2023, how is your research progress going? Do you have any insights or experiences you would like to share with everyone?

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Annual Academic Accomplishments Summary

  1. Grant Achievements This year marked a significant harvest with two independent PI R01 grants, one Co-PI R01 grant, and a New Investigator Award grant from the state. The overarching principle has been to continually deliver - keep publishing, keep submitting, keep networking. There’s an aspiration to eventually organize and share these experiences in detail.

  2. Paper Publications Published a research article in a decently recognized journal within the field, along with a review, an editorial in a high impact journal, and several co-authored articles. Two potential high impact articles have been submitted for review.

  3. Grant and Paper Review Invitations Participated in several grant reviews for the AHA and in Europe, as well as article reviews for multiple top journals within the field.

  4. Invited Talks Delivered a total of 15 invited talks throughout the year, including conference talks, talks at various schools (with honorariums), and talks related to interviews.

  5. Tenure Submitted the tenure application package one year ahead of the schedule.

  6. Job Offers Received two formal job offers and hope to share some experiences regarding these opportunities later.

Reflections on Postdoctoral Journey and Personal Growth

No substantial progress in research, mainly focusing on wrapping up doctoral work to avoid unfinished projects. It seems to be a recurring cycle.

Gradually, the work of peers from the same cohort has become incomprehensible to each other, which perhaps underscores the essence of pursuing a doctorate.

Gaining recognition in the field, several papers were confidently published in top journals, and the total citations are quickly approaching 2000. Attending conferences has become more assertive, though not without its contentions.

Continued collaboration with the undergraduate advisor has felt like undertaking a second PhD. Recently submitted a paper to Accounts, reflecting on the extensive academic journey.

Last month, flew back to LA to deliver the exit talk, and after submitting the thesis, it’ll be time to graduate, though there’s no rush to find a job just yet.

Decided not to pursue a postdoc but to directly enter the tenure track assistant professor market, dedicating considerable time to applications, writing, and soliciting recommendations, reminiscent of the daunting application season four years ago.

The focus is shifting from learning new techniques and completing tasks assigned by the advisor to proving the novelty and independence of my work, distinguishing myself from my mentor, and ensuring my research direction is fundable.

While friends and colleagues from conferences, especially those in theoretical fields, have secured academic positions, I’ve had setbacks in interviews, feeling the pressure of peers. Facing an interview with a significant institution soon, hoping for a breakthrough.

Gradually, I’ve stopped offering unsolicited advice, realizing the uniqueness of career paths and research preferences. Most times, helping or seeking help involves discussions that end up being fruitless.

Interestingly, non-research activities have become more intriguing, as research is just a small part of life. There’s a newfound appreciation for the joys of reality. This year, I’ve engaged in extensive road trips, surpassing 3000 miles, along with regular hiking, BBQs, camping, and urban exploration. Revived my guitar skills, playing in a band again after a decade, rehearsing classic rock and pop songs, which has been uplifting.

The most significant realization is that work-life balance is paramount. It’s important to socialize, spend time with family, and cultivate hobbies.

Hoping to resolve my residency status and secure a teaching position before turning 27, humorously noting the alternative is joining the “27 Club.”

The most significant insight is to devote 20% of one’s research energy to understanding human relations and social etiquette; this can lead to achieving twice the results with half the effort.

A Year Full of Twists and Turns

This year has been quite eventful. In the first half, I struggled to find a job, and it wasn’t until April that things finally settled with a QS top 10 AP offer after a week of interviews. Throughout the first half of the year, none of my articles were accepted, and the trend continued into September. I felt like I was on the verge of giving up… But then, things took a turn in October when I got one of my articles accepted by AFM. In November, I achieved a milestone with my third article being accepted by Nature Materials. A week later, in early December, after nearly half a year of effort, Science Advances also accepted my work. As Christmas approaches and the streets light up with decorations, I suddenly feel that this year has brought warmth and success.

Next year, I’ll take on new challenges with a new role, but I also hope to find a special someone… Friends with connections, feel free to message me!

Reflecting on 2023: A Year of Achievements

Thank you for the invitation. In total, I have published six articles, with five of them being published between July and November of this year. Additionally, I completed my doctoral degree and started a new job in 2023. It can be said that 2023 has been a fruitful year for my research endeavors. Here is a detailed overview:

January to June 2023: In Progress

The first half of the year was dedicated to research and writing, summarized chronologically:

  • Thesis: I had already outlined it, completed the initial draft in March, made two revisions, and finalized it in June. I also prepared the accompanying PowerPoint presentation and speaking notes.

