Thursday, October 29, 2009

First Semester of Graduate School So Far

I'm right now at my Teaching Assistant office hours, I will blog about my experience as a recent graduate student. I will concentrate on the things I've been able to enjoy here that I wouldn't have found if I had stayed at home.

First thing I enjoy is leading recitation sections on foundations of Computer Science. This is an undergraduate course and most my students are avid to learn new stuff and give their best. I also learn a lot from them while I improve my English speaking and communications skills. This is the first time I have the chance to teach a class completely in English and I like that. This is an experience I really enjoy.

As part of a research community I've joined the Computer Vision seminar series where I have been able to meet several people interested on image analysis and visual algorithms. The Computer Vision seminar is a highly interdisciplinary group of people working on Image Analysis, Image Retrieval, Learning Theory, Pattern Recognition and Psychology and Visual Cognition. I also recently joined the Vision and Digital Media Lab, a group that is also close to the Consortium for Digital Arts, Culture and Technology (cDACT), a joint effort between the Department of Computer Science and the Art Department. I see a lot of good interesting things coming out of this group.

More broadly as part of the Computer Science community I've been able to attend several talks from invited speakers working on several fields. For instance today there was a jaw-dropping talk given by Prof. Ge Wang from Stanford University, who is working on Computer Music Research. He's the co-founder of the startup company that developed the Ocarina iPhone application, which basically turns your iPhone into a musical instrument and allows you to listen what are other performers playing around the world. You can see a demonstration here.

As a student I'm enrolled in three classes, being Theory of Computation probably the hardest because of the abstract and sometimes complex concepts we should learn in order to make formal proofs. My most enjoyable class this semester is probably Recognizing People, Objects and Actions, so far we've implemented the bag-of-words model for image classification, principal component analysis for face recognition (eigenfaces) and the project I'm working on will likely be worth a blog entry in the future. I'm also taking a graduate course in Computer Graphics where we are covering from the basics to more complex things such as open problems in computer graphics.

On the non-academic part of my life as graduate student. I have been able to visit Manhattan several times. Central Park and the New York Aquarium were the best places I've visited so far. I also enjoyed my first concert in Madison Square Garden listening to the rock band KISS. And I'm pretty sure there are many more things to come.

Last but not least, I've made several friends from different cultures here and I have enjoyed the long talks I've had with many of them. Although I'm surely forgetting to mention something important, I have to say that life so far is not perfect but surely I'm getting the opportunities I came looking for.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Graduate School Starts

It's been not so long since I moved to the United States for Graduate School. I've decided to start blogging and share the experience here. I'd like to contribute with some knowledge and worthy experiences and leave some of the small talk for twitter. I posted here a picture of the SBU Computer Science department building entrance. It means a lot to me, since this is going be my second home away from home for the upcoming years.
I don't have big hopes of having enough time to post daily or even weekly but I have high hopes of making this blog something worth reading. It's my third attempt to blogging. My first blog was a mix of a personal and tech blog in Spanish, I stopped updating it because in part I lost interest and then I stopped paying the hosting and domain.  My second attempt was an institutional blog at my undergrad school, I used to blog about several topics of local interest of my undergrad community, it is still online but not maintained anymore.

So far I've found Stony Brook to be a quiet and nice place surrounded by forests and a few steps away from the beach. On the other hand it's only a few miles away from New York City. The University campus is wonderful, lots of nature and modern buildings (Check the Health Sciences Building in the second picture!). The community is full of international students and faculty and lots of people interested in arts and sciences.