Three More Years

a.k.a. The Long Overdue Life-Update

The three people still reading this blog on a regular basis (two of which possibly paid by the Chinese government after some bizarre translation mix-up convinced them I was a dangerous political dissident to be monitored) might have noticed the lack of substantial news on this blog for quite a long time. OK: even less substantial content than usual.

I also realise that the lack of proper context as to my whereabouts made a lot of past blog entries somewhat puzzling. If this can make you feel any better, I am pretty sure that my own genitors have had only the faintest sense of my exact location, occupation or plans, ever since I was last sighted, putting a finishing touch to my grand World Domination Plot Master Thesis.

In fact, it took all that time for the plan set in motion nearly a year ago to finally reach its final stage (tonight).

After only a few thousand hours of application-writing, test-taking, interviewing, back-and-forth travelling and soul-searching, interspersed with twelve months of sitting idly, waiting for answers, I was finally notified officially tonight that the Japanese Ministry of Research and Education would be happy to finance my many costly vices for the few years to come, while I pretend to apply myself to a PhD in bioinformatics (the lengths I will go to, just so I can legitimately add that ‘dr’ title back to the header of this blog).

Considering my academic background as hobbyist mathematician, occasional computer-scientist and pretend-linguist, my new field of research might come as a surprise to some. And a supreme irony, to the few that know my strong atavistic predispositions (and equally strong will to contrariate) on this path. I will have ample occasions to ramble about bioinformatics here in the future, but to put it in a few words, it is the [new-ish] discipline where math, physics and computer science meet molecular biology and make beautiful futuristic little kids together. It’s fresh, exciting and brimming with promising prospects as only a still-very-naive-and-uncrushed PhD student can see them.

As to why I chose to go there, beside the obvious reason (taking my Nobel Prize chances from zero to three), it all started not so long ago. The final decision was only made halfway through the PhD application process last year, after much hesitation for a career in computational linguistics. Other notable highlights along the tortuous path to PhD adoption: a very uneasy feeling when turning down concrete offers at both Cambridge and Tokyo University in favour of one still hypothetical position in Kyoto.

It all miraculously worked out, though.

As of last month (as a temporary visiting researcher: as of the 1st of April, as an official student), I have joined the venerable University of Kyoto (usually referred to as Kyodai) for three years of fun and research.

Actually, given the fact that Kyodai’s Natural Sciences research campus is located outside the town of Uji, 20 minute south of the already-not-so-huge city of Kyoto: it is mostly work and very little fun at the moment. But that was sort of the plan in coming here rather than busy metropolitan Tokyo and its all-too-alluring flurry of entertainment options.

Life is quiet here (mother of all understatements) and very conducive to productive academic work (urge to rant on my blog aside)… For everything else, yes: it might get a little boring in a while, but we are not there yet.

I will write quantities more about living in the Kyoto countryside, working at the heart of Japan’s academia and other fascinating cultural insights… Until then, feel free to come say hi if you are around…

5 comments

  1. Hi Dave, I recently added your blog to a new-to-me Linux feedreader. It’s good to know that a small percentage of the population graduates from high school and truly WANTS to continue formal learning.

    Thanks so much for your help through (what I characterize as) the fine code you’ve written (in the past) for some of the blogosphere, and thanks also to all those who contributed in that effort.

    May good luck surround and infuse your chosen dreams.

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