  • Paper 1: Collaborated with my advisor in my field, where I am the first author. Completed the initial draft and underwent two major revisions.

  • Paper 2: A computer-related paper, independently organized, with me as the corresponding author. Completed the initial draft in January, revised in March, submitted in April, and underwent major revisions in June.

  • Paper 3: Another paper in my field, co-authored with my advisor, where I am the first author. It was completed and submitted in December 2022 but got rejected in April. After minor revisions, it was submitted to a new journal (Chinese Academy of Sciences, Tier 2) in May.

  • Paper 4: In my field, independently organized, with me as the corresponding author. The first draft in Chinese was completed early in 2023, but it got rejected after revisions. In May, I made further modifications and submitted it to MDPI. After rejection there, I submitted it to the Nature portfolio series.

  • Paper 5: A paper related to my field but with a social science perspective, independently organized, with me as the corresponding author. I had an outline in March-April but was missing a key idea. Finally, in mid-May, I found the missing piece, completed the initial draft in mid-June, submitted to MDPI at the end of June, and faced immediate rejection. Annoyed, I submitted it to a Tier 1 Chinese Academy of Sciences journal.

  • Paper 6: Similar to Paper 1, in my field, co-authored with my advisor, where I am the first author. Completed the initial draft and underwent one major revision.

July to September 2023:

  • Thesis: Successfully defended in mid-July, with minor revisions completed by the end of July. The official submission was made by the end of August, and I officially graduated in early October.

  • Paper 1: Submitted to a Tier 1 Chinese Academy of Sciences journal, with major revisions during the first round of review, and feedback received in late September.

  • Paper 2: Accepted at the end of July, but there was no further communication until mid-September when I was asked to format the paper.

  • Paper 3: Major revisions in mid-July, second major revisions at the end of August, accepted on September 2nd, published online in mid-September, and indexed in late October.

  • Paper 4: Major revisions in early September, revisions returned at the end of September.

  • Paper 5: Major revisions at the end of July, revisions in mid-August. Second minor revisions at the end of August, accepted in mid-September, published online at the end of September, and indexed in early November.

  • Paper 6: Completed the second major revision.

  • Paper 7: An unfinished project from before, strengthened in August-September, submitted to a Tier 1 Chinese Academy of Sciences journal at the end of September.

October to December 2023:

  • Thesis: Graduated officially in October, received the electronic degree certificate in mid-October, and the physical certificate in mid-November, with overseas degree verification completed.

  • New Job and Position: Started the new job in mid-October and entered the official civil service position in early December.

  • Paper 1: Second minor revisions in mid-November, feedback received in mid-November, awaiting publication.

  • Paper 2: Suddenly received an email from ORCID at the end of October, stating that the paper had been published online. Official communication from the journal arrived a few days later. Indexing occurred at the end of November.

  • Paper 4: Accepted at the end of November, completed online proofing in early December, awaiting online publication.

  • Paper 6: Finalized the draft in early November, submitted to a Tier 1 Chinese Academy of Sciences journal.

  • Paper 7: Under review.

  • Paper 8: Had a new idea at the end of October, completed the initial draft in early November, submitted to a Tier 1 Chinese Academy of Sciences journal, but was advised to transfer it to another social science-related Tier 1 Chinese Academy of Sciences journal. Under review.

  • Paper 9: Started in mid-September, mostly completed by mid-October, then forgotten due to my new job. Resumed work in early November, completed in mid-November, submitted to the Nature portfolio series. Under review.

As of now, Papers 1 to 5 have been accepted, while Papers 6 and 7 are in the first round of review. Paper 6 has received feedback from one reviewer but is still waiting for a second opinion. If everything goes smoothly, Papers 6 and 7 should receive feedback before the Chinese New Year next year. Papers 8 and 9 may also have new developments.

Reflections and Thoughts:

I have several reflections and thoughts on this journey. If anyone wishes to discuss them further, feel free to reach out:

  1. My workplace has been very supportive, with accurate information regarding relocation allowances, research funding, and other resources. The conditions for receiving these benefits are relatively lenient, and I am grateful for the opportunities provided. The scenic environment and mutual support among colleagues have also been excellent.

  2. Research requires bold ideas and rapid execution. I stumbled upon a recently published thesis during my spare time last weekend, which shared a similar concept with my Paper 3 (two out of three innovative points overlapped). This discovery was nerve-wracking. When I combined the three innovative points in Paper 3, I wrote it without fully convincing my team members. They only understood the complete logic after I finished writing. If I had waited to convince them first, the results might not have been as successful.

