Thursday July 22nd

RLOS Week 10 Checkpoint 2, Puzzles, and a new mentor

It’s Week 10

  • We had our checkpoint 2 today, and I was the first speaker! I was not nervous because I was tired, but I’ve been told I did an amazing job.
  • I’ve been less busy this week, but very tired. I got to the point of going out during the day to get a maple-coffee smoothie at a nearby place (and I do not drink coffee; I’m a tea person, thank you colonialism!).
  • I got up at 3am to attend a session related to work I am doing for my thesis (foundational work), and then got up at 7:30am because I had a session with my mentors at 8am.
  • I got a washer and dryer for my place, because my building didn’t have any, and I was doing that off-site, which was a pain during winter. No more :)
  • I was so happy! One less thing to stress about. I had the joy of every new washer and dryer-owner; I pretty much did laundry every day this week because I’m so happy!

I was on a panel

  • I was on a panel today with three other grad school students, and it was really wonderful. I felt like between the organizers and the panelists, I made 5 new friends. And we’re all going through grad school together. And that was really cool.

I found a new mentor

  • I’ve been going to talks at MSR this summer and one researcher reached out, and I really got a lot out of speaking with him.
  • I think I almost welled up when he said “you know a bunch of us and have connections here now”. It made me feel like there were more people going out of their way to encourage and support me. I had a really good chat with him about my path and my direction, and I just felt super grateful after chatting.
  • I don’t feel special or anything; MSR has for years been one of those places that I’ve deterministically been rejected from, to the point that when I was doing CSRMP with my mentor at Google Research, I told her I would never work there because I always get rejected from them. But somehow, the tide has turned a bit and now I have friends there now. It feels a bit surreal. I used to imagine that only people from fancy schools wearing lab coats sitting around drinking tea with their pinky fingers out worked there. And they would all use really big words to talk about things, and write tomes in LaTeX. Now I know that they have strange hobbies just like I do, and I could imagine myself fitting in socially with those people, which is unexpected. Having met a lot of people there, and hearing their paths and seeing that they are people, too, made me think differently. Hearing that they, too, experienced disappointment, rejection and struggles, and that they appreciate the perspective of coming from a non-traditional path, and the creativity that brings to the research practice, is relieving.
  • It’s a strange thing, but even if I continue to get rejected now, I feel like I still feel encouraged to keep going and not become discouraged by the process. I no longer feel like applying is pissing in the wind lol.
  • Coincidentally, the thing that gave me access was something I did out of spite. But that’s a story for another time lol. I did enjoy being asked that question, and saying to my mentor “yeah, I applied out of spite.” That happened again recently and I also got into that opportunity, too, which is funny. Both were really unexpected.
  • But this journey started out of spite. I realized that I would never learn to weld where I was working, and decide out of spite I would take classes in welding anyways. And the dots can be connected to where I am today.

This week was not very busy

  • This week wasn’t exceptionally busy, but I had a few very big events in terms of the general work I am doing. So for example, this week was a checkpoint for RLOS. So there’s a lot of that going on at the moment. Big projects that demand chunks of focus time.
  • I took part in a puzzle hunt this past weekend with a group, and had a lot of fun solving puzzles! It was a themed Hell’s kitchen event which was hilarious. This weekend, I’m doing another one that is more security-themed. I can’t wait. They also shipped us a puzzle in the mail, which I am not supposed to open until Saturday. Super cool!

I started another SFPC class!

  • Yes; I am one of 18 chosen and it’s a class to bandage the relationships we have with Mathematics, by doing Maths and surveying its relationship to fields as broad as theology and botany and programming languages theory and economics. I’ve already made a friend in the class, who wants to go to grad school. The class is so diverse and I love that it is this wonderful space for people who have various feelings towards the subject (I’m in the love range for the subject!) but it’s non-judgmental. It’s wonderful.
  • It makes me grateful to have such a place, as I am making my way through the cryptography universe. I really like all the people I’ve met so far, but I know that it won’t always be that way, as no community is perfect.

Why does this drive you?

  • I’ve thought about how throughout, there are so many things I’ve tried in grad school, and cryptography is the one that sticks.
  • It’s the set of classes I’ve done consistently the best in, done projects way more than what was required of me, and it’s been the subject in grad school that has kept me up late nights and early mornings. It’s my love, and I think it’s the thing that can get me through grad school, the problem I can stay with the longest. It also has been great to have a mentor in this field, too, who has been a source of encouragement to me (and also lives 6 minutes from me), and really someone I’ve imagined I’d like to be like in some small capacity one day. And that’s kind of a beautiful thing.
  • I’ve also thought about how by doing this, I’ve lost the need to want to do an internship during summer; I’d really just like to work with her or do a summer workshop in that area of research instead, and interact with that community. The appeal of industry has waned when I think about this subject. So maybe that says a lot, but I don’t know everything, and I’m still figuring things out. But that hasn’t really happened before, so it must mean something. Something about the topic and who I am and the support I have seems to align. And that’s really cool. I even found one researcher I would like to work with, and already contacted them about it. So it feels like a pretty straight path now. I’m thankful I was given the space to figure this out, and am excited to see the road ahead.

Here are my checkpoint 2 slides!

And that’s it

Written on July 22, 2021