Dr. Herman wrote a guide for the perplexed graduate student doing research. It is a piece of article I think that every graduate student should read.

“Supervised research is a symbiotic (although not symmetric) interaction between student and adviser.”

Here I copied the laws:

The laws of Herman

  • Your vacation begins after you defend your thesis.

Science first

  • In research, what matters is what is right, and not who is right.
  • In research and other matters, your adviser is always right, most of the time.
  • Act as if your adviser is always right, almost all the time.
  • If you think you are right and you are able to convince your adviser, your adviser will be very happy.
    • yes, very happy!


  • Your productivity varies as (effective productive time spent per day)^1000.
  • Your productivity also varies as 1/(your delay in analysis acquired data)^1000.
  • Take data today as if you know that your equipment will break tomorrow.
  • If you would be unhappy to lose your data, make a permanent back-up copy of them within five minutes of acquiring them.
    • see here for a large data back-up plan
  • Your adviser expects your productivity to be low initially and then to be above threshold after a year or so.


  • You must become a bigger expert in your thesis area than your adviser.
  • When you cooperate, your adviser’s blood pressure will go down a bit.
  • When you don’t cooperate, your adviser’s blood pressure either goes up a bit or it goes down to zero.
    • :(
  • Usually, only when you can publish your results are they good enough to be part of your thesis.
  • The higher the quality, first, and quantity, second, of your publishable work, the better your thesis.
  • Remember, it is your thesis. You (!) need to do it.


  • Your adviser wants you to become famous, so that he/she can finally become famous.
  • Your adviser wants to write the best letter of recommendation for you that is possible.
  • Whatever is best for you is best for your adviser.
  • Whatever is best for your adviser is best for you.