  3. My approach to research is to write and submit once the paper is ready, using reviewer feedback to make additions and revisions. In contrast, my advisor prefers careful planning, making several major revisions before submission. I think both approaches are valid. Writing a paper is essentially telling a story, and a good story is one that is both interesting and well-structured. Currently, I have a 3-3 record, where I have published three papers as a corresponding author and three papers as the first author under my advisor’s guidance.

Expectations for 2024:

In 2024, I will continue my role transition, adapting to the responsibilities of a university lecturer, focusing on writing textbooks, teaching, and engaging in competitions, among other tasks. I may have less time for research compared to my doctoral and early career years, but I am looking forward to new challenges. Writing textbooks, interacting with experts, sharing knowledge during classes, and participating in competitions could lead to fresh ideas and more research opportunities in 2024.

Today happens to be a sunny day, and it is truly a day of clear skies and a refreshing breeze. Facing the warm winter sun, I am incredibly satisfied and grateful for 2023, and I am filled with anticipation and excitement for what 2024 has in store!

Reflecting on 2023: Achievements and Aspirations

As 2023 draws to a close, it’s a good time to provide an update on the progress made, aligning with the question, “What are your expectations for your research journey in 2023?” This article outlines the outlook, highlighting several accomplishments and a few regrets.

In our research group, we submitted four papers to ICCD 2023, focusing primarily on performance optimization issues related to Transformer-based neural networks such as LLM and ViT. These papers delved into the co-design of software and hardware, as well as hardware architecture design. For instance, in our paper titled “ViTframe: Vision Transformer Acceleration via Informative Frame Selection for Video Recognition,” we reduced the amount of data fed into neural networks using a clever frame selection strategy. Additionally, we effectively supported customized software algorithms with a reconfigurable array.

This year, I personally paid significant attention to the optimization of point cloud neural networks, driven by the advancements and necessity in the field of autonomous driving. Consequently, my students continued to build on my best paper from DATE 2023, submitting two papers to DATE 2024 on point cloud acceleration. These papers primarily focused on three stages of point cloud processing (FPS, Neighbor Search, and Feature Computation), identifying performance bottlenecks and systematically addressing them. Furthermore, I published an architecture design proposal in IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems (TPDS) regarding the performance optimization of multi-frame point cloud processing. This article extended spatial locality to temporal locality, further enhancing the real-time capabilities of point cloud processing.

Regarding research, the most notable experience this year was the acceptance of a paper that had been in the pipeline for two years, which will be presented at ACM Conference on Architectural Support for Programming Languages and Operating Systems (ASPLOS) 2024. It’s safe to say that the journey from conceiving an idea to finally publishing a paper can be quite challenging at times.

Additionally, I have concluded the course “Parallel Computing and Program Design” that I taught this year. The course primarily covered topics related to modern GPU architecture, CUDA parallel programming, and related technologies. If anyone is interested, you are welcome to download the course materials from my homepage: {Zhuoran Song}.

Title: No Degree, No Hat, Zero Papers.

Despite being busy all the time, it seems like there’s a year-long gap in my resume.

A Year in the Life of a Second-Year PhD Student

Thank you for the invitation.

In 2023, it was my second year pursuing a Ph.D., entering the sophomore year of this academic journey. Although I may not be as accomplished as some of the experts, I’d like to share my experiences and gains from this past year.

In September 2022, I joined a research group led by a returning overseas-educated professor, who is only seven years older than me, full of energy, and approachable—a really nice person. Right from the start, we focused on a specific research direction, primarily in the field of multimodal learning, encompassing both understanding and generation aspects, including 2D and 3D domains. To be honest, this field is highly competitive, with numerous research groups, and new papers constantly appearing on arXiv. Fortunately, we identified a challenging problem and made some progress. We submitted our work to CVPR 2023, but it got rejected. We tried again with ICCV, only to face rejection once more. This phase lasted approximately 3-4 months. During this time, my mental state suffered greatly. I became withdrawn, couldn’t bear the fact of rejection, and my skewed mindset negatively affected my research life. It took about half a year to recover.

Despite the rejections, we completed a piece of work. We took reviewers' feedback seriously, conducted more experiments, improved the results, restructured the paper, and refined the details. Finally, in late October of this year, we submitted it to TPAMI and began the long wait for a response…

From April to August this year, the entire research group was busy handling project applications. While it was tedious, it was an essential step for the group’s development. I consoled myself at that time, thinking of it as a growing pain that would pass. Gradually, in September, as the project applications concluded, I entered the second year of my Ph.D. At this point, I didn’t have a concrete idea yet, but I narrowed my focus to the field of image editing and generation, hoping to contribute something. In September and October, I experimented with various code and ideas, and I finally found a feasible research problem. I’ve been working on it continuously, and as of December 2, 2023, I’ve achieved some results. I hope to wrap up this work successfully by New Year’s.

