Looking Behind and Looking Ahead - 2018 and 2019

Here it is the end of the year post. I must say, even though I don’t write here often, I am at least consistently completing this ritual. This time, I’ve decided to combine the retrospective and future into one single post.

Looking Behind at 2018

Some important things that happened in 2018…

Research

I started working with Professor Daniel Larremore in January of 2018, and it has been amazing working with him and the people there. The broader view of what my lab is interested in is the structure of academic networks. I am helping that endeavor by automating the process of collecting data from academic CVs. This topic falls in the intersection of probabilistic modeling, machine learning, natural language processing, and, interestingly, DNA sequencing. I worked on this project over the summer too and learned a lot. And I am looking forward to learning more!

Connecting the dots

Something that makes mathematics and science very interesting to me is that everything seems to be connected. After accumulating the basic knowledge, you start to see connections between things you earlier thought were unrelated. I had the pleasure of experiencing that. Here are some of those:

• In Spring 2018, two courses I took were Algorithms and Probability. An important algorithm we learnt was Quick Sort. At a later point in the semester, we calculated the expected runtime of this algorithm in Probability using the techniques we learnt in that class.
• In Fall 2017, I had taken Discrete mathematics and in Spring 2018, I had taken Differential Equations. I noticed that solving linear recurrences and linear homogeneous differential equations follwed a same pattern by finding the charactersitic equation. Turns out that linear recurrences represent dynamical systems in a discrete space and differential equations represent dynamical systems in a continuous space.
• In Spring 2018, I also took Operations Research. Once again, the same problems we solved in Algorithms including Max-Flow and shortest path cropped up in Operations Research and we were using different techniques to solve the problems. In Algorithms, we were solving the problem under some constraints that made it possible to solve them in polynomial time. In Operations Research, we solved the general problem which was usually in non-polynomial time.
• In Summer 2018, I realized that logistic regression from machine learning borrows a key idea called entropy from information theory!
• In Fall 2018, I took Fourier Analysis and Physics 3 (basic quantum physics). Being able to solve partial differential equations using the Fourier technique greatly helped me understand the Schrodinger equation (I think).

Philosophy of Education

At the end of 2017, I was asked to write my Philosophy of Education. This made me rethink how I wanted to approach education. And a key ingredient to my newly formed philosophy of education was suspension of disbelief.

For education to be complete, I think there are times when we need to temporarily give up logic and reason, and indulge in something completely preposterous for pure enjoyment and spontaneity.

At that time, I really didn’t know how. I am glad to say that I was lucky to find friends who taught me how to break the structures and truly be spontaneuous.

Looking at the numbers

This was sort of inspired by the post written by my professor Aaron Clauset.

• Number of goals that I set out to achieve: 3
• Number of goals that I completed: 0.5 (our MCM paper will be published in 2019)

• Number of side projects started: 4
• Number of side projects completed: 0

• Number of hackathons organized: 2
• Number of hackathons attended: 1
• Other competitions: MCM, Google Games

• Number of scientific papers read: 30

• Number of books read: 11
• Number of books in progress: 2
• Favorite fiction: To Kill a Mockingbird
• Favorite non-fiction: Leonardo da Vinci

• Favorite music album: Calling All Dawns
• Favorite movies: 96 (Tamil), Outlaw King
• Favorite TV show: Merlin

• Number of concerts attended: 4
• Number of theatrical performances attended: 3
• States visited: California, Washington, Arizona
• Most memorable city: Seattle, Washington
• Outdoor activities picked up: Hiking, climbing, mountain biking
• Number of 14ers completed: 1 (La Plata)

Here are some things I am looking forward to in 2019:

• Being more spontaneuous
• Doing more of the outdoor activities I picked up
• Attending more concerts and theatrical performances