Lesson n. ten from my Masters degree

Not a new one, but worth mentioning. The best way to build life seems to be by centering it around love, generosity and care. And the correct way to give all those things is to never expect anything in return.

Lesson n. nine from my Masters degree

Coffee, good food and alcohol are best enjoyed in a good company and in moderation. As a lifehack, you can replace gin tonic with espresso tonic, and avoid alcohol altogether while getting slightly high on caffeine. The effects are usually good enough.

Side note: cooking is laborious but provides a good opportunity for bonding and relaxation, especially in small groups of people, up to 4. And serving seafood with wine is about four times cheaper at home.

Lesson n. eight from my Masters degree

Ferociously guard your personal life. If at all possible, carve an hour per day, two on weekends, for yourself and fight for this time as hard as you can. And if you lose that fight - remember it and reclaim the time as quickly as possible.

The longer you live without those times where you just exist as yourself, doing the things you love, the less personality you will have left. In the end, the very people you sacrificed yourself for will turn their back on you. “You are not the same person anymore”, they will say. And they will be right.

It is not their job to guard your personality, it is yours.

Lesson n/ seven from my Masters degree

I am not sure whether this is my naivete, young age and ignorance, or is widespread and applicable for other people. But it was important for me, therefore it might help others.

Whenever you repeatedly engage in a sub optimal behavior, ask yourself: is this a coping mechanism? Turns out I developed a bunch of those to mitigate the stress over the years of university. These habits ate all the free time I had left and most hobbies, but they kept me alive and (relatively) sane.

Lesson n. six from my Masters degree

Being young means lacking experience, and one of the best way to compensate for it is to vent to older friends and ask for advice. The advice they give may not be useful by itself, but the reasoning behind it is the treasure one should seek.

Don’t look for advice from previous generations, however: it’s likely outdated. And it id difficult to remember the exact details past 3-5 years, from my experience at least. Look for someone a couple steps ahead of you, maybe 2-3 years older.

Lesson n. five from my Masters degree

Being married is surprisingly nice. I didn’t really expect any changes in my life, but it seems like performing some symbolic act of bonding is, after all, not entirely pointless. It gives more weight to decisions and words, e.g. going on a date with my girlfriend vs. having a dinner with my wife.

It also adds an important constant, at least for me: there is a person I am going to be with until one of us dies, hopefully in a very long time. Everything else can only influence the circumstances, but not this fundamental truth. For a person with very few certain things in life, this is priceless.

Lesson n. four from my Masters degree

Burnout and perpetual emotional overload (uncertainty, anxiety, etc) can bring anyone down very quickly, and the recovery process is never easy. No matter how resilient someone is, living in the conditions where it is impossible to plan even for a few days ahead is quite horrible.

This one is vague, but I wouldn’t like to get more specific for a number of reasons, including my geographical location.

Having good people around to care and worry about things together is a blessing. The more the better, but it is difficult to find them. Once you do, hold on to them.

Lesson n. three from my Masters degree

Surprisingly few people employ computational approaches in their work. People who build models usually do so without any direct confirmation, and people who run experiments either do not concern themselves with computations, or outright despise them. The number of scientist who can bridge this gap turned out to be much smaller than I expected initially.

Which makes it a very nice “blue ocean” for those willing to put in the time and efforts into learning both sides of the problem. I hope to pull this off in my PhD.

Lesson n. two from my Masters degree

Quantum chemistry is a miracle and we do not appreciate it nearly enough. Having a way to compute, even approximately, the distribution of electrons in space and over the energy spectrum, is very unlikely. There are a few problems with these methods that prevent them from being more widespread, namely the parametrization and the amount of computational resources, but these can (and, I hope, will) be solved down the line.

Moreover, the overhype around the AI causes the “underhype” around other, perhaps more important or simply as interesting topics that may greatly contribute to our understanding of the universe, but are not as readily monetized. Gladly, there are quite a few people who choose to pursue those problems as well.

Lesson n. one from my Masters degree

AI is, indeed, dangerous. Not because it will SkyNet us into the oblivion, but because far too many malicious or, worse, incompetent actors try to use it, burning ridiculous amounts of resources and creating systems that, in the end, benefit either no one, or only small groups of people.

However, when used correctly, the AI approach yields great results. There are two main use cases: approximation of computationally demanding or noisy data, and generation of objects. The former can often be achieved via other means like “classic” ML or approximating parameters of known function. The latter, however, is almost unreasonably good in certain domains like prediction of chemical reactions in organic chemistry. It’s a shame we mostly use these systems for generating low-value text and cartoonish porn. Or whatever do people use it for.

Well, after six years, I am finally done with the university I chose after school, in 2018. A lot has changed in the country, mostly for worse. We all learned quite a few things about the world and the way things work in society and in science, can’t say I liked all of them. But I am not disappointed in the path of scientist that I chose, not yet. I am still going to attempt to write my PhD thesis and keep working in research. Hopefully, no cataclysms and catastrophes will happen to prevent me from doing this.

