What research is like
Jeny + Jesus: On January 12, we flew out to Costa Rica once more. This time, with a richer body of knowledge and a greater capacity for research than in our first trip. On Monday, we had to present our 6 months of work to our mentors and advisors. It was a frightening experience, but at the end of the day, when we saw what everyone had put together we were all astonished and impressed. The entire cohort had initially left Costa Rica with hardly any knowledge in our respective fields.
John and Param had close to no idea on how they would generate a program that could calculate several on-the-spot gravity corrections in a simple way with intuitive GUI. But within 6 months, they had collected a vast corpus of research to help them understand what to correct for and how to correct for it. Oscar, their mentor, was so impressed with what they produced that he wanted to use their program the very next day.
Jeny and Sarai barely knew how to analyze LIDAR images when they left Costa Rica, but they had both spent so many hours looking at route 27 and its formations along with a dense land hazard manual. In no time, they had generated wonderful images and maps that detailed all the potential dangers in the vicinity which they each analyzed. Their visuals and their capacity to interpret them was striking. In that last week, they had worked with Dr. Paulo Ruiz on Route 27 measuring the landslide movement, seeing what type of rocks/materials are 40 meters below the routes surface, and working with LIDAR information.
Mariya also had a spectacular presentation. She had a considerably strenuous task working with the data she was given and hardly knew how to interpret it. To be fair, she was given a difficult topic. But come presentation day, she understood the foundations, principles, and even accumulated a decent amount of data to work with, over 13k picks through data. Her hard work and dedication was evident in her presentation.
Jesus also put forward a captivating presentation. When he presented he seemed confident in what he was talking about and he knew exactly what it was that he did with his data. Of course, he had made mistakes here and there, but he had pushed hard to create something meaningful and that showed in his work.
The desire to produce good work was evident in every presentation and it has undoubtedly been a journey for all. Each of us barely had any background in the project that was assigned to us, but we all made something significant out of it.
I think one of the greatest things that this project has shown us is the power that each of us has to create and generate meaningful work. It takes creativity and hard work, but it is the most fruitful endeavor one can undertake. Research has proved to be fun, curious, frustrating, tedious, but most importantly, full of ah-ha moments. One usually joins the world of science for this very reason, the sense of eureka and astonishment that overcomes one each time a break through is made. Working in research somehow feels like you spend a lot of time trying to push an immovable wall until one day it caves in on itself. Once you’re on the other side you realize it was all worth it.
Although it is almost over we are all grateful for this experience and the work we have done with our mentors.
Jesus: Most of all, I have enjoyed explaining my work to others. I’ve explained what I do to my friends and family, each time more enthusiastically than the last. I’ve also had to present my thoughts in the form of a slideshow which was more fun than explaining it by word alone. My next challenge is to explain everything as concisely as possible using only one poster and maybe some visual aids. I think research embodies the greatest aspects of the human mind. Curiosity, discovery, persistence, and an incessant desire to learn, always asking “what’s next?”.