Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Summer research, or lack thereof

The whole school year I was looking forward to summer, when classes would be out, I wouldn't have homework and studying to do, and I could just concentrate on getting research done. Now, almost two months into summer, I'm missing classes. Strangely, I felt like I was getting more done then.

Some of you may remember my dilemma in choosing which advisor to work with here in Hawaii. Professor A was a new but up-and-coming professor, with a solely computer modeling project for me to work on. Professor B was a well-established full professor with numerous successfully mentored students under his belt, who offered a project involving scuba diving around coral reefs as well as modeling. After much agonizing, I chose Professor B.

Well, I still haven't even taken a beginning scuba class to get open water certified, much less gone through the grueling scientific diving course required before I do diving for my research. It will come, I promise, but it keeps getting pushed back. Meanwhile, I've spent the last month and a half trying to get various models to work on my computer and failing. One of the models is one that Professor A actually works with extensively, but Professor B has never touched. Cue my awkward afternoon: An hour and a half standing in Professor A's office, him trying to get a program to work on my computer, and Professor B sometimes standing, sometimes sitting, watching and listening, quiet and clueless. I couldn't help but imagine Professor A thinking, See you should have worked with me!

I'm interested in computer modeling, but I'm also interested in field work, because it's something I haven't done before and it sounds exciting. I mean, who wouldn't want to be able to scuba around pristine coral reefs and get paid for it? But it turns out that Professor B doesn't do modeling. He does computer coding, data analysis, and maybe statistical models, but he definitely does not do numerical modeling and would not be considered a "modeler". I don't think I knew this last year when I started. Considering my current task of setting up some models, it seems that it would be a lot easier if I were working with Professor A.

I don't regret my decision. Not yet, at least. But I am not happy with the progress of my research so far this summer. If it counts as research. I have basically been installing programs on my computer for a month and a half. Downloading packages, toolboxes, zipped files, installing applications, setting paths, ./configure, make check install, blah blah blah. And still, nothing specific to my study areas is even remotely close to running.

For the record, the problem that Professor A was trying to fix on my computer remained unsolved after the hour and a half of awkwardness. We're both convinced that my computer has everything it needs to run the stupid Matlab script, but it just won't. Not sure where to go from there. It's a bit miserable.

OK, whining over.

10 comments:

soft nonsense said...

If it's any consolation, all these experiences are just that: experience. As long as you learn something, you haven't wasted your time. Now you just have to learn something.....

Eleni said...

Yeah, I've been told that, but when I have to do a presentation for the department in September that consists solely of "See, now here's another program that I couldn't figure out how to get working on my computer", it won't seem like very good experience.

But thanks :)

Sebastian said...

Ah, Matlab... I must've installed at least 10 copies of that, back at university. And SPSS, but I think that was more... statistics or something.

Nothing beats that big grin when non-nerds build their first successful computer model...!

Eleni said...

I wish it could be "my" model, but really it's someone else's model that other people are running just fine and I'm still trying to put together. It's miserable.

Sebastian said...

Why not just take a copy of their work and modify it?

Wheels... reinventing...

Eleni said...

That is essentially what I am trying to do. So either it is a lot harder than it sounds, or I am a lot dumber than I seem.

Sebastian said...

If I were there I'd help you!

Fly me out there! Using an academic grant!

I'll set EVERYONE up with Matlab. I'm a frickin' configure;make;make install PRO!

Eleni said...

I appreciate your willingness to show me how stupid I am.

But, uh, thanks for the offer. My friend from college who asked me out and I turned down who now works for Microsoft comes to mind. He could have been a useful boyfriend.

Sebastian said...

To be honest, I could never work around the omnipresent sunglasses.

I like eyes, me.

Eleni said...

I didn't wear sunglasses for my Dollhouse photo shoot. You can even see my eyes in the "mirror" shot. See? Right there.