I will write a few lessons from my masters degree later, once my sanity is restored. Might take a few days.

A Scientist Is A Modern Monk

Historically, monasteries were the stronghold of knowledge.
Monks would study and copy the books and ponder the meaning behind them.
It was often, but not always purely theological.
Gregor Mendele, for example, was a monk and discovered inheritance laws far ahead of his time.

Modern scientists, I think, should strive for much of the same virtues monasteries cultivated in their inhabitants.
I am not talking about celibacy or worship of God, obviously.
These were the rudiments of the time, although there is time and place for both in the modern world.

Consider these.
Literacy, far exceeding that of an average contemporary, regardless of the field.
Strong grasp of philosophy, its fundamentals and connection to science.
Physical tenacity, while relatively rare in western civilization, was almost mandatory in the east.
The ability to thrive in quiet and solitude, working for a long time without being distracted.

It seems to be a compelling set of virtues, however, none of them seem to be quite related to religion.
Why then would I make the case about monks specifically?
Firstly because science, whether we like it or not, grew out of religion and inherited many of its structural features.
Secondly, because the pitfalls and problems in both religion and academia are similar.

Letting government’s money in slaves the organization to government’s needs, whether it be a sanctification of the king’s power or the development of nuclear weapons.
Focusing on money as the goal leads to printing meaningless publications and selling indulgencies.
Bad selection procedures for newcomers corrupt the structure, destroys its reputation and ultimately compromises the fundamental idea it rests upon.

I am mostly putting this out there for the sake of discussion and as an interesting allegory that came to my mind. Maybe it will trigger some dialogue and bring new insight.

I don’t even know if my posts make sense for readers, honestly. My English is a bit rusty and there is no feedback most of the time as I write into the void. Do you people read me? Are the texts clear? Or is it an indistinguishable mess of words?

Here is what I’ve been up to. First and foremost, new lab. Now my main work is to use neural networks to predict crystal stability. It took me a while to write and train the model for this, about a year along with studying and an internship. However, now that it’s mostly ready, I have to do an experiment.

It is not strictly necessary, but my department requires master’s dissertation to contain some experiments. I had to make one for bachelor diploma and now the history repeats itself. However, now I am in a different lab, with far better apparatus and work ethics. The experiments are mostly made with solid-state synthesis, which makes thing way easier (weigh – press – anneal – analyze – repeat).

Apart from this and an ungodly amount of papers I needed to study in the field and crippling burnout from personal problems, the last year went well. Now I have a week to finish most of the experiment and prepare something like the dissertation proposal. It is a discriminatory practice my department uses to make some students’ life more difficult. In my case it’s the theoretical nature of my work that is causing problems.

But I’ll power through this eventually.

Umberto Eco uses 50% less fuel and 30% less packaging than regular Umberto

I had a discussion with a friend today and now I’m curious: do you people cook for yourself? Does someone cook for you? Do you buy food? What do you typically cook?

I cook most of my food when I live alone and it’s usually simple and healthy “meat+vegetables/pasta/rice” dishes, salads, eggs in all varieties and a sandwich here and there.

No poll attached, I’m interested mostly in long and unnecessarily sophisticated answers. Let the 65k character limit be useful.

Today I presented my new work for the first time. It was surprisingly easy to talk about, even though my understanding of the subject matter is not perfect.

The topic is “predicting stability of solid crystals using graph neural networks”. Far more exciting than any thermodynamics I used to do.

Today a realization struck me. A simple one, but I feel like sharing it for some reason. Envy is horrible and it is not talked about for the most part. It poisons people and hurts their relationships, while the solution is relatively simple. To not be envious of someone, it is necessary to learn to be happy for their accomplishments. It mostly works for close people, but being envious towards close people is most destructive as well.

This ability to feel joy is not “free”, it has to be learned and cultivated either in the family during adolescence or consciously later in life. And I am infinitely grateful to my family and friends who seem to have taught me that over the years.

This sounds childish now that I read it, but hey, why not. Maybe it will offset some of that gloominess of mine.

Oh well, I can’t not write, can I. Here goes 2022 in review. Hectic and unpolished because I’m lazy and excited for the day ahead and the work I need to do.

It was bloody horrible. My country started a war with a neighbor, in some sense a relative, and it keeps going. There was mobilization. Some of my close friends had to flee, but I can stay with my family. For how long? That I can’t know for sure. There are other problems in my life that weren’t solved this year and that will probably persist for a few more years.

It was magnificent. I finished bachelor degree, managed to get into masters program, worked in an office through Summer. It’s not a good lifestyle for me but the experience was well worth it. New people entered my life, some of them became friends. I arranged more parties and meetups in one year than I ever had before and probably more than I ever will. That was an overkill. I am also in a better shape that ever was and probably healthier than ever will be.

All in all, it was productive and positively horrifying. The contrast between the dreadful news and the good days spices things up, for sure. This is how our minds work.

Today I heard a saying that goes among Russian journalists: we should not humiliate ourselves with hope. Oddly inspiring, albeit gloomy.

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