Friday, September 26, 2014

Be Selfish

I used to blog frequently up to about 18 months ago.

Then, life seemed to get in the way. Nevermind that writing is core to what I'm trying to achieve...I simply did not have time to organize my thoughts into 500-1000 word snippets for friends, colleagues and family to read.

It's been a CRAZY 18 months, by the way. A time when perhaps sitting down to write my thoughts for a few minutes might have helped me.

But no regrets now! What's done is done.

Now is time to make a new commitment- to thought organization, to communication, to writing.

To be completely honest, it was more than just being busy that prevented me from writing. It was a period of academic (and probably a bit of personal) depression.

The realization of how lonely (very very lonely) doing a doctorate can be for someone like me hit me...HARD. And I didn't like it.

I love working with people, being a part of something bigger than myself. A common theme has come through all my advice from those who have come before me.

"Be selfish."


That word isn't really in my vocabulary. I mean, sure, I've read the Fountainhead and I'm aware of the ideas of Ayn Rand, but it all seems a bit extreme.

I guess I started being selfish last year, when I decided to take my research in an entirely new direction, with a new supervisor. (Yeah, I haven't blogged about that experience yet...maybe soon).

However, in my heart, it always feels a bit strange, to just focus on this one little project that really only I care about (and probably will be the only person in the future to care about).

I've got 15 months left until I am meant to submit the best thing I've ever written. I've got tons of data I need to collect, literature to review, research questions to formulate and critism to take on the chin. It all seems a bit impossible.

However, I've got a few key individuals (I'm hoping you know who you are) who are my support in this. I'm counting on them to remind me, when the going gets tough in this game called research....I'm going to have to be (a little) selfish.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


So I've not posted as much since I've been here as I would have liked.  I have, however, taken a nice amount of pictures I will post today.
Boston has been fun so far.  My work has been interesting and I feel like I am developing more pieces to put together for my doctorate degree.
To recap the internship so far:
I got in on February 3rd and started at PTC's offices in Needham, about 10 miles outside of Boston on February 4th.  My first four weeks, I worked with the CAD group, the group responsible for designing PTC's CAD product, Creo.  I've learned a lot about CAD, design, and where the technology may be heading.  I've made some good contacts on the team as well.  This month, I'm focused on work in the SLM team and learning about PTC's work there.  Everyone has been so nice and helpful!
On February 9th, the 5th worse blizzard to ever hit Boston came into town.  There was over 2 feet of snow and the offices closed on February 8th in anticipation.  The city shut down on Friday evening and people were not allowed to drive places.  Public transportation shut down at 3pm on Friday and didn't resume until the following Monday.  I stocked up at the local grocery store and hunkered down.  Friday evening, I met up with SVP of Global Education, John Stuart, for a nice dinner nearby where I'm staying.  And, the roads were ok enough by Sunday morning for us to do a long run in the suburbs of Boston.  Here are some pictures.

The view from my tiny apartment on Saturday

You can see the height of the snow, this is the street  where I'm staying

Friday mid-morning at the front of the Library, it had just started

Sunday morning in a street across from where I'm staying

Digging one's car out of the snow took some people hours....

 On Monday morning, I took the T (what they call the Boston subway) into the office.  The trains were running ok. but they had to change trains for us at one of the stops, so it made my commute a bit longer.  While I was waiting, I was interviewed by the local news channel about the T service.  They asked if I had ridden it long, and I said since I got in from the UK a week prior.  Apparently, the clip was on the news, because I heard from several people they saw me, but I never saw it.  After a couple of weeks, Marc, one of the developers on the CAD team, told me that he lived fairly close to me and was willing to give me a ride to and from work every day.  This has cut my daily commute time down from over 2 hours a day on the train/shuttle to less than an hour!
Copley Station

The green line train

 I've been training since I've been here though, despite the weather, because Boston is very much a city for runners.  Last week, I signed up for another marathon in the UK at the end of April, so I can take advantage of all the running I've been doing.  John Stuart has been kind enough to take me along on his long runs for the Boston Marathon and I've really enjoyed them.  We've done most of the Boston Marathon course since I've been here!  Also, the running has helped me see bits of the city.
From a run along the Charles River.  Not Einstein, but some musician called Arthur Felder, apparently.

Cheers bar!  (I've not gone in yet...)

Charles river running trail


Other side of Science Museum

George.  Boston Common.
The past week, I've gotten my first visitors.  My mom and brother came on my brother's spring break last Tuesday and stayed until Friday.  Unfortunately, I had to work during the day, but I enjoyed my time with them in the evenings.  Then, my best friend Melissa came on Saturday and we had a fun weekend, going shopping, hanging out and eating.  We found a great seafood restaurant in the North End called Neptune's Oysters.  This place was tiny and doesn't take reservations, but the wait is well worth it.  I don't think I've ever eaten anything so wonderful in my life.
Lion in the Library. I went there with Graham and Mom last week.

