One of the most important tool in my productivity toolbox, is a way to keep track of what I have to do and what I have been doing. I’ve tried all kind of tools for the job, from simple note taking with pan and paper, to modern task management platforms with mobile apps and web applications. I somehow was never really satisfied, the main reason being that I haven’t found a solution that allows me to do both of these things in a satisfactory way.
If you ask me what I like to do most in life, I would straightaway answer two things: solving problems and explaining things to others. I think these two passions are what led me to academia and eventually a career in research. Doing research is a non-stop problem-solving job. And once you solve your problems you need to explain your ‘complicated’ ideas, sometimes to people with a very different background than yours.
This semester I am going to teach optimisation methods at the Technical University of Cluj-Napoca. As there are pretty calculation intensive methods that we use for optimisation, we obviously need use a mathematical package. For better or for worse, Universities these days are pretty much tided to proprietary software solutions and more specifically to the infamous MATLAB. So our first task for the semester is to make sure students know how to work with MATLAB.
I’ve been hosting my own website for almost 7 years now, switching from different platforms, themes and content. But since the very beginning, it has been hosted in the namecheap servers. It’s a very nice service and I’m very satisfied with their products and customer service. Since a couple of years ago, namecheap started offering free TLS certificate issuing for all their hosting products, which is pretty awesome. They offer certificates that are valid for the duration of your hosting contract and they make them available from their website after you login.
As the time of the year dictates, I am compiling a list of interesting books I read in the past 12 months. How do I define interesting? I consider books interesting if they somehow gave me either a new perspective or some nice moments of relaxation. I separated the recommendations based on categories, so that it is easier to follow, and wrote a short explanation of why I found each book worth sharing.
I’ve mentioned some things briefly about version control in the reproducible research chapter, as it appeared as one of the four pillars constituting reproducible research. So what is version control? In the broad sense, version control is a way of keeping track of different versions of something. This something can be a process, a design, a document, an analysis or even a part of a software. The means of keeping track of different versions can vary and can be by simply making separate copies of the file for each version or using dedicated software to automate that process.
Meetings are an integral part of academic life. Actually, it’s not only important at the university, but almost everywhere. You either have to work with people, give report to your suppervisors or receive updates from your subordinates. Organising a meeting is the most wide-spread way to do that. Often people will argue about its efficiency and necessity, however let’s assume that you cannot escape having them. What is there to be done besides trying to make them as effective and pleasant as possible?
Research is a long ongoing process. You will see this sentence being repeated often in this book. The fact that is long and the fact that is ongoing means that often, you will have to jump back in time and re-evaluate things that you have been doing. That might be necessary either because you (or someone else) might have suspicions that you’ve made a mistake somewhere, either because you received new knowledge that maybe help you improve your work or because simple you want to expand what you’ve been doing earlier on.
As it will be mentioned often in these posts, a PhD is a long process that is not always very clear since the beginning what the ultimate goal is. It of course depends on whether you are working for a well defined project or for a broad idea of what needs to be achieved. To achieve such a long term and not well defined goal, it is beneficial to follow a specific reasoning.
Presenting your research, ideas and work is of ultimate importance, not only in academia, but in any field you might be working in. It is actually what it is all about when working with others. You need to exchange your ideas accurately and be able to understand other’s ideas, feedback or proposals. However, as much as communication is important, bad communication is probably the number one reason why people sometimes cannot work well together.