Despite a lack of significant research outcomes this year, I’ve been striving for continuous improvement. On January 1, 2023, I, along with two classmates, established a paper reading community on Bilibili called PaperABC (a name suggested by my advisor, which I really like). We’ve been dedicated to explaining the latest arXiv papers, and our follower count has reached 6,000+, with over 100,000 views. Unfortunately, due to personal reasons, we couldn’t maintain a consistent schedule, but we have recently started updating our content gradually.

I attended an academic conference, China3DV, and had the opportunity to meet many experts. I hope to learn from them and continue to progress.

I aspire to keep my emotions in check, stay focused on my research, and patiently await the day when my hard work bears fruit.

A Year of Academic Achievements

As I perused my Google Scholar profile, I realized that this year has been fruitful for me. Ever since I arrived in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, I have been deeply immersed in academia. I often joke with my friends that I’ve become a full-time writer – either I’m editing papers or on my way to edit them.

I’ve selected ten journal papers accepted this year, and I look forward to the first half of next year when I’ll have less teaching duties, allowing me to organize the research accomplishments of our group and share them with everyone. Below, I’ll briefly discuss the stories behind these papers.

[1] W Jiang, C Lu, C Wu, Robust Scheduling of Thermostatically Controlled Loads with Statistically Feasible Guarantees, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 2023.

This is the first paper accepted in 2023, marking the beginning of our journey into “Statistical Feasibility.” When we engage in random optimization, whether it’s chance constraints or robust optimization, we often overlook the impact of sample observations on the optimization results. For instance, in chance-constrained random optimization, we typically estimate distribution information within the chance constraints. However, if our sample observations are unreliable, the estimation may fail, resulting in suboptimal performance. Robust optimization, including distributed robust optimization, has not adequately addressed this issue. This work adds an extra layer of chance constraints to account for the uncertainty in sample observations. This nested chance-constraint problem is then transformed into a robust optimization problem, specifically characterizing the set of uncertainties. If you’re interested in the details, feel free to read our paper.

[2] Y Zhang, Q Liu, J Sun, C Wu, The optimal dynamic regret for smoothed online convex optimization with squared l2 norm switching costs, Journal of the Franklin Institute, 360 (6), 4297-4330, 2023.

[3] C Lu, J Liang, W Jiang, J Teng, C Wu, High-resolution probabilistic load forecasting: A learning ensemble approach, Journal of the Franklin Institute, 360 (6), 4272-4296, 2023.

These two papers are included in a special issue of the “Journal of the Franklin Institute.” I’d like to express my gratitude to the special issue editors and reviewers. This journal was somewhat unfamiliar to me, but at the time, I had two students working on challenging topics. One focused on load forecasting, a rather demanding field in power engineering, requiring extensive comparative experiments to impress reviewers. As most of our papers primarily emphasize theoretical analysis, especially tailored solutions for power system problems, I was a bit hesitant about submitting papers in this direction. However, both papers present innovative approaches worth exploring further. If you have ideas on how to customize these methods, please do share.

[4] N Gu, J Cui, C Wu, An Auto-Tuned Robust Dispatch Strategy for Virtual Power Plants to Provide Multi-Stage Real-time Balancing Service, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 2023.

Comparatively, these two papers address issues related to virtual power plants and real-time balancing services in distribution grids. The first paper focuses on an online real-time decision-making problem, combining dynamic programming and distributed robust optimization. We aimed to speed up dynamic programming using machine learning techniques to address the curse of dimensionality. The second paper is related to load shedding in data centers and online scheduling in microgrids. It might not be directly applicable to large power grids, but the methods used are interesting. If you have ideas for improvements, please share them.

[5] C Lu, N Gu, W Jiang, C Wu, Sample-Adaptive Robust Economic Dispatch With Statistically Feasible Guarantees, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, 2023.

This is the second paper in the Statistical Feasibility series, applying the concept to economic dispatch problems. It further demonstrates the effectiveness of this approach, which I believe is a valuable tool that everyone should consider exploring.

[6] Q Huang, W Jiang, J Shi, C Wu, D Wang, Z Han, Federated Shift-Invariant Dictionary Learning Enabled Distributed User Profiling, IEEE Transactions on Power Systems, 2023.

