The tension between research and research

I'm starting to feel that my thesis is actually doable. I've applied for the ethics review of my experimental protocol. The prototype needs some tweaking based on the feedback from my IBM mentor, but it's coming along nicely. I'm learning to push back, too: "That's out of scope." "Let's keep it simple." "I want to finish by June, mind you."

I want to finish by June. And you know what, it's starting to look possible. I'm not as happy with my thesis as I hoped I would be, because the practical applications for it are less obvious and less immediate than I thought. Most people would already be happy with using tools that exist if they only knew about those tools. I'm sketching an idea a little further down the line, but people have to learn how to make the most of the intermediate steps before we can get to the point where what I'm building makes sense. That's okay; research is a beginning, not an end.

I just want to finish by June, leaving me some time to take care of paperwork.

During our weekly update, my IBM mentor said something that intrigued me. Stephen said, "Don't forget, there's a difference between doing research and working on your thesis, and sometimes those two goals come into conflict."

I must have looked at him blankly. Research? Thesis? Wasn't my thesis supposed to be the only reason for my existence for the next few months? Weren't the two the same thing?

Stephen reminded me that my job in research is to wonder and be curious—to explore. I should keep doing that. I told him about the community work I'd been doing for LG (which is still hush hush), which I'm really curious about.

I really appreciate having a mentor who points out all the various forces and conflicts and will help me see them. It's really quite interesting how we talk about politics...

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