Chicago: Year Two

I wrote an annual review last year celebrating and looking back at my first year in Chicago. A year later, I feel obligated to review and write down how things have turned out since.

What went well

  • I am done with my coursework requirements in my PhD program. The next milestone is a master’s thesis. It might be my second master’s in CS but this time it will be more rigorous.
  • Speaking of coursework, all the interesting PL and related classes that I got to be part of were:
    • My advisor John Reppy’s graduate seminar on Software Foundations to learn Coq.
    • Stuart Kurtz’s Reading Group on Type Theory where we worked through The Little Typer book.
    • Ravi Chugh’s Graduate Seminar on Bidirectional Programming and Synthesis
    • Amal Ahmed’s Gradual Typing seminar at Northeastern (self-paced, self-study)
    • Cornell’s Great works in Programming Languages seminar (self-paced, self-study)
    • A currently ongoing Category Theory Reading Group that I am organizing. We are primarily working through Barr and Wells’ Category Theory for Computing Science.
  • I also got to TA Adam Shaw’s Programming Languages class which was a good learning experience for me in both teaching and learning more fine-grained basics of both PL and Standard ML.
  • I got to visit Mike Hicks’ group at University of Maryland College Park and started collaborations with the Quantum Computing and PL group there. I used to feel pretty lonely working at this intersection alone in Chicago, so this has been a welcome change.
  • Working with Diana Franklin’s group, I got to contribute to some zines explaining basic quantum computing concepts.
  • The PhD student representation organization that I helped build is going strong with the beginning of its second year.
  • I also officially launched a Discourse community called CS Discuss that I had been working on since the end of my first quarter at UChicago.
  • I bought an iPad last September primarily for note-taking and annotating papers. It’s been great not having to print dead-tree papers unless absolutely necessary. I also recently bought an iMac a comfortable and powerful workstation for home.
  • I got to volunteer at ICFP ‘18 and PLDI ‘19. Attending these conferences were both inspiring and intimidating at the same time. PLDI was co-located with FCRC, a federated conference only held once in four years, where I got to meet several of my friends and acquaintances from elsewhere. I can easily call it the best conference I have ever attended.
  • I got to travel to St. Louis (Missouri), Phoenix (Arizona), College Park (Maryland)/Washington, DC.
  • I seem to have almost fully eliminated Facebook from my online life. Though I am still somewhat active on Twitter since around OPLSS last year largely to connect with the PL community.
  • In personal news, after going through almost a 2.5-year long process of trying to understand people better, communicating and reading emotions, learning from everyday interactions and dozens of dates, I have found a supportive, loving and growth-oriented person to call my girlfriend. :)
  • I got to Bike the Drive on my Ibis Hakkalügi.

What did not go well

  • I started two research projects before starting my recent collaboration with the UMD group but am yet to take them to logical conclusions and hopefully submit them for publication.
  • I realize I still struggle with balancing my time based on priorities and tend to spend more time on learning/reading rather than doing things. This is something I want to change in the short-term so as to not be a hurdle in the long-term.
  • While doing the self-study for graduate seminars in PL courses, I wanted to write reviews/summary of the papers I was reading, but mostly failed to do so. I am restarting my attempt to change that by writing on this blog in the review category.
  • Since the beginning of this year, I tried to setup an intensive morning routine so I get most of my important focused work done earlier in the day, but it only worked with mixed results so far. Now that I have very little constraints on my time after finishing coursework, I hope to be able to solve this problem better.
  • The usual failures in habit-forming for regular sleep, exercise, cooking and meditation. However, I had limited success at the beginning of this year in some of these using a habit-tracking app until I stopped caring and other things got in the way.
  • Even though I said I wanted to write more on my blog last year, I mostly failed to do so. Now with reviews, I hope to keep the momentum going and not feel like wasting my time writing about non-work topics.
  • Among relationships, I often came to realize that even though I spent a lot of time over the last couple of years to become good at communication, I still struggle at times to be clear and feel misunderstood. I have to come to believe it’s a constant process of learning and I need to continue to keep growing in that direction.
  • Looking at my post from last year, I feel somewhat cynical and lot less grateful about the state of things. I wonder if it’s a temporary state of being or if something has fundamentally changed in my outlook since then.

PS: At the beginning of this post I used the word “obligated”, but after spending time on writing and thinking about this, I do admire this process of taking the time to reflect on things at a larger scale of time and put them in words. It helps keep me grounded and decide my future direction.