When I was completing my master’s degree, I was excited to be working on new research. While some students in my cohort worked on understanding the literature, my supervisor gave me a novel project we thought we could eventually publish it. The concept was simple and straightforward, motivating me to build the experiments, collect the data, and write up a paper.
But then I began hitting obstacles. The project involved machine learning, and I found myself navigating a lot of uncertainty as to how to interpret my initial underwhelming results. There were many knobs I could tweak and no clear instruction manual on how to choose the settings for the knobs. Couple this to results which weren’t competitive with the literature and long training times for the models, and it’s not surprising that I got stuck.
I completed my master’s project with these underwhelming results, thinking that I would be able to work through the issues by the end of the summer and then publish. I was totally wrong.
How much do you read in a day? How much do you remember?
As a scientist, one of my main jobs is reading papers. This is to learn about new work in my field, understanding the methods of others, and getting ideas for my own work. I also love reading fiction, which I do every day.
However, not all reading is equal.
A useful way I’ve found to think about reading is as a spectrum between consuming and absorbing.
If you’re like me, you have a lot of projects going on. I currently have multiple research projects for my PhD, my webcomic Handwaving, my monthly essays here, and some other personal projects in the works.