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…

Random Emacs symbol: pgg-gpg-insert-key – Function: Insert public key at point.