I ended my last blog saying that I would be prepared for all the writing that is to come. Well, little did I anticipate that the first two months of the new year, would be spent writing and re-writing a paper for a conference. Phew! Now that I am done with that I have finally found some time to write my new blog post for 2017. Apart from being engulfed with my writing work, I was able to spend the Chinese New Year making dumplings, which was fun! I have also started my second phase of Portuguese language lessons and finally, I have moved up to the ‘improvers’ level for my dance sessions.
I recently spent two weeks in Cambridge at the ARM research office. This was an interesting experience because apart from being a different work environment as compared to an academic setting, I was able to be part of research in a company that could potentially end up as viable products in the future. This is particularly difficult for machine learning research or computer science in general as it grows at a very fast pace with new developments happening in terms of new algorithms, application targets and hardware targets and it’s quite easy to get lost in all the madness that comes with this rapidly changing landscape. I was fortunate enough to have this sort of exposure or check-point if you will, early-on, to allow me to talk to people from industry and showcase the work I have done so far and as well, help me decide on the next big question that I would like to tackle.
The first few days, I spent my time learning about the general structure of the research team into groups based on the topic area like memory systems, HPC and others. I was part of the machine learning research team that is focussed on machine learning based applications running on ARM based devices. Through my exploration, I found that considerable efforts are being spent on assessing academic and industry research work as well as highlighting potential opportunities that are not yet targeted and risks from competitors. Trying to draw parallelism to what I have been doing as a research student, I found this work similar to the risk assessment work in my first year, but on a much smaller scale. Obviously, being part of research, it is highly unlikely for just one person to be working on a particular topic and therefore there could be students perhaps in your own department or a different department within the university or a different university or even industry that could be working on something similar. Understanding this landscape is necessary, as you are aiming to contribute to new knowledge in your field and there is a possibility of being overtaken!
I also experienced working as a team towards a unified goal; where even though each person worked on an independent task, it would fit like pieces of a jig-saw puzzle. The role of my academic supervisor was replaced by my line manager. He initially gave me a task (an equivalent of a research problem) that was quite open-ended in the beginning but after a couple of days of picking up a marker, visualizing problems on the whiteboard and pitching ideas across, I was able to better understand the scope of the problem that was given and be able to break it down into smaller more solvable ones. Similar to the meetings we have had here with our research group every month, I was able to attend meetings with other research groups in ARM as well as have a weekly conference call with other team members from the machine learning team in other locations. I had the opportunity to present at one of these meetings, which felt a bit daunting at first but after receiving the feedback and questions pertaining to what I had done, I felt it was a good way to assess my work. I also found that this experience would be beneficial for my viva preparation, where I could have someone who may not be closely related to my research field, deliberating over my work and I would have to convince them the importance of my work!
Finally, I also took some time during the weekend to explore what Cambridge had to offer. I was particularly impressed by the botanical garden that had a greenhouse with plants from areas like India, Africa and even Australia. The Museum of Fitzwilliam and Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology were interesting as well, housing a large number of antiquities, paintings and artifacts.
Overall, I am glad I got to make this trip and experience a little bit of industry research along with some fun time during the weekend!
See you until my next post!