Knuth: "Be an edge, not a node."
By darcy on May 13, 2011
At a recent talk, engineering hero and consummate computer scientist Donald Knuth gave the following graph-theoretic advice for future professors: be edges, not nodes. That is, plan to have two sub-specialties in different fields and be able to act as a bridge between disciplines. Perhaps the source of this advice is related to the proof of his Knuth is fondest of: as edges are randomly to a set of nodes, after initially forming a quite disconnected graph, at a certain point there are two quick phase transitions and afterward a large fraction of the nodes then share membership in a single connected component.
I think Knuth's advice is sound for non-academics too (and a step beyond just being T-shaped). Some of the blog entries I've most enjoyed writing are those that bring together tools from different areas of computer science, such as numerical linear algebra and programming languages.