Dreams can come true when you chase them!

A year back I was just out of my job with a desire to master the basics of computer science and little maths. Some where deep in the heart I had this desire of working on brain science , through the gates of computer science.  You cant raise your standards in 2-3 months until you have sound basics.I had about 2-3 months to prepare for some of the best schools in the country.Even before I gave the exams I knew its hardly going to work and the fact that they had brain modelling as an elective made me apply for “Applied Mathematics” too in South asian university along with my preferred course Computer science.It was just a safe choice to do , when all other things didnt go my way that moment.

I wasnt good enough for the institutes I preferred and South Asian University being a new university, didnt have much competition and that was the primary reason why I got admits in both the courses Msc CS and Msc App Maths. Though I had some apprehensions , the idea of working with  one of the profs here sounded strong enough for me to not mind the Msc tag associated with the course. I was scared of Maths and felt lot of it in App Maths was unnecessary for CS and hence took Msc CS. To my shock, the prof whom I wanted to work with left the university the day I joined the place. I was determined and thought of staying here for two years and master the basics on my own which was my agenda. But the first few classes didnt work for me.It wasnt for my inquisitive brain which already had an engineering degree with 6 years of work ex. It was too primitive and going ahead would be colossal waste of time. I have tried for something which I wasnt capable of  and the audacious move backfired.Yet another failure and I was depressed and was planning a plan B. I had an admit in App Maths course too and thought of sitting through that class for few days before  discontinuing South Asian university !

We were the first batch in Maths and the faculties were just joining , so I adjusted my expectations to a lower scale. Further I didnt even know what the subjects “Analysis” and “Algebra” meant. I wrote “Numerical analysis” on the cover of the note book meant for “Real and complex Analysis” and when one of my friends corrected me, I stood stubborn arguing that “Real and complex numbers” are nothing but “Numbers” and hence Numerical analysis. That was the extent to which I knew Mathematics. I just wanted to excel in Probability and Statistics while wading through the other subjects. We had a great teacher for Analysis , through his wonderful expository teaching.,I started to get a feel of mathematics especially open sets and closed sets gave me the intuitive feel for limits,convergence and infinity.The philosopher in me had great food, but still I felt why should I read stuff on continuous domain like differential equations and was doing them as good as I did several courses in engineering.

By the end of first semester though I liked Maths, I was still sure that I am a CS guy who knew little more maths. Neuroscience was out of my reach and almost removed from my dreams for I knew I wasnt the one who could do strong theory. Second semester had an interesting array of subjects except partial differential equations in my naive view. Yes PDE was boring at class, but when I looked at the way it related with some physical concepts, I got hooked to it. But I kept my wanderings to a minimum and still wanted to focus on Statistical methods primarily. But by now I was beginning to fall for maths.I wanted to select an area where I could see the theory in action and hence went on with Image analysis.Met a prof here and through her got to know Digital image processing. It was almost a linear algebra text with some extra foot notes added. That how the book on image processing looked to me. Life has suddenly became very interesting!

This was the time when our department had a symposium planned on Mathematical modelling. I was thinking that I am rarely going to excel in Maths and didnt have much fuss about it. But the first talk was on “Stochastic Modelling on neurons”. I was trying to get an intro in to the topic and was reading a paper related to presentation. I was shocked, surprised and stumped to see that I was able to understand a theoretical neuroscience paper, it was just signal processing meets electronics meets maths meets CS. Even in terms of Maths, the abstraction I gained in other domains like probability  and analysis helped me understand this paper without even the necessity of giving a second glance.I was moved to  a state beyond description at that moment. Why should I have not even tried reading it before? Anyways I stopped reading and tried to start sleeping for it was already late and I would sleep through the morning if I didnt sleep by 2 AM then. But I couldnt get sleep! After trying hard  , I was able to sleep over my curiosity for just 2 hrs.

Woke up early and went through the essential basics and then it happened. I was able to follow Prof. Karmeshu’s keynote address on Neuroscience to an extent because of my readings. A dangerous feeling of “Its possible” stemmed inside my brain!And the lectures that followed were equally interesting, some of the best brains in the business of applied maths were here to entertain us. Not often in life you hear people say when I was in “MIT,stanford and oxford” and narrate wonderful tales for you. That three words and many more happened in the last two days. Their enthusiasm for their respective subjects was contagious and I was like a kid in candy shop wanting to take home everything from wave theory/particle physics to disease modelling. But I was  shown that differential equations are the center of mathematical modelling. I have been illustrated the beauty of this language called “Mathematics” through which we can understand the world. All those words about Maths from people who have seen it that way made sense and I am beginning to see it in a way they would have seen it. And as a coincidence and after effect we are having some interesting conversations within the campus with friend around. All of a sudden life in South Asian university has become too interesting!

