Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Working hard or hardly working?

My grandma’s been reading my blog and supposedly she commented recently “It sounds like Katie’s having a great time but when is she going to get working on her PhD stuff?”.  And the answer is that I have been, kind of…
Yesterday, I gave a talk on SCALE-UP at NUS.  It was a pretty good turn-out considering it wasn’t advertised very well- just a couple last minute e-mails from my host.  Probably three dozen students showed up and a handful of faculty members.  One of the professors was incredibly interested in what I had to say since her efforts at incorporate active learning didn’t go as well as she hoped.  One graduate student told me he was interested in getting a degree in physics education, which he knew he couldn’t do here but North Carolina State University was on his list of possible places to apply.  Unfortunately, before I finished talking to him, we were surrounded by a swarm of Reddy’s students for a group picture so I lost him before I got his e-mail but hopefully I’ll be able to figure it out and find him again.
After my talk, Reddy gave an overview of his research to give students a sample of the avenues that they can pursue with their individual projects.  He manages 30-40 high school and junior college students with an annual budget of ~S10,000 and manages to get 3-4 papers published per year.  He certainly has a gift for finding projects appropriately matched to his lab facilities, time scales that are realistic for his students and engaging their intrinsic motivation.  It’s especially amazing when you think about how his work compares with “real” labs with graduate students and budgets 10-100 times that.  His work (co-authored by these students) is actually getting published in legitimate places!  And he agreed to take on a random person like me, even though he knows our research isn’t remotely related (but I'm not entirely random- he researched me extensively before accepting me and repeatedly says how impressed he is at all the things I've accomplished).
Dr. Reddy and I and the gang... 
I’ve also been back to SUTD for multiple observations- once for a lecture (incredibly traditional and boring) and back for a cohort session (much more fun).  Monday night, I was able to meet up with the girl I tried to meet up with at Hard Rock and actually was surprised by finding my co-worker from India in the store before I found Lauren.  I knew she had been in Malaysia but apparently she’s not a fan of Kuala Lampur, which she found to be dirty, not easy to get around and she felt generally uncomfortable.  Her favorite part was the luxury bus ride back (for $15) when she had her own cozy lounge and personal TV.  She said crossing back into Singapore from the border was like entering Oz, when the world turned to Technicolor.  Hopefully my Malaysia experience this upcoming weekend will be better (we purposefully stayed away from Kuala Lampur)!  Lauren is also super-cool.  She’s from Texas originally, spent a couple years living in Tokyo and now she’s doing a mix of things, including writing a column about finding organic foods in Singapore.  We're going to have a pickling party and she's going to show me how to cook Japanese food on friday.

Sentosa at night

The three of us took the tram to Sentosa, which is Singapore’s “pleasure island” which Universal Studios, a casino, an aquarium, some beaches… a place even more precisely manicured that the rest of the city, which was hard for me to believe.  We ate at a Chili’s restaurant and Western food really hit the spot.  Lauren was going crazy eating black beans, which she hasn’t had in two years because it’s expensive and hard to get here.  I hate how oatmeal, black beans and sweet potato are all nearly impossible to find but those are my main staples back home.
Dinner with Lauren (on left) and Samantha at Chili's!
 This afternoon I went swimming and it was hilarous.  The three male lifeguards were listening to Shania Twain "This Kiss".  They also had an intense game of kayak-water polo going on where they hit the ball with their kayak paddles.  Even on the other side of the mammoth pool, I felt like I was swimming in the rocky ocean seas because they were moving the water around so much.  So at least people are still exercising outdoors despite the dangerous smog that is shrouding the city in white and the American government keeps e-mail me warnings about.  Everyone's starting to bust out their face masks. They've been burning fires in Indonesia which has raised the air pollution to dangerous levels but I think Malyasia suffers from a similar problem so unfortunately, I probably won't be able to escape it this weekend.  At least, in my Dad's words, "it's better than China!"
Top of the mall where we took the shuttle to Sentosa... shared this picture for two reasons: first there's a swimming pool on top of the mall!  Second, you can see the smog and its gotten worse in the two days since I took this photo!