This paper originated from a discussion on Dictionary Learning and its relation to federated learning. We applied these techniques to the task of user profiling in power systems, which was an interesting endeavor. Both dictionary learning and federated learning are relatively simple in this paper. If you have any ideas for improvements, please feel free to suggest them.

[7] W Jiang, J Huang, G Xu, C Wu, Sample-Oriented Electricity Storage Sharing Mechanism Design With Performance Guarantees, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 2023.

This paper emerged from a student training initiative. Our group has become increasingly interested in concepts related to sample complexity since delving into Statistical Feasibility. We wanted to understand the implications of having limited data for decision-making. If you’re intrigued by such problems, I encourage you to read our paper.

[8] C Lu, J Cui, H Wang, H Yi, C Wu, Privacy Preserving User Energy Consumption Profiling: From Theory to Application, IEEE Transactions on Smart Grid, 2023.

Surprisingly, there were fewer papers related to differential privacy accepted this year. As followers of my work might know, our group has made progress in exploring the effects of various differential privacy parameters on electricity data analysis tasks. This paper discusses the impact of different differential privacy methods on the final user profiles and touches upon data pricing. We established a relationship between the magnitude of noise injected and the discount applied to the data price. However, fully addressing the pricing issue would require more than a dozen pages. Any suggestions from experts are welcome.

[9] C Lu, J Liang, N Gu, H Wang, C Wu, Manipulation-Proof Virtual Bidding Mechanism Design, IEEE Transactions on Energy Markets, Policy and Regulation, 2023.

We plan to extend this paper further. Game theory in network-constrained environments is always challenging, but virtual bidding usually assumes minimal network constraints. Given the strategic nature of such games, we pondered whether mechanism design could promote cooperation and discourage harmful strategies, making the experience enjoyable for all parties involved.

[10] J Cui, J Wu, C Wu, S Moura, Electric vehicles embedded virtual power plants dispatch mechanism design considering charging efficiencies, Applied Energy 352, 121984, 2023.

This paper addresses the practicality of electric vehicle scheduling within the context of virtual power plants. Factors like the varying charging and discharging efficiencies of individual vehicles, often influenced by temperature and other environmental conditions, make this problem more realistic. If you’re curious about how these real-world issues impact electric vehicle scheduling, I encourage you to read our paper.

I appreciate your interest in my work!

Slowly getting back on track, aiming to maintain a pace of two publications per year. This year, one first-author paper has been accepted by Nature Communications, and a minor revision is in progress for a paper in Chemical Society Reviews. Hopefully, the manuscript submissions next year will go smoothly.

Academic Update

Papers: Published a paper in Nature Sustainability on ammonia recovery from cow dung, unexpectedly received contact from a writer. Also, contributed to a major news story with the lab, wondering about the outcome next year.

Funding: Collaborated with a fellow professor to secure NSF FMRG funding with minimal effort. If there are researchers interested in flow cell and electro-synthesis, please feel free to reach out, as there is a postdoctoral opening.

Projects: Continued research on cow dung, investigating electron transfer. Also, initiated a flashy project, though criticized by friends for not being “engineering” enough in the chemistry field. Will continue to strive and hope to wrap up by next summer.

Reflections: Spent a joyful two months at home during the summer break. Progress often depends on fate; contemplating a laid-back life, yet it seems others expect more productivity. Half a year of gardening has been rewarding. Taking a relaxed approach to finding a postdoc position, no high expectations, and no major mental health issues – whether slacking off or working hard, it’s all about staying content.

Experience: Four years in the lab conducting experiments, two and a half years teaching, and one and a half years involved in funding and project management with the professor. Different stages bring different challenges. Well-funded research groups are rare these days, and it seems like everyone, including assistant professors, is facing challenges, except for a few exceptional individuals.

Academic Update

This year, I didn’t find any suitable questions to answer in the subfields, probably because I’m not proficient in mathematics (even though I’m officially part of the mathematics department now). Overall, my research has been relatively smooth this year, with the only drawback being that the issues I’m focusing on still fall within the framework established in 2019/2020. However, there have been significant technological breakthroughs, such as merging space-bounded quantum computation from 2019 with QSVT from 2021.

From late last year to February this year, I spent time on some less important issues:

  • First, I worked on the polarization lemma for quantum distances, resulting in some ideas for open problems in QSZK (and realizing that certain misconceptions were deeply ingrained).
  • Second, I delved into structural complexity results for stateQMA, gaining a deeper understanding of recent results in state-synthesizing complexity classes over the past two to three years.

