'd watch that show. Wait, can I try out to be one of the contestants?

    Can we also have a confession-cam where the theorists rip systems professors and vice versa?


Startup Life: Three Months In

I've posted a story to Medium on what it's been like to work at a startup, after years at Google. Check it out here.