Friday May 20th
Research Week 2
I’ve been oblivious about a lot of things this week
- This week went by very quickly! I spent my head down for the most of the week doing research. I’m enjoying it SO much!!!!
- Over the next next week, my mentor is travelling quite a bit, so he will be a bit less accessible, but I am set up pretty well to work independently. In fact, a lot of the process has been setting me up to really work on pieces of our research agenda and get feedback in a way that has given me a lot more confidence in general. We also have assigned readings for the general programme, so this Wednesday I stayed up until 3am working on going through readings for that and deciding that a slide show would be nice for our breakout group discussion meeting on the readings for some strange reason. One of the readings that really had an impact on me was in which the author stated that Academia doesn’t really have room for radical, extrinsic ideas. Before grad school, I definitely couldn’t see this, but being in this space, I think that I agree with that. I have a mentor (my current mentor is also like this, too!) who was working at the intersection of these spaces, and they are definitely rare.
- So I’ve been thinking a lot more about what space Academia has for persons who don’t really care about peer review, and how that helps (or hurts) their career.
- I’ve also been thinking a lot about disentangling my relationship between institutional problems and research. Particularly with young researchers, one of the things we were talking about this week is how persons come in excited about research and feel broken by the process. But a lot of these issues are explicitly institutional / systemic moreso than because the person “can’t hack it in research”. And it’s also interesting how persons who are primarily shielded from these kinds of issues (or benefit from the brokenness of the system) will say that they (these issues) don’t exist. I think that this research project in particular, and my mentor, have been integral in helping me to think more deeply about these problems, which I think long-term will inform the way I think about who can be a researcher, where I can do research and what limits I set upon myself in publishing.
- A good example that I was speaking about with a mentor today is that I felt that I had a lot more agency at the beginning of my degree, but I did not have as much skill in writing actual research papers. So those were the limits of my abilities. However, somewhere a bit after that, I had more skills, but felt like I had less agency, and was less willing to accept that I could really publish on my own if I wanted to. And this particular project is helping me to think about those questions again; who I can collaborate with, and who I can mentor or bring in as a fellow researcher, or write a paper with.
- So much of the traditional structure is “very senior person” has to be there, but the truth is that junior persons can do this, as well. And through workshops or presentations, they can iterate over their results and benefit from feedback that gets the work to be where it needs to be.
- So anyways, in terms of our current project, we’re all pretty mind-blown by how much progress has been made in such a short time, how fun it has been, and it’s really been an amazing experience for me. We have had fun bouncing ideas and discussions back and forth, even though we are quite geographically apart, and I legitimately feel energized. We were even joking a few days ago that our mentor “makes us work so hard” and wanted an emoji of him where he says “get back to work”. It’s been a riot, but so productive! Today he asked me “are you happy and is there anything you need from me” and it’s the first time I’ve ever heard that from a mentor in a research collaboration, which is coincidentally on the project I feel crazy happy about in terms of the progress I am making and the project as a whole. And I am insanely happy about this project. I’m so energized by it!
Other things I did this week
- I had a blast doing research, but I also went to see a dance show by Mark Morris, which was one of the last choreography groups that I had a desire to really see in person. Other groups I have seen are Stephen Petronio (at Cornell) and Alvin Ailey (in Los Angeles at the LA Opera years ago). When I was in Los Angeles, a friend of mine who works in theatre in my home country notoriously said “just go (to see Alvin Ailey); think about the consequences later”. I did not regret doing that! I remember one of the dancers showing us how to do “flat back”, in the pre-show engagement activities at the LA Opera; back then, it was also a place regularly where attendees would see Gustavo Dudamel or Placido Domingo. I used to spend about once a month at either Mark Taper or LA Opera in Los Angeles, and attended a few rehearsals and that sort of thing, so it’s been nice to see a show or two again.
- I went to a couple talks; one on ARPAnet and flaws in the internet protocol by John Day, one Information Theory talk by Dennis Abts on Dataflow and tensor streaming processor (TSP), where I even ran into a Haskell friend from Silicon Valley (the talk was “at Stanford”).
- I also went to two Number Theory talks; one on Graphs and the Frankl-Rodl Theorem and the container theorem for triangle-free subgraphs of G(n,p) by N. Morrison and the other by J. Sahasranbudhe, who apparently one of my profs knows! We got to chat a bit, and when I told him about the probabilistic random graphs class I took last semester, he responded that it was “totally his jam”. Pretty amazing!
- I had lunch with one of my Pure Maths besties and he gave me an amazing chair, which my back is thankful for every day, since he is moving, and I also spent part of the evening writing with a group in New York City, which I hadn’t done for quite a while, and was thankful for.
- I also caught up with a New York researcher mentor and friend (she’s amazing and I love her insights!), had some other logistics meetings for some organizational stuff, and attended an audio “sesh” for our open-source summer intern group on Discord.
- One of the compliments I got from my mentor this week was that I think like a mathematician in terms of my ability to accept abstraction. I am very pleased by this! The second was that I (apparently) work very hard. These were two compliments / abilities I did not know about myself, so I’m grateful. I’m also filling in gaps in my knowledge, and learning about some really cool stuff!! I’m excited just thinking about it! I’m so grateful for all of the support and this week has been fulfilling and therapeutic for me.
- It’s been a mind-blowingly fun week, and I can’t imagine how the time passed by so quickly.
- I’m going to be travelling in a bit, and am excited (and nervous) for that, but I also have to catch up on things and get stuff in order to leave in the next couple weeks. My thoughts are scattered about some of these things, but I’m also really excited for some events coming up, and for my summer research internship, as well as for the paper we’re working on for my other project. Oh yes, and I have been keeping up with yoga!
And that’s about it!
Written on May 20, 2022