Sunday, March 21, 2010


First things first: Big ups to Cornell's men's basket ball team for making it to the Sweet 16. Hmmm now should I consider the quality of the basketball team in my graduate school decision (Duke or Cornell)? Let us see who goes further in the tournament. (I'm joking by the way)

Just got back from the IEEE Southeast Convention. Overall it was quite the experience. I went as part of the school's Software team. We expected the software competition to be structured more like the ACM ICPC since this is how it has been done the last...well always. However, this year they decided to change the format. This year teams would have to create simple Android applications in Eclipse. Another aspect would be that there would be no time component involved in the scoring.
Now, no one on our team had any experience writing Android applications, much less programs that needed GUI. Also we didn't have much experience developing "actual software". Our plan was to spend all of Friday learning all of this. But as you know, sh*t happens. Turns out the hotel internet was "overloaded" and thus insanely slow. We spent all day downloading about 300MB+ of files at about 15kb/s. Then there were all the installation problems we ran into since we were all using Ubuntu (thanks for the great Linux support Google).
When we did manage to have a working install of everything it was midnight, which meant that we had 7hours until the competition started. Luckily we somehow managed to read somewhere that we would have to deal with XML documents, so we spent a little time learning about those while obtaining everything else. For the 2hours after having a working environment we managed to create 2 simple applications. One just printed "hello android" to the screen while the other simulated a login screen. Nothing too complicated but it gave us a little feel of how things were done.

After we got some sleep (more like a nap to be honest) it was time for the competition. Now, the competition started at 7am...and the hotel's breakfast service didn't start until 7am as well. So you can imagine that none of the coders there were all to happy about that (in addition to them changing the competition set up). We managed to solve 5 of the 12-13 problems, which I don't think was too bad considering how much time we had to learn Android. The worst part of the competition was that we had to work on laptops which were running a virtual machine. This virtual machine was from a central computer (not a very good one since everything was super slow. Like pre 1995 slow).
My main problem with the competition was that they decided to inform us of the change a few days before hand. Now if they had given us a month or so to prepare it would be a whole other story. On the bright side, if I ever have some free time and feel like making an Android application I now have the tools.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

NPSC Fellowship

I meant to write this post earlier, and obviously that didn't happen.

As you should know by now, I spent a good part of my fall semester working on applications for graduate school. Well in addition to these applications I also spent time looking for and applying for external funding (which includes fellowships). Just as there are almost too many graduate schools you can potentially apply to, there are more than enough fellowships out there to consider. My bit of advice would be to become familiar with what is expected from you if you are chosen to be a fellow and end up accepting the offer. Needless to say, but you should also know just what kind of support they will be offering. Why waste your time on an application for an award that you know you would reject?
Anyway, one of the fellowships that I ended up applying for, and ultimately accepted, was one offered by the National Physical Science Consortium (NPSC). For information on the fellowship just follow the previous link. If you are too lazy I'll give you a brief overview; tuition covered, living stipend provided, and obliged to spend two summers with a NPSC Industry/Lab member. This list of might change from year to year so I can't say what your choices are.

I suppose in a future post I will describe my experience with applying to graduate school and for fellowships. I'll be sure to include what I wish I had done differently and what things I believed worked fairly well.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Ithaca is Gorges

Yes the joke is overused, but very true. As you can guess I got back from visiting Cornell.

My host was a first year student in the OR department. She was really nice as well as knowledgeable. One for the first things I mentioned to her was that I expected Ithaca to be a lot colder. I could have gone the whole visit without my jacket (which was a hassle when dealing with airports/airplanes). She was quick to inform me that I was lucky and had chosen one of the warmer days for my visit. Just two weeks ago they had heavy snow fall, and I'm sure I would have died if I had to go through it. Also I got lucky in the fact that most of the walking areas had the snow and ice cleared at the time. My shoes had no traction what so ever; looking back I wish I had brought my Vans instead of the Adidas. Sure there would have been no extra traction, but they would have gone better with my outfit and I wouldn't be bothered by the tongue (I really should buy a new pair or just cut them off).
On the first night I got to meet some of my host's friends. One was a first year graduate student in CAM (Center for Applied Mathematics), they met each other through one of their classes. A plus in my book since it just shows that there is interaction between the ma

The town itself is pretty small, so that will take some getting used to if I decided to go to Cornell. In terms of size I feel that it is somewhere between Holland and Gainesville. The only thing worse than being a small town is the hills. To all you Floridians out there, you have no idea what a hill is. Compared to the hills in Ithaca, Florida "hills" are just slightly inclined paths. On the bright side though, I will get in shape...or die trying. Needless to say riding a bicycle is totally out of the question.
As I said in the first sentence (well the title really) the town is gorgeous. Just think of all those Christmas cards or postcards of small towns covered in snow with the sun either setting or rising. Ithaca is much better than those. For some reason while I was there I kept making connections to buildings I saw to those in the Harry Potter movies. There was a portion of one building that reminded me of the Quidditch towers for spectators in the movie. I guess this is a 'happier' comparison than my sister and I made between one of the towers at WashU and the one in Mordor.

The OR department was fantastic. The building looked amazing, and you don't get the feeling of being trapped inside a lab. Also it is kind of a big circle so it is pretty hard to get lost and easy to learn you way about (which is always good when you're on your own). The faculty were all nice and easy to talk to, so no problems there. The graduate students were just as easy to talk to and they all seemed to get along with each other. They said that for the most part there isn't much competition (if any) amongst the first year students, because what is there to compete for really? However, this does depend on the class. On Sunday I had dinner with my host at a Korean restaurant, while I had lunch and dinner with the rest of graduate students on Monday. It seemed as if every other restaurant was an Asian restaurant. This actually isn't a problem since I LOVE Asian food, the more authentic the better actually. However, I don't think I saw a Thai place, so I will have to continue my search.

Overall it was a nice trip, and I think I could be happy in Ithaca even though it would take some getting used to. Good news is that there is a bus that goes to NYC so if I ever really need to get out of town (and have the time to do so) I can always go there.
Now I'm just waiting for my Duke visit. I've been told that it is one of the most beautiful campuses I will ever see, but I think it will be pretty hard to beat Cornell.