So, by mid-February this year, I rushed to submit two papers to T conferences, mostly following my previous strategy. However, rushing isn’t always a good idea, especially given the unusually high volume of T conference submissions this year (plus one paper received a toxic review). Nevertheless, this strategy was quite successful, not only for adding papers to my record but also securing a fellowship from the university, temporarily elevating me from the status of a low-income student. Why temporarily? Because this fellowship won’t cover me until I graduate according to my academic program. Objectively, the university’s financial support system for graduate students (especially international students) is quite friendly.

It’s worth mentioning the submission experience for the QSZK paper. In hindsight, starting with a higher-tier conference might have been a better choice. Initially, I was fortunate to receive comments from a senior expert who had a much deeper understanding of the polarization lemma than I did. His feedback was concise but insightful, and it took me a few days to fully comprehend his insights. Unfortunately, when submitting to another T conference (let’s call it T2 conference), I didn’t revise much, and there were even errors in side results (though they were easily fixable). Surprisingly, the overall quality of reviews was good. When I received three reviews for a submission to an S conference (not the one that’s on par with the F conference), one of them turned out to be toxic, despite the senior expert’s review looking quite satisfied. In the rebuttal, I meticulously addressed every flaw in the paper, nearly reaching the 1,000-word limit. It’s worth noting that every toxic review is backed by an irresponsible and inattentive PC member.

In February, I also developed a space-efficient QSVT for the sign function. Interested readers can refer to my previous answers on singular value decomposition (SVD) and determining whether a directed graph is strongly connected for a glimpse into the background. In early March, I noticed that my colleague’s work (a postdoc in our lab) seemed to achieve quantum logspace. I then worked for a month to submit to the F conference, addressing two primary time-bounded state testing problems' space-bounded counterparts. This paper is close to being a tier-1 result. Notably, for two-sided (or one-sided) error state testing (state certification):

  • In a time-bounded scenario, the computational difficulty depends on the chosen distance measure (l1 is much more challenging than l2).
  • In a space-bounded scenario, the computational difficulty remains the same.

Space-efficient QSVT also exhibits some excellent properties, leading to a naturally derived single-sided error version of the new BQL-complete problem. Rushing, however, is never a good idea. Even though involving my advisor improved the quality of the first version of the introduction, the technical details were incomprehensible. After receiving F conference reviews, we changed the introduction’s storytelling. This shows that the involvement of senior researchers does not necessarily guarantee a perfect introduction, although it did save us from multiple submissions. I spent a whole month revising during the summer. Afterward, I submitted to I and Q conferences, but both reviews came back as borderline rejects. On a side note, I feel that if someone used the inclusion process of certain (top) conferences in this field as a source, they could likely generate some random bits with a seeded extractor.

Towards the end of last year, I received two peer review requests, both related to the problem I was interested in during 2019/2020 (the direct proof that QIP is in BQPSPACE). The first time, I was too busy with various administrative tasks to examine it closely. The second time, I spent a whole week going through it carefully, and I realized that the technical details were rather poor. Later on, I finally understood it and produced different results based on their techniques.

In total, I received 7 peer review requests this year (not counting one that I declined without much thought). Only 1 was related to my current research interests, but upon reviewing the proof, I found the technical details uninteresting. The other 4 were related to my previous work, but I no longer have an interest in this topic. The remaining 2 were somewhat relevant but not significant. Unfortunately, this year wasn’t as lucky as the end of last year for peer reviews, as these papers didn’t provide much practical help for my research.

Research Progress and Encouragement

This year, my supervisor made a career move, and my research work has made limited progress, leaving me feeling quite disappointed.

However, today, while checking ResearchGate, I discovered that a research project I published at the beginning of the year has now been cited 10 times. This has provided me with a great deal of encouragement.

Even though I worked on this project for a long time and faced multiple rejections during submission, I couldn’t achieve the level of success I initially hoped for. I acknowledge my limitations and know that I have room for improvement. Nevertheless, the citation count has brought me great joy, and it was even mentioned in a mini-review by a prominent figure in the field. This has reignited my interest in research, even though I had previously doubted my suitability for it.

Next year marks my final year, and I aim to undertake some inspiring work to address past regrets. It will also serve as a test of my ability to conduct independent research and determine if I can make a career out of it.

The biggest research achievement this year is that I haven’t done anything. I’ve been super busy, but my heart is light.

  • Screw the papers, screw the projects, screw the deadlines.

