Blind Decision, Fateful Decision

by Forrest Sheng Bao http://fsbao.net

Remark: This is something I wrote when I first had the idea of studying in USA.

Science may set limits to knowledge,but should not set limits to imagination. -- Bertrand Russell

1. Why I want to go to USA for graduate study?

Plato is dear to me, but dearer still is truth. --Aristotle

When I was a freshman,I wanted to continue further study in China,as a master student. This idea had never been changed in the first two years until a friend of mine introduced me an operation system named Linux at the end of my freshman life. The idea of GNU attracts me so much that I even consider it as a philosophy. I use every occasion to praise GNU and Linux to other people. During the following one year, I learned how to use Linux step by step. In the beginning of the third year, I successfully migrated my work from Windows to Linux.

The experience of using Linux changed my view on China higher education. In the process of using Linux,or more precisely, in the process of searching and installing softwares on to my computer, I visited many web pages edited by students and teachers in USA. In deed, many softwares are programmed and maintained by college students. I found they programmed so many academic softwares to support their research. But in China, if we are lack of such software, we have no passion to handle the block by ourselves either and leave the research paused. We do not positively face difficulties but just be conquered by lazy attitude which leads to no ambition.

I obtained more and more information from browsing web pages,not only softwares,but also their research. Their academic ideas, enthusiasm on exploration, life style, attracts me. Strange professors and young geeks, the freedom academic environment, everything are amazing to me. Things beyond web pages also affects me. Movies,such as “A Beautiful Mind” or “Antitrust” or even “American Pie” persuades me. Excellent quotations ,precise mathematical proof and humor explanation on textbooks evoke me great respect to masters in American universities. I became to doubt my decision when I was a freshman.

One day, I asked one friend in a lab why many graduate students in his lab play PC games or watch movies all day. He replied to me in two English words, “no passion”. At that moment, I decided to be a graduate student in USA. I don't want to be corrupted and I wanna be a scientist.

So,I gonna go.

2. Why I give up the idea of applying PhD. for 2007 fall? Why I plan to apply a master program first?

To be or not to be, that is the question. -- William Shakespeare (from Hamlet 3/1)

My original idea is to apply Ph.D. program in 2007 fall, coz I missed many deadlines. But I compared the benefit and loss of two strategy. I wanna study in USA for the freedom academic environment, and for more fair competitions. So why I stay here for one year more? Here,I always get some puzzled by some ironic course grade.(For instance, I can write English papers and let my paper be accepted by int'l conference. But my grade of the Scientific English course is only 60.) I like to read textbooks written by professors in American universities. Why not go to USA to read more? To meet more academic masters? The library,the lab,the professors,paper database,the open campus,better network to access more information, everything is better than here. In deed,any international university is USA is better than most China universities.

On the other side,view from the point of application to a Ph.D. program. Here,I know little things about American higher education system,especially how they recruit students and how they collocate finical-aid. And I have very little idea on to which professor we are suitable. In deed,I know little about the focuses of different research fields in EE and CS. I am blind to choose my research interest. Sometimes, I felt that I am trying to figure out the way in a dark maze. Chaos! I need more information on such issues to make my decision. Additionally, here if I ask a teacher to write a recommendation letter for me, it is useless, coz professors in USA seldom know teachers in China universities. I wanna do research on my interest fields in a dream university. But can you make your decision wiser and yourself stronger if you waster one year in China?

We have a term,catalyst,in chemistry. Here is the explanation I read on a textbook, “Image the energy demand for certain chemical reaction is the altitude of a mountain. If you can't climb over a high mountain, try climb some lower mountains instead. You can also reach the destination at the back of the high mountain,but with lower energy. Thus,you can accelerate the reaction.”

Why not split a job into parts and handle them step by step? I gonna be a Ph.D. student, why not be a master student first in order to know more and enhance yourself rather than waste one year in China? So,from both the view of doing research and Ph.D. application, why not go earlier?

3. my future focus

It is not knowledge, but the act of learning, not possession but the act of getting there, which grants the greatest enjoyment. When I have clarified and exhausted a subject, then I turn away from it, in order to go into darkness again; the never-satisfied man is so strange if he has completed a structure, then it is not in order to dwell in it peacefully,but in order to begin another. --Carl Friedrich Gauss,Letter to Bolyai, 1808

My future research will be in the fields of EE and CS(denoted as eX in following coz I can't distinguish them frequently), including their relevant interdisciplinary ones,such as bioinformatics. I got puzzled why I am interested in almost every field on eX. But I am sure one thing, that I will work on the fields with lots of applications of mathematics,such as networking, bioinformatics, image and speech processing, pattern recognition and AI, computational and simulation methods in some “strange” EE problems(layout on PCBs and in VLSIs, SPICE simulation and VHDL/Verilog synthesis).

There is a reason for this decision. When I was a sophomore, I spent a lot of time on making circuits by myself. Those circuits includes the programmer of 51 and AVR MCU. I wanted to use my circuit to implement some ideas on controlling devices and making my life more joyful. But in fact, I have no lab and funding support. And more, I have no This situation put me in trouble. Then I turned to work on some researches on algorithms,not only the algorithms we studied in the course “Algorithms and Data Structure”(A Linear Time Complexity Sorting Algorithm Based on Guessing Function ),but also algorithms in signal processing(Study to Stochastic Resonance by correlation coefficient) ,bioinformatics(A DNA Sequence Compression Algorithm Based on LUT and LZ77) ,network routing(New Routing Algorithm for Ad Hoc Networks ) and even some biomathematics model(A Mathematical Model Analyzing Life Cycle of Periodical Cicadas). Even more,I told every undergraduate who asks me how to do research that “just read papers and think theoretically”.

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