Wednesday October 13th

Insomnia Queen, Graph Theory and feeling Valued

A lot has happened

  • So, a lot happened within the last post. I got an offer for next summer, but I’m still doing a bunch of interviews, because I want to get into the habit of not just stopping after I get an offer (which is kind of a thing I used to do), and in negotiating better. I also turned down my return offer, too (the people on that team were nice enough to tell me secretly that I should consider different experiences, and that I would be doing myself a disservice going for the same kind of experience, which was not open to me there).
  • I mean, this is still super early to get an offer (I got it on like, the 5th or something); many companies don’t even begin recruiting until a bit later, too. So I’ve been thinking about that a lot, even though I really do like all the people I met, it’s a research position and a fascinating industry! One of my mentors was telling me that I’m doing a great thing, which is that I have done a breadth of experiences, which she also did when she was doing her PhD. Many times, PhD students don’t do that, and they pick a gig they don’t necessarily know they would hate at the end of their tenure, because they haven’t tried anything else. This “lack of perspective” issue seems to come up a lot for PhD students, apparently. I’ve been hearing that a lot; “broaden your perspective as a PhD student”.
  • And it’s so true. You really don’t know you’re getting the raw end of a deal until you step outside of whatever bubble you’re in as a student. Often, it has to be a very conscientious thing, too, and everyone thinks you’re weird for doing something other than what everyone else in your lab is doing (which may not necessarily be the best thing for your happiness, as I have to remind myself; a PhD is your personal journey). One of my other mentors who also did his PhD said that during his PhD, he had a similar experience as my other mentor, in that he tried experiencing what it was like to work in an international lab, which is something I haven’t done yet. So he got a sense of whether it was something he might enjoy doing; doing research in another country, and experiencing the difference in work-culture, while doing research (in his case, it was with a Japanese research company and in her case, it was in the UK branch of a US research company). I wish that that sort of experience was encouraged more during a PhD.
  • Anyways, back to my decisions; It’s part of the larger “I’m working on myself” thing to continue to value myself more. I was at a recruiting event today and one of the speakers, who completed her PhD, said that “we all know we get abused during the degree; everyone takes advantage of us. But we are also incredibly resilient.” And that’s so true, but the problem is that because we don’t value our worth, we short-change ourselves. So I’ve been working on little things to build myself up, and it’s already made a huge difference.
  • And I mean incredibly small things; the other day, my friend messaged me on my way from campus and we hung out downtown, and we went into one of those stores with fruity aromatherapy stuff. I hadn’t done that in a really long time, because my sense of self-care is often lacking in favour of helping others. I ended up purchasing a couple items, and even booked myself another massage. Pretty shocking, but it was something I didn’t know I needed until afterwards.


  • I’m going on a road trip, soon, with a bunch of Mathematicians, and it’s going to be super fun! I can’t wait.
  • I haven’t left this place in a while (since February 2020), so just getting a different perspective of a different place will be good for me, I think.
  • I also have longer travel plans, but that’s a bit further ahead. I’m also excited for that, too.

