Tuesday, August 9, 2016

#Summering2016

The summer of 2016, my third in the US and first as a PhD student, is a little under two weeks away from ending, with the Fall Semester set to begin on Aug 22. As always, I started out with a plan, a list of things that I wanted to finish doing by the end of the summer. From previous experience, this is a rather futile exercise, as things can change a lot over the three months of summer. Nonetheless, it is an old habit that is hard to break. And looking at all the work lined up (both expected and unexpected), I decided to avoid taking any courses.

To my surprise, I've finished all but one of the things I planned to do, and have done a lot of things I was not planning on too! And with two weeks to go, I hope to finish the last item on the list as well. This is quite surprising as I have never been able to finish everything on the list before, and is possibly an encouraging sign that, just one year into the PhD, I am able to make a realistic work plan and execute it. Or I just got lucky, but I'd like to think the former, for my own pleasure.

This summer, I got my second journal paper published, submitted two papers at a conference, had two abstracts approved, completed an extensive online course on Scientific Computing, learned to use Linux, learned to use ANSYS, figured out how to use a brand new piece of hardware, used an API for the first time... and some more stuff that I can't even remember! Of course, most of these are incremental, but a PhD is a series of incremental steps leading up to the final dissertation, and I hope these steps will go a long way as my second year into the program begins.

But that's the professional stuff. The summer also saw two stellar personal achievements that remain unrivaled - I finally got my US drivers license, that too on my first attempt, and my weight dropped to the lowest since 8th grade, effectively setting the clock back by a decade! In my opinion, these two are as important as, if not more than, the professional achievements. Of course, it hasn't been a smooth ride: a paper of mine got rejected (again), and it's been hard to keep my weight in check without constant vigil over what I eat. And at one point, I was gripped with a sudden fear that I was going to be kicked out from my research group - something that seems laughable now, but was based on some plausible reasons then.

So that's been Summer 2016. Incidentally, this was the hottest summer in 2 years, with a heat wave and extreme humidity, not to mention all the bugs. Certainly, plenty to remember for.

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