Philip Guo (Phil Guo, Philip J. Guo, Philip Jia Guo, pgbovine)

Professor Guo's Guide for Students

To maximize the chances of me being able to help you, please read this document first.

Why so many rules and policies?!?

Because it helps me serve everyone in the fairest and most scalable way considering I have hundreds of students in my classes and up to a dozen in my research lab at any given time.

These policies might appear to be rigid or strict, but the fact is that all professors have such unspoken policies for professional interactions; I just choose to share mine publicly. The more closely you follow these policies, the more I'll try to be at my best when I see you because I'll know that you're also trying your best.

Understand how I must split my time

In an ideal world, I'd have plenty of time for everyone. However, the reality of my role as a professor is that I have to continually balance at least eight jobs that compete for my time:

  1. Teaching – developing course materials, administering and teaching courses, grading, responding to student requests, managing a team of teaching assistants
  2. Research advising – meeting with students in my research lab to advise their projects, running and managing a research group, critiquing students' ideas, writings, and presentations
  3. Hands-on research work – long-term research trajectory planning, developing new project ideas, implementing projects by writing code, writing and revising papers
  4. Fundraising – writing grant proposals to get funding for my lab, managing funding-related logistics, reviewing other people's grant proposals
  5. Academic community service – reviewing papers, organizing professional events, writing recommendation letters, doing professional outreach
  6. Department service – department-level committee work, hosting and meeting with visitors, interviewing job candidates
  7. University service – university-level committee work, other meetings with faculty and school administrators
  8. Travel – to academic conferences, to give invited talks at other universities, to meet industry partners, for fundraising

(adapted from Why academics feel overworked.)

This guide will help you make the most of my limited time.

The best ways to reach me

During these times, I'm happy to chat about anything you like:

  • Office Hours (by far the best times)
  • Right after a class that I'm teaching; I can usually chat for a few minutes, sometimes while walking to my next class or meeting. Please do not email me to find out when/where my classes are; you can look this all up online.
  • Right after Design Lab meetings or seminar talks that I'm attending, unless I have another meeting to attend right afterward. Look online for where these are.

It's very hard to reach me during other times because my days on campus are fully booked with different tasks (see first section).

If you send me email, the following rules apply. I may redirect you to this page and tell you to come find me in person sometime.

If you're in one of my classes and we use a different mode of communication there (e.g., a forum), use that and not email.


Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but here's how I prefer to be addressed:

  • as “Professor Guo” if you are in one of my classes or if I otherwise don't know you.
  • as “Philip” if you are working with me in a research context or as part of my teaching staff.

Please spell my name correctly in written communication.

No-late policy

Unless there is a dire emergency, if I ask you to do something by a certain date and time, I expect it to be done by that time.

If you're not 100% happy with the quality of your work as the deadline approaches, it's fine to give me a mostly-finished draft rather than nothing so that I can at least look at it and figure out how best to adapt. Something is better than nothing.

The reason I set hard deadlines is because other people and tasks depend on you meeting these deadlines. If you're late on delivering something, that will push a bunch of other tasks back and force me to scramble to reshuffle a cascade of other dependencies that you're probably not even aware of.

Requesting exceptions to class policies

I've refined my class policies over many years to maximize fairness for all students. Fairness is my guiding principle. Requesting an exception means asking me to give you preferential treatment over the hundreds of other students who did not ask for an exception. Think carefully about what your request entails, and make sure you are being considerate to your classmates.

That said, sometimes exceptions are justified given your unique circumstances. If you would like to make a request, make it as early as possible, and do so in writing so that we can have a timestamped record. Be prepared to hear “No” as a response, especially if you bring something up last-minute and without a fair justification. Finally, I understand that emergencies do come up last-minute and will try to take that into consideration as long as you act on good faith.

Requesting recommendation letters or milestone meetings

If you need me to write recommendation letters or other supporting documents on your behalf (even if it seems like something that should be “quick” to do), I will need at least 3 weeks of advanced notice. I'm consistently overloaded with requests like this that it's simply not feasible for yours to come in earlier than three weeks ahead of time. (It's not fair to other students who made these requests well ahead of time before you.)

If you're in the process of scheduling committee meetings, major presentations, thesis defenses, etc., please do the scheduling at least 6 weeks in advance. It is very hard to get multiple professors scheduled to meet at a certain time, so do not underestimate the tremendous effort this takes. Finally, once a time has been set, do not reschedule unless there is an emergency.

Created: 2018-05-21, last major update: 2018-06-09