Thursday, August 25, 2016

Reflections of a Busy Semester

my desk at SCoRe lab
Life has become never like before. I've came across so many revolutions throughout my life and at the moment I can't believe how amazing was the journey for the last 29 years. As I always enjoy turning back and looking at the trail behind, I decided to spare some time to think and write about the past 6 months of my life. It's full of new experiences, new faces, new knowledge and all new set of dreams. Even though it is impossible to write about everything, at least this would be a collection of most important things I came across.

The things which took most of my processing power were my academic duties at UCSC. Last semester I involved in 5 courses for undergraduate students in UCSC. In the meantime, I taught an undergraduate course in University of Sri Jayawardenapura as a visiting lecturer. Well, some people find it unbelievable how come I get involved in teaching 5 undergraduate courses in a semester. But this is the thing. An important decision was made in this semester by the administration to assign an assistant lecturer for every course to get involved in teaching along with a senior lecturer. As I'm one of such an assistant lecturer, they assigned me to several courses. Me too was so eager to hold a significant responsibility in teaching and this was the best chance I ever received to work.

course introduction slide of SCS2105
Among all those many courses I got involved in, there were two important courses. The first is SCS2105 - Computer Networks - 1. The two lecturers assigned to teach in this course are Mr. Brian Wijesuriya and me and my role was little compared to Mr. Brian. However, since he had many other courses to teach which made him so busy, I taught about 11 lectures from the total of 15 lectures in this courses. This course was the most well structured and planned course I have ever worked on. Before starting the lecture series, Mr. Brian and me had few meeting and we discussed about the syllabus of the course and about the time line of covering each topic. Most importantly, we decided to prepare a series of practicals and tutorials to make the students busy o work every week. Computer networks is a practical course which should be learned by doing. Many undergraduate students prefer a lifestyle of having a nice time throughout the semester without worrying about course works and jump into learn only at the end of the semester a week before the exams. This is not what we encourage and I think we did our best to give a hard time for such people.

course introduction slides of SCS4107
While that course went in a well structured and planned phase, SCS4107 - Operating Systems - 2 was a course which went on a much experimental approach. Since this semester was the first time this course was offered, course contents were not fixed in the beginning and we had to plan on the go. We based this course on the Operating Systems Engineering course in MIT and took many contents from there. Since the senior lecturer worked on this course was Dr. Chamath Keppitiyagama, it was easier for me since it is always enjoyable to work with him. During the first 8 lectures of the course, I conducted sessions about XV6 operating system which is a clone of the famous Unix version 6 operating system. In every lecture, we spent the first half explaining some component of the operating system and then gave a task for the students to spend the next half of the course working on their own. They got marks at the end of the day for the work they do. The next 7 lectures of the course was on some advanced topics of operating systems conducted by Dr. Chamath. I attended to those lectures like a student since all those things were new to me too.

It was not a happy time always. I faced really challenging, stressful and tiresome days during the past semester. Sometimes, due to the large amount of works to switch between, I had a limited time to prepare before conducting a lecture. Because of that, there were moments where I felt that I was not prepared enough in front of the students. Anyway, I think I did my very best. When I received the student feedback forms, it was a little bit disappointing to see how some students responded specially in Computer Networks course for 2nd year CS students. But, there were some good and constructive comments from some students too. I'm thankful to them for helping me to improve as a junior lecturer. I identified many weaknesses of me which I should fix in future semesters.

In addition to teaching duties, I enjoyed my work in SCoRe lab. Our significant work is the contribution to write a new funding proposal for a research project. Dr. Chamath, Prof. Thiemo and Prof. Luca involved in writing this proposal in collaboration and I wrote a significant part of the document. It was a great experience to me to understand how to write grant proposals. Meanwhile, towards the end of this semester, I made a new initiative which seems to be interesting to many other people. That was starting a reading group among the SCoRe lab community. Our objective is to meet every week and do some group work such as reading a book, studying some topic or presenting a latest research paper. I hope this reading group will go a long way from here.

1 comment:

  1. at the end of the day.. its always the experience you gained is most important... gives you the strength and capacity to face difficult situations in future.when you are suppose to face an obstacle in life you will remember the difficulties you have faced in life before and those will make you to remember that this will also pass by after sometime.appreciate the courage and determination you have. :)