Dinner at Neptune's Oyster.  Scallops with duck and brussel sprouts.  AH-MAZING!

A restaurant we found in Chinatown.
My friends Justin and Leslie are coming to visit this upcoming weekend.  Sagar sent me some lovely flowers for Valentine's Day at the office last month as well, which was nice.  I've missed him since I've been gone, but he gets to visit me in Boston, then we go to Chicago, Indiana and Michigan for a week in April, so I'm looking forward to that!
Flowers from Sagar.

Well, back to work!  I will try to post again soon!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Shipping off to Boston!

Well it has been a hectic six weeks since my last post!
Christmas went well.  Even though I wasn't able to visit with my family, I still had a lot of fun.  Sagar and I opened our presents in the morning.  I got him some practical gifts- like a new wallet, watch and cuff links, and a fun gift of remote controlled helicopter.  He got me some lovely earrings, a scarf, and an owl that I wanted that you can warm up in the microwave. 
Sagar's family came for the afternoon at Christmas and we made a nice dinner and played Monopoly.  The British version is totally different from the American version, which was really cool.  However, it ended as all Monopoly games usually end...we just let Sagar's sister Avni win...:)

Christmas Monopoly!

Vegetarian Christmas dinner.  It was very tasty!
Festive beer served in the UK

 A couple of weeks ago, the UK got a ton of snow.  Ok, well for people like me from Michigan, it wasn't really that bad....maybe about a foot...but the country seemed to shut down for a few days.  The university closed on a Friday midday and didn't re-open until the following Monday late afternoon. Even Sagar's work sent him home early.  So there was not much else we could do besides go sledding!!
Sagar, in the hat I made him for Christmas.  There is also a matching scarf...somewhere underneath his coat I think...

Us in the snow!

Sagar, sledding

Sagar, sledding

Kenilworth in the snow

Right before Christmas, I met with John Stuart and Tim Brotherhood from PTC about my EngD project.  Steve had found some grant money available for post-grads to do an internship, but with a catch.  The grant money needed to be spent by the end of March.  The timing could not have worked out better though, because I've gotten to a point in my project where I feel I would like to know a lot more about PTC.  Therefore, this coming Sunday, I am shipping off to PTC's headquarters in Boston, Massachusetts!  I will be working with them for 8 weeks.  I hope to document my experience here on the blog.

This past weekend, Sagar and I went to London on Sunday to meet up with his family and say good-bye before I went away for a couple of months.  There was a lovely double rainbow on our drive.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Getting Ready for Christmas!

I want to start off by saying my thoughts and prayers are with my fellow Americans back home.  I heard about the terrible events in Connecticut late Friday evening.  Being abroad, I sometimes feel a bit disconnected from important events like this at home and I've been glued to news stories about what happened all weekend.  I hope that as the holiday season is upon us, we are still able to keep in mind what makes us great as a nation, while working to understand and prevent horrible events like this from happening in the future.

It's been a busy few weeks as I try to keep up with all the work I've got to get wrapped up so I can enjoy a few days off for Christmas.
Thanksgiving was just another day around here, but I did try to celebrate with my lunch selection.  It just wasn't quite the same...
My lunch on Thanksgiving

I had arranged to stay late that night for an event for potential EngD sponsors (that was subsequently cancelled in the afternoon), so I couldn't really plan a meal at home for that day, but I was able to cook a meal at Sagar's parents' house in London on Sunday.  (Vegetarian style, of course!)

I've also finished #4 from my list on the previous post.  Thanks so much to Nick and Sagar for helping me write some of the sections.  The literature review is going to be used by the IMechE, IET and RAE to assess the current state of manufacturing in the UK.
 I've finished half of #5 as well, now getting ready to start the PMA for the Service Design and Delivery Module I took at the end of October.  I've already got a rough outline in mind....

As for the rest of my work list, IGGY has been going well.  I went on a school visit in Birmingham a couple of weeks ago, where I got to work with some very keen students in a lower-income area that were all quite focussed to study some aspect of science.  It was really fun!

Fuel cell stuff keeps moving forward as well, as I look on ways to tie what I am doing (participating in new collaborative networks initiated by government entities here) and my own personal research.  I've got a meeting with one of my contacts from PTC tomorrow morning, where I will discuss my direction and hopefully get some insight and ideas on ways to address their needs within my project.