More Maths

  • I’m looking forward to next semester, but I attended both the Number Theory workshop and the online Extremal Graph Theory group sessions over the past two weeks.
  • I wasn’t able to attend two Combinatorics sessions, but I’ll start again from next week.
  • My Number Theory / Cryptography teacher takes people out to lunch, sometimes, which is really nice. It makes you feel like a human being within this place. I’ve been thinking a lot about p-groups from her class. They’re so interesting. One of my (bad) habits is getting stuck on a topic and not mentally moving ahead, and then missing out on or not spending as much time on some of the other topics, because I can’t stop thinking about one or two (usually it’s one). But I guess with respect to research, that’s a great quality to have. Not so much coursework, though! (where a breadth (or topic progression) is required)
  • My Combinatorics professor recommended a couple places to eat, and I’ve been taking her up on those recommendations. I’ve never felt so supported in multiple capacities. When I walk into my Maths classes, people greet me and tell me hello, are friendly, and we support and encourage each other. It’s a cool culture.
  • Today, I walked in and everyone said “Hi”, and I almost turned around in shock, thinking that they couldn’t possible be talking to and acknowledging me! But they were, and that was so nice of them. And I realized how unusual it had been before I had started hanging out with this group, which is why it was so unexpected.
  • My professor lent me her book, since apparently there is some shortage with respect to that book and even though I ordered it a while ago, I won’t receive it until the 21st (wonk wonk). But, we did spend time today talking about triangle-free graphs and chromatic numbers and Brooks’ Theorem. We usually spend our time thinking about how they (critical graphs) can be coloured. Triangle-free graphs are super interesting! I also learned a little bit about Mycielski’s graph and the Hadwiger-Nelson problem. I also got linked to a 98 page paper on Minimum Saturated Graphs that I might dig into if I stay up tonight.
  • I think I’m attending a Rainbow numbers talk this week, as well. Edit: I attended a talk on De Bruijn cycles, which spoke about some information theoretic properties, as well as a talk on Rainbow colours, where I learned about Schur colouring. The latter was kind of intimidating in that I was in a breakout room with three Maths professors trying to find the Rainbow sets for our given equation, but it was very well worth it!
  • Basically, given a number and an equation, where the number tells you what the set looks like, identify solutions that may lead the rainbow numbers, and find the smallest such number of groupings. So ours was something like 7, x + 2y = z, (where our set was {1..7}), and in our case, the smallest number was a 5-colouring. One of the persons in our group was able to prove that it has to be 5, but initially, one of our issues was figuring out whether it was 4 or 5 (granted, this is within an 8-minute or so period of time). One of the initial intuitions for that was using something like the pigeonhole principle, and figuring out that the last number, based on our constraints, had to be odd.

Hacker stuff and Cryptography stuff

  • I started participating (via an invitation) in a cryptography seminar that focuses on impact, spearheaded by some people at Brown and John Hopkins. We just had the first session, and it was really cool meeting everyone. I’m interested to see where the discussions lead, and I’ve found it to be quite valuable. The participants are very bright, engaged, and seem to really share this sense of cryptography for good, with the input of people they will have an impact on, and the larger world, and that’s awesome. It’s really refreshing (especially within the Academic community) to hear more of that sort of discussion. There is a real passion for using what they do for good.
  • I attended (virtually) ShellCon this past weekend, which was nice because we had Friday off, and the con was Friday and Saturday PDT. It was a lot of fun, especially the after-dark session. On Sunday, I think I stayed up until 6am, and the person manning the Twitch stream literally went to sleep and kept the stream running. A part of me really misses that group of people, because it was so much fun and it really felt like a family of dorks (in a good way), which was nice because it was so much of a fit, a place of glorious misfits who are perpetually curious; it’s a space where I can be myself. Things got really wild at 4am when people started singing “Don’t stop believing” and dancing in sequin cowls, and it was bittersweet having had such a great time virtually, but knowing that after the sun rose, it would be over soon. It made me also miss DEF CON; I need to make it back out there again sometime. Oh, I also found out that I won the raffle at ShellCon! So I got a wireless Sonos speaker! How cool is that? Coincidentally, this is at least the second thing I’ve won at a hacker conference; the other was a free pass for AppSec. I usually have pretty good odds at raffle-y things in general.
  • I signed up for this Wireshark event this week for fun, too. It sounds silly, but it’s a great way for me to unwind and meet like-minded people at the end of the week. So I’m looking forward to that, too. It’s funny how even though I’m on the East Coast, a lot of my social events have been on the West Coast. Life is weird.

Needless to say

  • I’m up because I have insomnia from all the shenanigans this past weekend; it will take me a few days for my sleep schedule to be bearable in the morning, and getting up in the morning will be painful.
  • I’ve enjoyed this semester so much, and I don’t think I plan on taking any more Computer Science (CS) classes ever, I think. I really enjoy the Pure Maths classes, and the people, and seriously contemplated just starting over and changing my major, but I also still have that bit of me that is into cryptography and security stuff. Uh oh. I’ve loved so much just being able to write on paper all semester. I kind of want to continue doing that for a while. I’ll write a bit of Sage; sure. Why not?

And that’s it

Written on October 13, 2021