Confessions of a researchaholic

July 20, 2009


Filed under: Real — liyiwei @ 4:00 am
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Instead of throwing parties and receiving gifts, I believe it is more logical to celebrate birthday by expressing gratefulness to those who have helped my state of existence.

However, this deems too board a target and I will end up thanking almost everyone and everything, starting from the universe all the way to the individual molecules of my body.
To make things feasible, let me narrow down the range by picking a quality about myself that I consider to be both important and unique.

I have to begin with my parents. I owe them both my nature and nurture, and for both they gave me the very best.

My grandfather, also my first teacher, provided the pivotal role of molding my innate interest in pursue of intellectual activities at a very early age. (I could still recite some of the Chinese classics he taught me while in kindergarten.) Through him I found that studying is one of the most wonderful experiences in the world. With a good book in hand or a good topic to research, I could feel the most supreme serenity in the most chaotic corner of the world.

Thanks to all the bully kids in my neighborhood and school who ever beat me up. They made me realize, in a very early age, that best way to survive and revenge is to out-smart instead of out-muscle them.

For unknown reasons, I have great difficulty following classroom lectures. I realized this at around age 12, and was lucky enough to have high school teachers who let me learn things myself without classroom participation. I was even granted the privilege to study alone in the school library located inside the girls building. This is a lot of trust, considering the conservative nature of the high school which segregated boys and girls. (Imagine the response from my classmates.)

And thanks to my college professors who allowed me to continue skip classes. They are all excellent teachers, but I continue to have problem attending lectures. Luckily, all these years of self study in high school and college provided important foundation for my ability in independent research.

I would like to thank my Ph.D. adviser in Stanford, who not only gave me the freedom to pursue subjects but also showed me the fundamentals in conducting research. One of the most important lessons I learned from him is that research is an iterative process. Thus, instead of shooting for perfection in the first try, just go ahead and do it. Since that I have always started writing papers from day 1 when I have the rough idea, and keep updating the paper along with my progress. I have found this the best way to manage a project, and to keep my sanity when multi-tasking with several papers and collaborators.

I feel extremely lucky to marry a girl who could let me do my things without much disturbance.

Upon my graduation I joined a company that needed me to follow orders. It did not take long to realize that I might not be the best fit for that if I could not even follow school lectures. Thanks to the patience and understanding of my former colleagues, I learned the importance lesson of never trying to be someone that I am not.

I would like to thank the managers of my current company for giving me the freedom to conduct research, and the students I have collaborated with, who helped me broaden my subject scope and improve my skills for teaching and advising.

Thanks to all these people, I have the privilege to be a (de facto) sovereign researcher with the confidence and ability to pursue answers for any questions that pop up in my mind. There is nothing better for me in the world.

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