28/04/2017

The best and the worst thing when doing science

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A few months ago, I returned (partially) to the university. I'm working in the project in the field of the computer vision for Google company. The project is related to Google Tango technology and is really interesting. However, within these few months there were also moments when I was really fed up. The same happened when I was doing Ph.D. so I started thinking what I like the most in doing science and what I don't like.

The answer to the frist part initially seemed to be obvious i.e. I like the most learning new things, reading about new algorithms, data structures, discovering... But then I realized that it's not necessary true. Of course, I like a lot these things but it's not what I like the most. The most joy I have when I need to implement something. For example, a new algorithm, a new data structure or even a tool that will help in experiments. I simply like turning ideas into reality. Again (see also Is it possible to do PhD and work full time?) it turns out that I have strict engineering inclination or in other words that I like coding ;)

And this leads us to the answer to the second part of the initial question. I don't like performing experiments which for me are equivalent of testing software. If you are surprised, there is a chance that you have a romantic way of thinking about doing science. If you think that a scientist mainly spends time on implementing new algorithms, working with fancy tools, discussing ideas with other scientists or "discovering" new things you are simply wrong. A scientist spends majority of his/her time on:

evaluating ideas/theories
=
performing experiments
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testing
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repeating and repeating the same steps many times

Why? To find the best configuration of parameters and to be sure that his/her results are correct. And this could be extremely tedious and at least for me is simply boring. Anyway, if you are thinking about doing science, specifically doing Ph.D., you must be aware that you will spend a lot of time on evaluating/experimenting/testing.


*The picture at the beginning of the post comes from own resources and shows Wieliczka salt mine.

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