Sunday, November 06, 2005

Crossroads

I realized today that my posts are composed of so many random bits of things I need to start titling them by sections. :)

Running
My running this week sucked because I was lazy about it, so I'm not even going to bother posting it here. But I do believe that I am finally recovered from my shin splints, because they barely hurt at all now. I also lifted weights on Thursday for the first time in about 4 years, and yes I'm really really sore from it.

Side-story
Here's a funny little story from this morning. One of the bathrooms in my apartment was starting to get an ant problem, so I moved out all my stuff and sprayed the place. Little ant bodies are continuing to accumulate all over the bathroom. To my surprise, today I went in there and saw the ant queen hiding on the top of my bottle of shaving creme. So I got my insect spray and did what needed to be done. I felt kind of bad about it though. I've never seen an ant queen, but I've always wanted to (she was one big momma!). And I actually really like ants (I'd say they are my favorite insect) and I played SimAnt all the time when I was a kid.

Allacrost
Things with Allacrost are going really great right now. Ever since I dropped that class I've had so much more time to work on it, and our whole programming team is fired up again now. We've finally figured out how to bind C++ and Lua together effectively, which was the major barrier holding us back. I don't see much from stopping us anymore. It's only a matter of code and time now. :)

My future in Neuroscience?
On Friday, I went and spoke with a molecular biology professor about the Neuroscience program at UT. What happened during that meeting was totally unexpected. First of all I've been really concerned about my complete lack of biology/chemisty knowledge, but he said that doesn't matter. In fact, they've actually been looking to bring in people from other fields (especially mine). So that was certainly good to hear. I also confirmed that the students that they accept automatically get a fellowship for their first year (and maybe their second) and after that its their advisor's job to find them funding. Much different than what I've gotten used to in ECE! But what shocked me the most was when the professor asked me for my credentials (GPA, test scores, publications, etc.), he said that if I would have applied last year, he was pretty certain I would have been accepted. At that moment I thought "HOLY CRAP!", because I thought that if I would get accepted into this department at all, it would be by the skin of my teeth. But he made it sound as if I would have little trouble getting in, as long as I played my cards right.

Ever since that meeting, I haven't been able to stop thinking about my future. I'm losing sleep over it, and even when I do sleep my dreams are about it. This is the biggest decision I've ever had to make in my life. Do I pursue a PhD in neuroscience, or do I stick with what I know and work at Freescale after I graduate? I've been weighing my options and I just can't make up my mind! I'm almost certainly going to apply though, because I have to get accepted first to be able to make a decision at all. Here's an analysis of the two options:

PhD in Neuroscience
+ I know for a fact that I love learning the material in this field.
+ My research can have a direct (positive) impact on people's lives, which is something that I've always wanted to do.
+ I find research in the field so much more motivating/enlightening than work in computer architecture, where there isn't much innovation at all (just faster clock speeds or more processor cores: big deal)
+ I'll be able to learn a hell of a lot, and I love learning

- I'll probably be committing six years of my life to this. In other words, I'd be about 30 when I graduate, which is SCARY!
- I have no idea what it means to do research in this field, or in molecular biology. So I have no clue whether I will actually like this type of research or not.
- I have some ideas of what I want to do with this knowledge after I graduate, but I don't know how difficult it would be to be able to do the type of work I would like to do (as in, getting support for it)
- How much free time will I have? I want to still be able to dedicate myself to other things while I study for my PhD, including Allacrost, translating Japanese, etc.

Fulltime job at Freescale
+ I'll make more money than I think I'll ever need (money isn't that important to me though)
+ Its an area I know and know well. I already know what I can expect from taking this path.
+ I really like the company and its policies. As far as work in computer architecture goes, I don't think there is another company in the world that I would fit in with this well.

- I don't feel like I'll be able to accomplish anything in life if I just become an engineer here. I'll help make some processors a little bit faster or consume less power, but that just...won't make me happy I feel
- When you do nothing but write code at work all day, the last thing you want to do when you come home is write more code. Working could be very detrimental to my contribution to Allacrost
- It will be so much more difficult for me to make friends and have a social life. That's something I've been trying to work on lately, because I finally realized how important it is to have those things.

The main question I'm trying to answer for myself here is "What path would make me feel the most happy?". From studying/working over the past year, I've discovered that being successful does not necessarily make one happy. Right now I'm leaning more towards the PhD in neuroscience, but the fact that I don't fully know what I'll be getting myself in to is why I'm only sticking my feet in the water right now instead of taking a full dive.

Wikipedia trivia
Okay, now here's my Wikipedia question of the day: How is Alan Greenspan related to the emacs editor?

- Alan Greenspan is an advocate of laissez-faire capitalism.

- During the cold war era, laissez-faire economics assumed a stronger ideological edge, and some argued that if the Free World was truely defined by it's freedom, then it's citizens should have full economic freedoms.

- Richard Stallman uses the term Free World to describe the set of software, people, commercial/non-profit companies, that adhere to the 4 basic freedoms of free software.

- Richard Stallman is one of the original designers of the emacs editor?

2 Comments:

Anonymous phil said...

Holy shit, Alan Greenspan and Emacs! Never would have imagined, lol :)

I remember doing a project on ants back in third grade... ah the good ol' days.

So um what kind of work are you thinking of doing with doctorate in neuroscience? I'm thinking neurosurgeon...you'd definitely make a difference there, that should make you feel happy right? Happy, with a side dish of a lot of moola. Can't beat that. ^_^

Remember though that if you decide to work for Freescale instead, it's not like you'd be stuck there for the rest of your life (although you make it sound like that). You could work 2-3 years and then go on to do better and greater things.

A coworker of mine said he had a class way back when that was taught by Gene Amdahl's brother! O_o How cool would that have been??

8:02 PM  
Blogger Tyler Olsen said...

If I become a neurosurgeon, I'd have to go to med school too. That's like another 4 years after my PhD. O_o There actually is a dual MD/PhD option in the neuroscience department at UT (I'd go to med school at UT in Galveston), but I don't think that's for me. I never really wanted to become a doctor, although I admit I've been thinking about it just a little bit lately.

No, what I think I would like to do is to design neuroprosthetics and human-machine interfacing. In other words, designing hardware and software that hooks up to the brain (either invasively or non-invasively) and helps people out who have neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's disease. That is just the best job I could ever imagine, because I get to design computer hardware/software solutions, discover unknown secrets of the nervous system, and most importantly my work can have a serious impact and help improve people's lives. What more could I ask for?

Yeah I know that if I go to Freescale I won't be stuck there forever, but I have a feeling I'll get too settled down then and just let life pass me by. One of the reasons I'm not as excited about computer architecture as I used to be is I realized that not much is changing in terms of architecture. Transistors are getting smaller and greater in number, secondary level caches are getting bigger, clock frequencies are increasing...but seriously what else is there? I was talking about this with a co-worker from Freescale last week (who got his PhD studying comp arch) and he agreed with me. He said the last major evolution in architectures was pipelining, and that idea first game from what, the 60s or 70s? Only architectures like the Cell or TRIPS are remotely interesting to me. It seems like the whole field in general is too scared to try something radically different and explore alternative design ideas.

Oh yeah, I took a look at my admissions file in ECE this morning and read my statement of purpose and I was laughing it up. It's amazing how much a person can change in just two years. :)

10:02 PM  

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