What am I interested in?

I just came back from the CA2 presentation to my FYP Supervisor. Yes it’s through Skype again because he is not in Singapore, and this time he can see me, but I cannot see him. I can only hear his voice and the connection is quite bad. Once again he asks for my graduate student and I had to call him to come down. This time it’s in a different lab, so he has to come down from a distance away.

I did a quick run through of what I have done and what I would want to do in next few weeks. And then he asked me, what about the story telling. My project is about allowing the robot to know more about a person through analysis of his name card. Story telling is something he did ask me to do few weeks back, but that is not my project, hence the grad student told me to finish up my project before continuing to do what he said.

End up he kept asking and it confused me terribly because I was wondering, what exactly does he want? I mean, I didn’t come up with the project guidelines myself. I didn’t come up with the idea of name card extraction. So I asked him explicitly, what does he want me to do? Do I complete the analysis of internet content (my last part of the project), or do I do the story telling since he seems to want it so badly?

His replies would really make any student feel confused. He told me about Google and internet content, which I already completed. I didn’t know if he misunderstood me or maybe he is trying to say something else. So I kept asking and he asked. What are your interests? Do according to what I am interested in.

I think that’s bullshit. If I do according to my interests, he would still ask me about story telling isn’t it? And besides, how can I say that my interests is not in social robotics? I chose the FYP because I thought it would give me an easier time compared to others. I chose the FYP because image processing sounded like an interesting thing, but it turned out that image processing is only a small component? Or that my true interest lies in things like building apps to make people’s lives convenient? Things that led me to build NextTutor on my own? If he truly wanted students to pursue interests, then FYP should be open ended instead. Considering he posted the FYP description up and then now wanted me to do something else just shows how confusing and nonsense this whole thing is.

And he asked me if I understood. I said I did. He asked what do you understand? I said “You want me to be independent and proactive, and think about social robotics and how to improve it”. He said “Good”.

And I find that really helpful. That’s sarcasm by the way.

But I know what he means. To score in FYP, I have to come up with the difficulties of a social robot, and then show how I solve the problem. That’s something that should be said earlier, not midway through the project. But I understand, and I can do it I guess. I can try my best.

But honestly, I understand the aim to let students have a stake in their research topic, or to make students innovate, but I think the whole method FYP is carried out doesn’t seem to encourage that. FYP is carried out where you know you have to get A- and above if you want to have a shot at first class honours. So you know you have to play the game and try to make everyone happy so you get an A.

But at the start of the FYP the whole cohort was told “There’s not going to be as many As this time”. Seriously how motivational is that? Plus since you know you have to carry the balls of the supervisor and examiner, how does that truly encourage learning? Besides, when grades and honours classification comes into the picture, how can I truly enjoy my work, pursue my interests and innovate? Make FYP a CS/CU basis and then things will be different. I will feel more relaxed and less stressed up worrying all the time whether a First Class Honours is attainable and whether it is worth it considering all the psychological problems.

And what is FYP supposed to be? Independent research? Or what. Why are some profs totally nice and guiding their students, while some profs leave them alone, only meeting them twice in the entire semester just for the CA1 and CA2? It is hard to follow a leader that is sitting behind a computer miles away, barking instructions and not enforcing them.

What is independence? I thought I was independent. I figured out almost everything on my own without asking the graduate student much, and I did everything according to what I thought was best. I thought that was independence, but I guess when your dictionary is different from the grader, your grades will be different from your expectation too.

The cruel irony of the situation is that it is almost impossible for anyone to truly experience research while juggling studies at the same time. 6 MCs per sem translating to 15 hours a week. That’s not enough to experience researching. And I said it before, to truly experience what research is all about, the grades have to be taken out of the equation.

Sometimes I wonder what path should I take, being on my last semester and at the crossroads of my life. True enough, I had experienced enough of research to know that it’s not really my cup of tea. But yet at this point in my life, I have to decide if it is worth it. What mentality should I adopt? Should I say that a First Class Honours is very important, and then spend all my time feeling anxious? Or should I say that I’ll do my best, and if I get Second Upper it’s alright?

I have an almost guaranteed 2nd upper honours, unless I fail my FYP. But yet, having worked so hard all these years, seeing my cap move from 4.53 to 4.4 something then to 4.58, 4.66, 4.61 and now 4.59. After all these years of working hard, it does feel a pity to not finish off perfectly. But yet I know that I always feel lousy when dealing with my fyp. I want to get my good results, but the motivation seemed to drop and sometimes it feels like I am in despair. I really don’t know. Telling myself I’ll just do my best makes me feel a lot better and happier as a person, but I feel the pity. Telling myself work super hard might (or might not) get me my 1CH, but it will make me miserable.

What should I do?

2 thoughts on “What am I interested in?

  1. YO there,

    Not sure if this sounds like wise to you, but you will probably enjoy the process of FYP more if you put away grades into concern for a moment. It’s not really possible to make FYP non-graded anyway, because not everybody are self-motivated and most people would probably not do much if it’s not graded.

    For me, the current thing I’m working on my FYP is a total different thing from the original description too. Occassionally I’m also confused at what the prof wants. But if he says ‘do something’, then I try to do. At the same time, I try to do something else that I think is interesting too.

    So perhaps you can do the story-telling thing, in the meantime put in something in you like too.

    Just my thoughts.

  2. Hey, it’s my mysterious course mate again. Why are you so secretive? haha.

    Yes I agree, I will probably enjoy the process more if I am not concerned with the grades. And you are right, making it non graded will introduce a whole set of other problems. Haha.

    I will just try to do whatever the professor wants, and just devote more time into fyp during the holidays,whatever results I get I’ll just accept it. But I was thinking of providing feedback for the fyp to the school after graduation. Haha.

    Thanks for your comments, I appreciate it very much.

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