Furthermore, the biggest achievement of the year is that both of my apprentices successfully found jobs in such a tough job market.

Especially the one I was most worried about, unexpectedly secured a job at a 211 university in the fall.

Suddenly, I feel like thanking the heavens.

Thank you, dear God, for your blessings.

Grateful to the ancestors of all my apprentices for their virtue.

Reflections on My Research Journey

There hasn’t been much tangible progress in my research this year, but I’ve gained some valuable insights. Let me share some of my thoughts here, serving as a source of inspiration for fellow researchers.

I am a second-year graduate student pursuing a direct Ph.D. in theoretical physics, specializing in quantum physics, at a research institute in China.

During the first half of the year, I completed enough credits and passed the Ph.D. qualification exam after returning from the National Day holiday. This can be considered as reluctantly stepping into the realm of research, although my advisor insists that I am not entirely on the right track yet.

This period has been quite challenging for me. Since my sophomore year in college, I’ve been involved in research related to gravitational physics, and my undergraduate thesis focused on black hole-related problems, making me quite familiar with general relativity. However, after deepening my knowledge, weighing options, and discussing extensively with my undergraduate advisor and other gravitational physics experts during this year’s National Day holiday, I made the difficult decision to temporarily leave this field and delve into another, less familiar one.

Now, I am mainly working on issues related to quantum decoherence. It’s not entirely unfamiliar, as both quantum optics and open quantum systems are essentially applications of quantum mechanics, a subject I started studying in my sophomore year.

The reason I say it’s less familiar is that, compared to gravity and black holes, I am still in the process of learning and understanding the history, development, cutting-edge research, and specific techniques in this field. If I had started in this direction a few years ago, I would probably feel much more confident.

Now, when I look ahead, I see countless challenges and a foggy path. I don’t know which specific techniques to use for various problems, and when faced with thick reference books, I don’t know where to start or what to focus on. I have to keep experimenting.

Of course, I don’t mean that I have absolutely no idea. It’s just an exaggerated description. Whenever my attempts fail or I feel lost, discussing with my advisor always provides valuable insights. However, in research, you can’t rely solely on your advisor. They guide and collaborate, but many problems require personal solutions.

Fortunately, my research group has a great environment, and it’s considered one of the top in the field in China. My advisor, although no longer young, is still actively engaged in research, and this year, he stepped down from administrative duties, giving us more time for discussions. He is available almost every week, sometimes holding three or four discussions in a single afternoon. Occasionally, he finishes teaching a morning class for first-year students, holds a two-hour group meeting in the afternoon, and even organizes discussions before dinner. Since my advisor no longer needs to vie for titles, he doesn’t involve us in non-research tasks. When choosing research topics, he considers pure scientific perspectives.

In summary, I am very satisfied and content with the external environment. Many times, I feel that my abilities may not match the excellent platform I have.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced this year has been my health, particularly physical health. I’ve come to realize that in the end, research often relies on your physical well-being, which has been my biggest insight this year.

I won’t dwell on the increasing number of white hairs. After an illness in May, I had severe brain fog that continues to this day. I suspect it’s a case of long COVID, which has significantly affected my memory, focus, and thinking.

At the same time, due to some issues with my dormitory life, my sleep has also become problematic. I sometimes wake up several times at night, sometimes wake up early, and often struggle to fall asleep. This has taken a toll on my health, especially considering the seasonal factors since autumn, and the loss of contact with a friend I could confide in after the National Day holiday.

It’s a frustrating state of affairs. Most of the time, I have clear and rational thoughts but can’t control my emotions and feelings, which in turn affect my behavior. From a young age until now, I’ve become familiar with this state over the years, but the prolonged physiological symptoms inevitably affect my mental thoughts. This is the root of my difficulties and suffering.

These challenges are manageable and somewhat expected. However, after a few instances of severe anxiety and obsessive checking for errors, I realized that something was amiss. I sought treatment at a hospital, and the doctor encouraged me, saying that given my condition, reaching this stage was already an achievement. Medications offer limited help and often cause mood swings, like a pendulum swinging between extremes. So, unless I can’t bear it anymore, I mostly rely on a sedative to force myself to sleep when necessary.

At present, there isn’t a better solution. Over the years, I’ve found it challenging to gauge whether my emotions are normal or not. I often suppress my emotions, as I don’t know whether some of my thoughts and emotions are normal. Sometimes, within seconds, my thoughts and emotions can change, making it difficult to discern what’s genuine. Whether through medication, religion, personal experience, or certain responsibilities, I’m constantly seeking balance.