At the beginning of December, Sagar and I took a mini trip to Chester (just south of Liverpool, on the border to Wales), where we did a bit of Christmas shopping, explored the ancient Roman city, and went to a couple of museums.  Here are some pictures!
The clock going into the town centre

There is a wall along the city that you can walk along.  Here is one of many beautiful views from it.

This is from the ruins of an old Roman bath area

Old Roman bath area

This was put in place for the Queen's golden jubilee, ten years ago.

Sagar, walking along the wall

This squirrel (and other creatures in a park we walked through) was not afraid of humans in the least. Right before I took this picture, he had LITERALLY jumped onto Sagar's leg, looking for food.

Walking along the wall.

The Watergate Inn
Also, at the beginning of this month, Sagar and I went and got a Christmas tree for the apartment.  It looks very nice in our living room.  This past weekend, I got a GIANT box of Christmas stuff from my mom, including an Advent calendar and a bunch of gifts.  I have created Christmas in our living room.
The tree and window sill.  Even Mona is festive!

Advent calendar and cards I've gotten so far!

 This week, I am hoping to get an outline done for the fuel cell scoping paper, and complete (mostly) the PMA for the Service Design and Delivery module so I can enjoy Christmas next week!  It's going to be a long week, but hopefully the hard work will pay off!

I finish up with some pictures of swans that I saw on my long run last week.  I rarely take my phone on a run, but this time I just happened to have it.  This is a normal sight on many of my runs around here.
I was running along some new bike trails between campus and Kenilworth

He's looking right at me!

 I hope to post again soon about celebrating Christmas in the UK!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Work! (And a bit of fireworks!)

There is never a dull moment in the UK.  At least not for me.  Let me recap all my current project and work at the moment.
1. EngD work.  Right now, this includes looking at collaborative networking.  For this, I have started a platform for six different UK Formula Student teams including: Liverpool, Sheffield, Portsmouth, Oxford-Brookes, Brunel and Warwick Universities.  These teams are all sponsored in some way by Bosch Engineering this year, which is why they are the teams I'm working with.  I've used the West Midlands Collaborative Commerce Marketplace, an online database and collaboration space initiated by my advisor Jay Bal and his researchers a few years ago.  While there seemed to be a lot of excitement over the idea of these teams working closer together on communication, my online space has not seen very much activity at all.  I'm going to have to work harder to figure out how to encourage the usage and collaboration, while not influencing it too much.  Tricky.  I hope to formulate some sort of model of study out of this work this year that I can then take to an industrial study next year.  This year's Formula Student team is doing well, and I think will do well at next July's competition.
This is a picture from the outside of the new IISPI building, where I moved offices to in September
2. EngD group project and work with the Catapult.  WMG is seven centres in the UK that is a Technology Strategy Board centre for this initiative.  Our focus is High Value Manufacturing.  For our EngD group project, we are scoping out the research niche for WMG in the area of hydrogen and fuel cells.  So far, this has resulted in several conferences (mostly to London) where I have connected with many industrial leaders in this industry.  I've also been luck to go on a few industrial visits, such as to Johnson Matthey Fuel Cells, which was an amazing experience and will hopefully lead to future collaboration between WMG and JMFC.
3.  IGGY- I've written some scripts for the website and just generally get on and comment on various science and engineering topics.
4.  IMechE, IET, and RAE (Institute of Mechanical Engineers, Institute of Engineering Technology and the Royal Academy of Engineers) Engineering the Future literature review.  I was approached in September to help write a literature review on the subject of manufacturing growth in the UK for a collaborative project that is being done by members of these three institutions.  I am nearly done with it, and it has been quite a learning experience.  I hope the contacts I've made through this project will be helpful as I work on my EngD and beyond.  I've really enjoyed learning.  I also could not have done it without some help from Nick Higgins, another EngD, and of course, Sagar.  Sagar is a manufacturing engineer at JLR and has helped me a bit with some of the writing as well as helping me understand manufacturing in general.
5. PMAs for my recent modules.  I took two modules in October- Financial Analysis and Control Systems and Service Design and Delivery.  I have two 4000 word papers due for them in December, so I am going to get cracking on that this week.
6. Literature review on Open Source Hardware Design.  I had started this over the summer, but found myself with a bad case of writer's block.  However, the recent work on Engineering the Future has helped me so much that I think that coming back to this will go much smoother.
My desk at the moment.  I've taken over the desk next to me as well, with literature for my OSHD literature review.

Through all of this work, I have still been able to have a little bit of fun.
The people in the UK celebrate Guy Fawkes day with amazing fireworks, which I got to go see with Sagar in Kenilworth.  It was a show that rivalled some Fourth of July shows I've seen back home.
Sagar and me at the Kenilworth Fireworks for Guy Fawkes day.

