Sunday, February 26, 2012

The End of a Wonderful Semester - Lessons Learned

           "The dream is not what you see in sleep,
                 dream is which does not let you sleep"

                                                        - Dr. Abdul Kalam

Last Friday, we finished our first semester of the fourth year. Now what we are going to face is the semester end exam. When I start my fourth year after studying for three years in the university, I had been holding a huge collection of experiences and memories in my mind. With all those things, I looked ahead about the fourth year as a totally different time period and I expected something different.

    At the end of this semester when I think back about past few months starting from the October of last year, I wonder how much a fantastic time it was. Unlike all the other semesters, we had a common word in our mouth all the time which is research. In my point of view, the core of the 4th year is the main research project that we have to do throughout the year. Identifying an interesting research problem, reading deeply about the related research works done on that domain and taking initial steps to find a solution can be considered as the main tasks that have to be done during the first semester according to my understanding.

    Unlike the other years, we began to create a closer relationship with the academic staff specially with the supervisors of our research projects. I have two supervisors in my research. They are Dr.Jeevani Gunathileka and Dr.Kasun De Zoysa. Their guidance have helped me to correct the way I work on my project up to now.

    In addition to the research project, I had five more course modules to follow in this semester. Two of them namely "Research Methods" and "Research Seminar" are mandatory courses. If I talk about the "Research Methods" course conducted by Dr.Ruwan Weerasignha, I would say it is a course which helped me to look at the world in a totally different angle. Some of the lectures he did around the topic "Towards a philosophy of Computer Science" led me to read a lot on philosophical texts regarding that. I never thought that philosophy would be such an interesting thing to read without becoming boring. I'm so sure that I will continue to read more on philosophy in the rest of my life time because of the influence I received in this semester.

     The other mandatory course we had is the fantastic "Research Seminar" series. In each week we discuss about two research papers presented by two participants. These research papers are belong to various domains of Computer Science and therefore it increases the breadth of our knowledge while our individual research project increase the depth of our knowledge in a specific research area. Our lecturer Mr. Dulan Wathugala do a great job on throwing us on to the research ocean and help to learn how to survive there.

    Except for few occasions, I never let the paper presenters an easy life at the research seminars. We had lots of arguments and big discussions regarding the papers and their solutions presented for various problems. I can honestly say that I significantly improved my questioning ability by attending to the research seminars. This is the semester I talked a lot. My voice was there in every major discussion and argument. The good news is Research Seminar series will be continued in the next semester also.

    It is not just the academic stuff that made this semester fascinating. We organized our last function in the undergraduate life with a great effort and at the same time with a great fun. It is the Going Down 2012 party we organized for our seniors. Since a big portion of our 2007/2008 batch is in the software industry because of they passed out from the university after completing the three year degree, most of the decoration works and responsibilities had to be handled by the 4th year students who are the remaining part of the batch 2007/2008 inside university. I personally enjoyed all the works we carried out in the preparation for the party. Even in the party day, I enjoyed a lot and danced as much as I wanted in the DJ. It was a fantastic time.

    It is not true if I say it was happiness and joy always around me in this semester. I had so many challenges, difficulties and struggles parallel to the happiness and joy. I could get through all those life experiences with the great helps of all the awesome people around me who never let me go down.
    At the last "Research Methods" lecture on last Friday, Dr.Ruwan invited Dr.Shiromi Arunathileka to conduct that last lecture. At the end of her lecture she expressed about her life experiences and difficulties she faced in her life. I felt that we are having a very special and passionate set of people as our lecturers not only in academic works but in life in general. In her lecture Dr.Shiromi highlighted a famous quote of great scientist Albert Einstein to convince us that sometimes we have to follow our intuition that comes from a deepest place in our heart since the rationality does not guide us in the right direction in life always. I return from this note leaving that great words here.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”
                           ― Albert Einstein

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