Monday, September 27, 2010

Student mails

I get many mails from students asking for help. I usually try to give a small hint and direct them to get more help from their supervisor. Here are some examples.

I work for a supply chain management company, and we need some help on the attached exercise we have been given as an internal training exercise. Can you help? Attached is the project and all of the data and mod files. The deadline is Friday. If you can help, please provide a price quotation.

Answer: I would suggest to takes this up with your instructor. I believe it can be conceived as inappropriate if I would step into this.

After my standard reply of "Talk to your supervisor. He/she is actually getting paid to help you." one sometimes get long stories of poor supervision by professors:

I am really, really sorry to bother you, but my supervisor does not know how to use CPlex, only one lecturer in Math department knows how to use CPlex, but he is very busy at the moment (his wife just got cancer), you are the only expert that I can count on, it is a critical part of my PhD thesis, I really, really need your help for my problem, would you please have a look at my question and give me some idea? Thank you billion times! Your help will be greatly appreciated!
Or sometimes shorter:
Me and my wife are in very difficult situation. She runs out of the scholarship and I have to go back to Kuwait with her and the family.

Of course if I send back a file with some results, I really should hide all details about who actually did the work. Secrecy is important here: 

Also can you change the following to STUDENTSNAME

Licensee: Erwin Kalvelagen                               G080731/0001CJ-WIN

Nobody know you are helping me please. My future is between your hands

Can you run GAMS economical model / Spread sheet please and put my name STUDENTSNAME everywhere please?

Some people are quite brazen in their request. This guy wants me to do his complete PhD work and he will find someone else to help me if I am too expensive:

What is your lump thump price tell I get my PhD to get two publication accepted and modify my GAMS RESULTS tell the committee is satisfied and teaching me what you did and prepare me also for defence?

What is the budget for the first publication is $? while how much you should be able to write the second publication for $?. you will make sure that those publications are of such a high standard that you will be able to find a journal which will accept both papers.

In case that this is more than my budget allows, then we can just do the GAMS part for me. Once this is done we might as well find someone else who can write you the two publications.

Does not look PhD supervisors are doing a good job if students think they can get away with such requests!


  1. Wow! I get lots of letters but no bribes. I must be in the wrong subfield.

  2. I even get "lump thump" payment offerings! I guess that means one very big, heavy envelope with money (unmarked bills of course).

  3. @Mike: I too have yet to be offered cash. Then again, I think most of the mail I get is from undergrads or masters students, not PhD students with theses on the line.

    @Erwin: One technique someone on sci.op-research proposed (can't recall now who) is to wait a week before helping. For homework assignments, that's usually enough to take you past the deadline. Won't help with PhD theses, though.