This coming weekend, Sagar's family is coming over to celebrate the Hindu festival of lights known as Diwali .  I hope to also get a little Thanksgiving celebration in at some point this month!

Ok!  Back to writing!  Hope everyone is doing well!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Scotland, Marathon, and Short Vacation!

Well, I've been on modules the last two weeks, which consists of 11 hour days, Monday - Thursday with a half day on Friday.  Needless to say, my brain is pretty full at the moment, but that is a post for another day...still processing.


I need to post about the marathon at Loch Ness.
Scotland is a lovely, lovely place, first of all, and I was sad we only had a weekend to visit.  It is on my list of a place to spend more time at, once I get the chance.
First stop was Edinburgh (pronounced Edin- burrow), which was about a 5 hour drive on Friday night after Sagar got off work.  We spent a bit of Saturday late morning/early afternoon in the city, where we found a pub and I had a solid pre-race meal of Haggis.  Haggis is essentially a sort-of dry meatloaf that is famous in Scotland.  It was pretty tasty.  I also had a pre-race pint of a local brew, as you can see in the picture...

This is Haggis

Proof that Sagar does like the GPS/map feature on my phone. :) Though he will say he doesn't....

Government building in Edinburgh

Sagar checking out some cool monument thing in Edinburgh

Me and Amy (me with stupid face...)
 After picking up Amy, my running partner from WMG, from Edinburgh (she had come up earlier with other friends), we continued onto Inverness.  Unfortunately, though I had done most of my marathon training with Amy and was planning on running the marathon with her, she had hurt her foot and was just coming along to watch.  She was an awesome cheerleader to have!
We got to Inverness on Saturday evening, where we met up with an old friend of mine, Andy, who I knew from my days back at Ball State.  Andy and I had several math classes together and if it weren't for him, I might not have passed differential equations!  He was working in Poland over the summer (You can read about that in his blog) and came to visit me on the way back home, run the 10k at Inverness with Sagar, and to travel around the UK a bit.  Anyway, the four of us headed out to explore Inverness, which was quite a large city (I didn't realize it would be!) and find some dinner.  We went to bed quite early, because, even though the races didn't start until 10am and 10:45am (marathon and 10k, respectively) we had to be bussed to the start line.  My bus left at 7:45 am.  After nearly an hour and 45 minutes on the bus, I reached the start line with minutes to spare before the start of the marathon.  The weather could not have been better, cool, yet sunny.  It was absolutely beautiful.  I would say that even though this course ended up being the hardest I've ever run, it was also the most beautiful one.
The marathon went like most others.  There was a nasty hill around mile 5 that I probably ran too hard.  Then there was a series of hills starting about about mile 19 and lasting until mile 21.  There was one point where I negotiated with myself that if I saw one more hill I was walking- but I didn't give up and ran the whole time. (NO STOPS!!  NO WALKING!!)
I got to the last mile (was pretty tired at this point) and Amy, Sagar and Andy were all waiting for me.  Sagar had decided to run the last mile with me in his green man suit.  It was incredibly helpful, considering how tired I was...
The last mile

Me, Sagar and Andy after the race.  Sagar and Andy had run the 10k

I get a bit silly towards the end...also, my legs stop working properly. Good to see the ambulance there just in case...though I didn't need it.
Afterwards, we enjoyed some free food and got in the car to start the drive home.  Sagar had to be at work at 7am the next morning.  It was an 8 hour drive.  He did most of the driving back, though I did drive for about 2 hours to give him a bit of a break.
He does the driving.  :)
The next day, I was walking a bit like a cross between John Wayne and C3PO.  Andy and I decided to travel somewhere close, so I took him to Stratford-upon-Avon, which is a quick bus ride away and has all the Shakespeare stuff.  (Again, he has got some good pictures of his visit on his blog)  The next morning, we rented a car and drove down to the south coast of the UK, to a city called Brighton.  Here we saw the Royal Pavilion, which was a cool mansion built by King George a few centuries ago.  We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, but I did get some neat ones outside.  The weather in Brighton was very...British.  It was cold and windy, so on Wednesday afternoon, we headed to London.  Here, we had plans to go on the Eye and visit Buckingham Palace.  Both very cool experiences I haven't done before, despite my many visits to London.  It was all very fun!
Andy, on the pier at Brighton.  

I'm on a beach!

The outside of the Royal Pavilion

Inside the art museum in Brighton

I liked how this picture turned out of Big Ben

In the London Eye.

Waiting to go into Buckingham Palace
So, that in a nutshell brings me current to the beginning of October....
I have much more to blog about, but I think I will save that for another post.
Happy Halloween, everyone!