It was sometime in May-2006 that I first got into “research”. In four years, many of my friends have gotten themselves a 200 page Thesis and a few papers, a couple of trips to Europe/ Hawaii etc for conferences and a DEGREE! My friends in Computer Science average 3 papers a year. Their resume’s are 3 pages long because 2 pages have to be dedicated to papers and conferences.
In the same 4 years, I have 0 papers, 0 conference talks and 0 results that I can proudly write in any thesis as my contribution to science.
I did not expect anything great from my M.Tech project. It was a downhill project from the beginning. Initially, I took more than I could handle, and as I slowly got to grips with the process, I had narrowed my scope vastly. Yes, I learned a lot about Monte Carlo simulations, model reduction, system identification, markov chains and master equations and such, but the end result of my research was as badly thrashed by peer-reviewers as Portugal thrashed the North-Koreans. Did the work have any merit? I guess not, otherwise the paper would have been accepted!
In Wisconsin, I took up Supply chain optimization using MPC. I was super excited when I started, because the topic looked full of awesomeness!
Nobody expected anything great to come out of Jan-08 to Jan-09, and I was not too disappointed with what I achieved. I could run some simulations of things that looked practical and useful. But it was too simple to be anything. I don’t even remember what I did in the spring and summer of 2009, except that I wrote up a huge simulation, which took almost 2 months and finally ended up not working ( I nibbled on the non-working idea again in Spring 2010, and still it remained the same: non-working!). Fall-09, was spent in making up innocuous Game theory examples and reading loads of papers on game theory. But by the end of December, I had no idea where I was going with the multitude of examples that I made up. Each of them were too simple to get any result out of, and in-fact because it was out of our group’s domain, the published papers had stuff with much greater detail in them. One such idea, I got to work on again during my internship this summer, but which again died a swift death, with it not adding much benefit.
Spring-10 was spent in vain trying to come up with a solution to yet another different problem. As you would guess by now, in vain! And today’s meeting with my boss and super-boss: 2 hours of discussion and we are back at the starting point of summer. It was a strange deja-vu during the meeting today, because we ended up discussing the same thing that we discussed at the start of the internship. I was asked to come up with another new idea, which I partially did by the end of the day, but going by past history and my luck with ideas, I think I can guess where it is going to end up. (To add to my misery, the other intern that joined with me, has 11 papers/publications and he finished his intern project 1 month ahead of schedule)
To add salt to injury, during the summer, I attended quite a few talks given by applicants to jobs in my group. As the talks varied over a wide range from supply chain design, tactical supply chain optimization, advanced controls, scheduling, monte carlo simulations etc, I realized I have more than a decent grasp on all these subjects but without a paper, and a few “good” results, I would remain a dud! I mean how else would you show that you have prove that you have working knowledge of the field AND innovative research potential. Maybe, I just don’t have any research potential.
I remember the interview with Shell in the December of ’06. In the technical interview, I was asked to talk about my project. I explained it to them, about thin films growing on a substrate, about how the process was stochastic, about the intractable “true” solution to the problem, about the need of a simpler control relevant model and about my unsuccessful attempts at finding one. The feedback at the end of the process was that I could cannot complete a given task.