… 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.

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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.

Nothing new, really…

… but nevertheless loving this place.

Over and out. I’m going to the beach.

It’s official! I’m unemployed!

Following the relatively weak presentation at Aalto University a week ago, yesterday I gave my second and last master’s thesis presentation, this time at Instituto Superior Técnico (IST) in Lisbon. In contrast to the presentation at Aalto, the IST presentation would be graded, and make part (20%) of the final grade of my thesis.

This slight pressure seems to have been what I needed to motivate me to give a great presentation. Because the presentation certainly went great. So great that even the program director (a professor with whom I am certainly not on good terms with) commented the presentation by saying that “we already know you give excellent presentations”. Coming from her, that is certainly a compliment.

Thesis presentation

Following a long discussion and questions session (40 minutes or so) the jury was left alone to discuss the grade. And the result?

19/20

Practically the top grade. 20/20 is probably reserved to him or her who cures cancer or reverts climate change, so I’m pretty satisfied with my grade.

However, every rose has its thorns1, and my main thorn is supposedly my arrogance. The professors made a big deal out of me not including my supervisors and the European Commission(!) in my thesis acknowledgements. After all, they said, this would probably not have been possible without their help, and certainly not without the scholarship from the EC.

Perhaps this is a combination of Sweden being a country very low on formalities, me in particular disliking formalities, and the Portuguese society being completely obsessed by formalities; but it was still a pity that they got something to complain about. But like Michalis said, when they don’t find anything concrete to comment on, they look for irrelevant details instead.

So I have promised to add at least the EC to my acknowledgements. But since I am the way I am, I am now also tempted to thank:

* The Swedish government for also funding me throughout my 7 years of studies.
* The Swedish inhabitants, for paying the taxes that have led to these funds.
* The EU inhabitants that pay taxes, since that is what ultimately payed my EC scholarship.
* Argentina’s black exchange market (and thus indirectly the Argentine government), for giving me 50-80% more pesos for my Euros.
* etc…

But I will surpress this temptation…

Anyway, I will now celebrate my unemployment by going to the beach. After all, we’re expecting 31°C here today.

Over and out!

1. One thing I love about blogging in English is that I learn all these new proverbs. In Swedish this proverb is “Even the sun has its spots” (Även solen har sina fläckar). But that this is Every rose has its thorns in English, was new to me.

The Stockholm ego

Now and then I get reminded of why I do not want to live in Stockholm. I often mention the weather and distance to the rest of Europe as arguments, but the main reason is actually a different one. I cannot stand the arrogance and self centeredness of many people from Stockholm.

However, I haven’t spent much time in Stockholm in the past few years. And when I do, I mostly meet my friends and family, whom I naturally don’t think qualify into this category; if they did I wouldn’t waste my time calling then friends.

So I tend to get reminded during my travels instead. And one place you can be sure to meet them is on direct flights to popular tourist destinations in Europe.

This time, the arrogance was represented by some guys in (I guess) their mid-to-late twenties, singing, beat-boxing, and table drumming their way down to Lisbon. They cannot have missed the fact that they annoyed the people around them; especially since even I got disturbed, despite sitting 6–7 rows away.

I haven’t done enough charter flights originating from other cities than Stockholm to say whether this is unique for people from my home town. I also by no means claim that this behavior is common. But I can’t recall experiencing such self-centeredness on any other flights, so it serves as a good reminder (albeit metaphoric evidence based) of why I don’t like Stockholm.

There and gone again. A thesis’s tale

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Ready for recycling

Two days ago saw the arrival of these insignificant pieces of work to the world. For a moment I was the owner of two hardcopy prints of my own master’s thesis. 20 minutes later these were passed on to the university, most probably to never again be opened, until they sooner or later find themselves destroyed; either in a deliberate recycling effort (most probably), or in an unfortunate library fire (not so probable). Nevertheless, with these masterpieces of design and research excellence, the first part of two for closing my euSYSBIO chapter is completed.

Five days in Helsinki are now immediately followed by nine days in Lisbon. A not insignificant change for the better:

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Other factors are: better prices; better food and drinks; better-sounding and more understandable language (and people applying it to communicating), a more humane drinking culture, and closer to BsAs (yeah right…).

My experience also tells me that Portugal has more psychologically and socially retarded biology professors per capita. However, this fact is filed under somewhat less positive features.

Nevertheless, it was great to meet some of my old mates in Finland. It was especially revitilazing to meet and discuss with good ol’ Gonçalo. A great mind, always sparking with ideas. I’m also super grateful to both him and Maiia for accommodating me during these days.

Anyway, next stop Lisbon!

The only thing that is clear is that the future is unclear

Another week has gone by here in Buenos Aires, and I now only have five days left here. Sentimental for many reasons, but since I have not been roaming around Argentina this month as I originally planned, it has also been bit boring at times, sitting around with nothing to do—especially while Lorena is at work or in class. So in a sense it will be nice to finish this chapter and start getting at least my near future sorted out.

Exactly what happens during my next half year is still unclear—about as unclear as most of my past half years have been since 2004 or so. A small proof of this is my flight ticket folder where I have filed most of—but not all—my flight tickets since 2009:

I wonder with how many tons I have exceeded my CO2 quota over these years...

I wonder with how many tons I have exceeded my CO2 quota over these years…

At least half of these are connected to work and studies rather than leisure, indicating how much I have been moving around in the past. I have to admit that this has started to get a bit tiresome, as I do not really know what is home anymore. Also, although moving around allows me to get to know people from all over the world, it also inevitably always leads to goodbyes—sometimes for good. This is the main negative part of solo-nomadic living.

Nevertheless, for the moment I have no reason to believe that this temporary living is coming to an end, at least not during the next 1–2 years. But exactly how temporary and where this temporariness will take place, is still shrouded in mystery…

Home is where the mountains are

Home is said to be where the heart is. At least that’s what An Animal says. I agree with that, but it doesn’t really tell where the heart is.

My heart may be a bit scattered for the moment, which complicates this question a bit. But one thing that always seems to capture my heart is mountains.

As a last stop for my much shortened trip, I went to Córdoba, which is a region in central Argentina, but also the name of the capital city of the same region. And after spending the first day exploring the city, I devoted the entire second day to hiking in the mountains near Córdoba. And oh my have I missed the mountains!?

Starting out as a group of six, with the others being people from the same hostel as mine, we went to a national park called Condorito. While four people in the group could only do part of the hike, me and a Brazilian guy did a six-hour hike that covered some very nice views. Not amazing like some of the places I’ve seen in Switzerland, but considering my mountain depravation in the past year, it was definitely worth every minute.

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On the way back we then stumbled upon a big group of CouchSurfers, with whom we were able trip hitch a ride back to the city.

Now I’m on the bus which will take me back to BsAs. Overnight of course.