Passionate thinking

I recently watched El secreto de sus ojos (The secret in their eyes), a great Argentinian movie with an 8.3 rating on IMDb.

Around halfway into the movie, the semi-alcoholic police investigator Sandoval proudly and convincing tells his colleague Benjamín how they will track down the suspect:

El tipo puede cambiar de todo: de cara, de casa, de famila, de novia, de religión, de Dios… pero hay una cosa que no puede cambiar, Benjamín… no puede cambiar… de pasión.

This line made a big impression on me, and for the second time in less than one week I was asking myself: what is my passion?

Most people I know have some sort of passion. Some people like cooking, others like photography. Someone is completely in love with dogs, another has his heart devoted to a football team, and another still lives for science. And people who don’t have a passion they are enthusiastic about are those I would generally consider boring.

But I’ve come to realize that I might have become that boring person myself.

My greatest passion used to be music… mainly playing it with friends. But since ten years or so, my guitar playing and music making has slowly been diminishing towards nearly never. Meanwhile I am now spending an immensely large part of my life studying and doing biology. And while I definitely have a great interest for science, I am not sure if I would take it so far as to call it a passion.

So what is my passion? What is it in life that inspires me and makes me enthusiastic? What is it that makes me long for the weekends and holidays? To be honest, I currently don’t know.

And why do I consider this important? Well, how can I set up goals and milestones for my life, if I don’t even know what I am pursuing?

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Back at the crime scene.

It’s been almost exactly one and a half year since I started this blog. Back then, it was intended as a way of keeping track of my three summer challenges.

Since five days I am now back at the place where I started: Basel, Switzerland.

This will be my home for the next three months. Or to be exact, Weil am Rhein in Germany will be my home, Kleinbasel in Switzerland my job location, and a borrowed bicycle my shuttle vector. And to break the winter depression, Innsbruck in Austria will be my Christmas holiday host.

Most of all, these three months will give me a chance to think what should happen next.

Expect updates soon, but for now Sandman is knocking on my door.

… and a small note

Since I’m not using my Facebook wall to show the whole world (interested or not) my achievements and failures, I will continue using my blog for this.

Just got the final evaluation statement from Aalto University:


Aalto University
School of Science

Degree Programme Committee
in Computer Science and Engineering
School of Science

Evaluation of Master s Thesis

Thesis Title: Helping cells jump to conclusions. Design and implementation of a biological circuit capable of responding to pre-equilibrium information.
Programme: Master’s Degree Programme in Computational and Systems Biology
Author: Andreas Constantinou

Definition of research scope and goals. The problem domain of the thesis as well as the goals are presented in an excellent manner. The topic has a high degree of difficulty but not overly so.

Command of the topic. The text reflects an excellent command of the topic. The cited literature is relevant and of good quality. The literature has been woven into the thesis in a smooth manner, indicating thorough understanding.

Methods and conclusions. The thesis contains a significant component of both wet-lab and computational work, both of which have been executed in a professional manner. The description of the methods, experiments are deep and comprehensive. The conclusions made are credible.

Contribution to knowledge and thesis structure. The standard of the work and its presentation is of publication level. The particular imprint of the author is evident in the thesis. According to the thesis instructor, the work opens up a new research avenue for porting the findings regarding ligand-receptor interactions to genetic networks.

Presentation and language. The thesis is written in fluent, clear English void of errors. The figures and equations are used to support the text in a very good manner. The presentation thesis has been finalized well.

Recommended grade: 5/5

Although I think both the wording and the grade is strongly exaggerated, I can’t help but being at least a tad bit proud.

19/20 from Lisbon, and 5/5 from Helsinki.
I guess my academic CV just got itself a little brush-up.

Big plans

Being back in Stockholm feels rather strange. It’s the city where I grew up and have lived most of my life, but for some reason it doesn’t feel like home. One reason is probably that I don’t really have a place of my own here. I do have free and unlimited access to my dad’s apartment, but since the place is not mine I can’t help but feeling like a guest.

But it also doesn’t help that I’m right in the middle of everything. Not only unemployed, but also already with one foot abroad. And while I’m trying to get myself organized for Switzerland, I’m also preoccupied with what happens after that. Argentina or not? PhD or not? To be more precise, it’s more the what rather than the where.

The question of doing or not doing a PhD has been a matter of hesitation for me during the past four years or so. There have been times when I’ve been completely against the idea, followed by more positive periods. For the moment I’m leaning towards such a positive one, but I’m trying to make out how positive I really am about it.

What I am afraid of is that I might be accepting a PhD mainly because it’s the easy way out. But what if I was offered a good job today—also satisfying the where—would I rather go for that? Or if there was no where, would I still be contemplating a PhD?

The problem is that I don’t really have any concrete alternatives, especially not satisfying the where. And since my return to Argentina is a now-or-never decision, I don’t have much time to think about it.

Instead, I’ve been thinking of how to make the most and best out of a PhD, or what I could do in parallel. And—and An Animal probably won’t believe his eyes—I’ve started thinking in terms of machine learning and big data…

But I’ll leave that to some other time. This post is already a bit lengthy.