Getting things done!

Ok, I admit it. The title is kind of ironic! Given that I haven’t written anything in a long time I am not the most appropriate person to talk about commitment. And I will also try to explain you why, and “justify” myself.

It seems like my way of dealing with ToDOs is quite peculiar, and most likely extremely wrong. Usually what people do is following things in as straight as possible line. If one has a deadline approaching, he/she will try to work on that in a steady way and submit the result in time.

Dedication for people
Dedication spent by people versus time, when deadlines are approaching.

As you can see in the graph above, ideally one should have a steady increase in the effort or dedication  spent in one project and reserve some time for correction and refinement. If the deadline is shorter, the increase should be steeper in order to achieve that (provided that both projects require the same total amount of dedication – same area under the curve).

Now, let’s have a look at how I do it:

Dedication myself
In blue the dedication spent ideally on projects; in red the dedication I spent on projects versus time.

Clearly the process is not optimised. I assumed, for simplicity, that also for myself the amount of dedication and workload for a project is the same as the ideal case (same area under the curve). In my case, though, you can appreciate more interesting features, from some useless sparkles about later projects, over very abrupt edges to the most shameful delayed submission.

So I asked myself: Why is this happening, and how to avoid it?

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Once upon a time in a lab…

awesome (ˈɔːsəm ) , adjective

  1. Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring awe: the awesome power of the atomic bomb
  2. informal Extremely good; excellent: the band is truly awesome!

This is the definition of awesome from the Oxford Online Dictionary. I have my own:

awesome (ˈɔːsəm ) , adjective

  1. Containing at least three of the following: a good friend, geekery, beer, beautiful landscapes, bits of science, books.

Now it happened that I have spent the last weekend hiking in the Black Forest in Germany, talking about science and Tolkien’s books with a great friend. And of course beer to refresh ourselves after the walking. A most awesome weekend!

PANO_20150411_113212
A panorama view of Baden-Baden and the Black Forest from the Hohenbaden castle ruins.

All started in the Black Forest. The name, according to Lonely Planet, comes from “its dark, slightly sinister canopy of evergreens: this is where Hansel and Gretel encountered the wicked witch.” Although we did not know about it, we ended up with our theory on little creatures living the forest and the inhabitants of the nearby cities bringing gifts to keep the souls of the forest happy.

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Susy is expecting more swinging dreams…

South-Western Germany. Perfect location to reach Geneva. And Geneva, with CERN, in 2015 is basically physicists’ Mecca.

Although I am not a particle physicist, when I finished my high school in humanities, my love for neutrinos was the reason to start this new adventure in the world of science. Ever since, I have been fascinated by particle physics, making material science (my actual field of study) almost jealous. My secret love for tiny particles is why, about three years ago, I was standing over-excited in front on my laptop waiting for one of the biggest announcement of recent times: the first evidences for the Higgs boson. It was a historical moment, the Woodstock of physics.

The Higgs boson represents the excitation of the Higgs field, thought to be responsible for the mass of fundamental particles. The Standard Model, the big puzzle in which all discovered particles fitted ever since, at first sight did not predict any mass for any of those. The introduction of the Higgs field seems to solve the mystery, associating to a particle a mass proportional to the strength of the interaction with the field. The evidence of a particle of mass ~125 GeV by the two detectors CMS and ATLAS at CERN, confirmed the presence of the field and earned Higgs and Englert a deserved Nobel Prize. Happily ever after. The end.

The end?

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Travelling, geek science way

skyline
Moon-Venus-Mars Skyline – Image Credit & Copyright: Jay Ouellet

This morning I woke up staring at the skyline of Quebec city on my phone. A nice reminder of why I am doing this job.

Science is closely related to travelling, and be staring at beautiful landscapes. If you are a scientist, you probably know about those moments in which none of your experiments is working as you would like and you ask yourself why you did not follow your mother’s suggestion to study medicine or law to count on a stable carrier. And then you look at the window and a deer is peacefully wondering in the garden of the dormitory you are staying in a small cosy city in Belgium. And inevitably, you smile. Travelling! Travelling, and getting to know new research groups, sometime is what you need to remind you that all the studies you have done are worthwhile.

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