Saturday, August 24, 2013

Onward to the future...

One week ago from yesterday I successfully defended my dissertation, "Mesoscale light-matter interactions," which means that I am effectively finished with my graduate school career (woot woot!). I would offer my dissertation for viewing here on the web, but due to publication restraints associated with UCF, I have to wait one year before disseminating the work publicly. This is too bad, but the decision to do this was largely out of my control.

I'm excited to be moving on to a slightly new line of work. Later this year, I'll be moving to EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland to work on STORM microscopes and problems in single molecule biophysics.

I'm particularly excited about this work because now I'll be able to apply my knowledge of optics to biology problems. Most of my PhD work was focused on designing new optics-based techniques and then looking for a problem to solve; I hope to become immersed enough in the biophysics community that I can identify unknowns in biology first and then design measurements to address these unknowns afterward. I think a problem-driven route is a more appropriate for the design of optical sensing techniques and I just can't wait to begin.

During my last year at graduate school, I've also begun several endeavors that I believe make me a much better researcher and contributor to science. Some of these new practices include:
  1. Following a paradigm that makes my research as open as possible. This includes making easily reproducible code and sharing data openly. (I'm exploring the use of Figshare and following @openscience on Twitter. Looking at these resources are great starting points).
  2. Related to the first point, I'm writing a Python package for processing dynamic light scattering data and simulating experiments that I intend to release freely and open sourced. I think that my expertise in this area would serve many others extremely well, since DLS is often treated like a "black box" technique by a lot of people who use it for macromolecular studies.
  3. Though my writing has waned since I began serious work on my defense, I want to begin writing again as a means of exploring more topics in research and academia.
  4. I'm structuring my own research around simple questions. I think simple questions, such as "how do cells respond to light" form great, long term questions in science. More complicated questions often lead to short term research goals.
I'll expound on this last point in a later post. Overall, though, I'm beginning to see how I can contribute to my field beyond just publishing.

I won't get started in my new position until November or December. In the mean time, my wife and I are going on a long climbing and hiking trip out West, so you may have to be patient if you're waiting for posts between September and November.

And if you're still working on your PhD or Masters degree, keep up the hard work. It will pay off :)