Therefore, researchers should prioritize their health, especially sleep. Sleep isn’t just about duration; maintaining a consistent circadian rhythm and ensuring sufficient exposure to light are crucial. Basic research often lacks immediate rewards and positive feedback, so it’s essential to intervene early if you notice signs that things aren’t right. When initial mood issues transform into severe physical conditions, it becomes more challenging to address.

Another observation I’ve made as I’ve grown older is that many of my former classmates have stable jobs, some even own homes and cars, and have started families. While some may not have high incomes, they lead content lives in smaller cities. Looking at my own situation, despite being roughly the same age, I sleep in a small dormitory room with a less than 1.5-meter-wide plywood bed, no personal space, and the need to move every year or two. My monthly income is barely higher than that of a bubble tea shop employee (although it’s considered decent among Ph.D. students in China, it’s still far from affording a single room in Beijing). This contrast sometimes leaves me with indescribable feelings.

Objectively speaking, my conditions are quite good when compared to most graduate students. They are significantly better than what my predecessors faced in their dormitories in remote locations. Comparing to those struggling to make ends meet, it’s a paradise. My rational self tells me to avoid any petty bourgeoisie sentiment, to be content, and to be cautious about desires. However, many times, I still feel that my current state is just about survival rather than living.

(This internal conflict is also a source of some pain. Knowing that I shouldn’t entertain certain thoughts, but inevitably having them.)

It’s often said that research often involves sacrificing material comforts. But I can’t help but think that, while I’m squeezing my brain cells and compromising my physical health, I’m barely making ends meet. It’s challenging to ask my family for money at this age, so after covering my basic expenses, if I want to do anything extra, it’s quite a struggle.

Of course, if I aim for a 100% Engel’s coefficient, it’s more comfortable… But one’s life can’t revolve around just food. With an Engel’s coefficient around 0.5, I find myself calculating how much money I spend on every meal, hesitating to go to the supermarket, rarely indulging in expensive fruits, and occasionally splurging on beverages. Even drinking water in the dormitory involves taking turns to collect free purified water from the office.

I also can’t afford to get sick, especially when I think about the medical bills from previous illnesses, which I couldn’t have afforded on my own. When I visited the hospital in the past two months, I had to ask the doctor to prescribe the cheapest medications possible, and even with medical insurance, it was a struggle to afford them.

Occasionally, when I overspend, I have to borrow money from my family to get through the month, which comes with a significant sense of guilt.

However, when I look back, I realize that I had no other choice back then, and there are still countless options now. Even when it’s difficult to the point that just breathing feels exhausting, I remember the countless decision points I faced in the past. If I were to choose again, I would still choose the path I’m on now. I recall the two months I spent in the hospital seven or eight years ago. Even in the face of such difficult times, what can’t I overcome?

In many challenging days, I’ve considered giving up many times, but I’ve never truly given up, nor have I ever regretted my choices. I find ways to get some sleep, and the next day, I wake up, engage my brain, and tackle those headache-inducing problems.

I’ve rambled on for quite a bit, but in conclusion, let’s motivate each other.

R library(ggplot2) # Load the iris dataset and use geom_boxplot() to create boxplots library(ggsignif) # Use geom_signif() to add p-values library(ggpubr) # Use theme_pubr() to set the plot theme library(ggbeeswarm) # Use geom_quasirandom() to add beeswarm plots library(ggtext) # Use element_markdown() to format text library(showtext) # Use showtext_auto() to solve font display issues with Chinese characters showtext_auto()

ggplot(iris, aes(Species, Sepal.Width, fill = Species)) + geom_boxplot(fill = “transparent”) + geom_quasirandom(shape = 21, color = “black”, alpha = 1, size = 5) + geom_signif( comparisons = list( c(“setosa”, “virginica”), c(“setosa”, “versicolor”), c(“virginica”, “versicolor”) ), test = “t.test”, step_increase = 0.1, textsize = 4, map_signif_level = function(p) sprintf("%.2g", p) ) + scale_fill_manual(values = c( “setosa” = “#2e9695”, “versicolor” = “#fca133”, “virginica” = “#7193cf” )) + labs( caption = “Author: Pythonic生物人” ) + theme_pubr() + theme(legend.position = “none”) + theme( plot.caption = element_markdown(hjust = 0.8, vjust = 0.8, size = 11, face = “bold”) )

New Understanding of Social Relationships:

Presenting oneself and establishing a persona within the research community for better promotion.

Maintain positive relationships with peers, and peers will spontaneously promote you.