I have decided to chase neuroscience with whatever efforts I can put in the coming year! Few months back I was glad that I have an hobby for life and could do it whenever I am bored in life – Maths. Now I am moving to a phase where I want to do Maths for life. Its uncertain whether I will pull this off but I was not certain of those dreams an year ago !  I did chase them, but they werent kind. I had patience,perseverance and did go on with what came my way. Randomness did play its part but so did I. Today I am here with a feeling that I am the right place at the right moment. It is just the same place but its me who got changed.

When many people questioned my move of  doing a lesser known course, I wasnt moved by their question . But some where inside a corner I had this fear of failure. What if it doesnt work? I didnt and dont yet have a concrete answer for what do you do after a course in maths. But today I would say that what not I can do with a course in Maths. For its the language in which universe was described. Right now it aids me in deconstructing world one piece at a time. I chased  a dream and it did come true! Last but not least I have no words to thank my wonderful teachers who have put together an intensive symposium on Mathematical modelling keeping in mind our needs by bringing in some of the best people in India. My life here can be divided in two periods. Before April 5 2013 and after April 6 2013.

Thanks to all the good hearts who help me evolve by sharing their experience in various forms. I am just a vector in a vector space formed with you guys as the basis ! Not to list names, but if you are reading this you would be knowing if you are the one being thanked – Thank you!

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20 Responses to Dreams can come true when you chase them!

  1. Great !..not for your writing (which is great as usual) but for those moments that has driven out the cloudy things and made things clear !. hope I too get somethings like that . As of now I am illiterate to read beyond the abstract section of any paper . I just close the paper or skip to words when I encounter mathematical symbols.. Distractive mind !

  2. Anonymous says:

    Enjoy the company of Queen of Science!

  3. Divya says:

    Happy for you! I know the joy of discovering one’s own interest and being able to pursue it 🙂 I am glad that people like you are in the right place and that would make the world a better place. Most of what you say is still abstract, i expect our conversations would help me fit the missing pieces of the puzzle and i would equally be excited as you are!

    Side note: I wanna research integrating psychology and engineering(for so long i thought so), now may be its maths! Should we join hands together?

  4. Deepak says:

    Thank you Divya. Same thoughts here. Most experts are confined by their own knowledge and fail to find those missing links. The key to the puzzle is to mix and match rather than digging deep

    Side Note: That was the exact same thing in my mind:)! Maths is a tool/language to understand a context. It is not accurate but still it is better than other linguistic languages. Of course this post is abstract and even my understanding is not crystal clear. Just got that courage and belief to knock this door of understanding! We will talk soon:! Recently I came across a lab where they measure brain waves—-! Engineering + psychology:)

  5. Deepak says:

    For those who think they are interested in maths but capable of doing it, do check this out .. http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/09/25/measurement-paul-lockhart/

  6. Balaaji says:

    dude … i am so happy for you that you could connect the dots … now make the string hard and pull it strong … you will go miles ahead … all the very best 🙂

  7. Deepak says:

    Sure .. we didnt knew the physics of “strings” and “sounds” earlier. Now knowing how it work , its up to us to make it works . Thanks Balaaji!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Super Deepak……Chasing dreams 🙂

  9. Sivaram says:

    I like your dangerous feeling of “Its possible” . After started Algorithms course I fell in love with maths but I don’t have luxury to marry maths at this point 😦 . All the best for your vectorial path 🙂

  10. Only some people have the guts to take chances and go behind their dreams. People who have persevered like that are in topmost positions. Am sure I will see you like that one day 🙂

  11. Deepak says:

    @Sivram. Thanks Sivram.Good that you are doing Algos.Its how my journey too started.

    @Anand Thanks Anand. Nice of you. But dont think of alienating me to some “top”.See you also around!

  12. @Deepak, though you mentioned that this was a long post, I didn’t feel so. I know for sure that education can be fun and I am happy for you.

    Math has always been abstract and its application has never been well understood. Maybe, you should do some such stuff as well in demystifying math for normal ones like us, who would begin to appreciate it more and more. I read this post at least a few times before typing these comments and I have a fair bit to discuss when we meet next.

  13. Meenakshisundaram says:

    All the best da.. 🙂

  14. Deepak says:

    @Saba Thanks a ton. You really crafted your comment so well to make me feel so good:). I agree Maths is a great hindrance until we understand it. Sure. As always pleasure to discuss and we will catch up and find potential applications and projects!. Special thanks for that comment on length:)!

    @Meenakshi. Thanks dude

  15. Venkatakrishnan says:

    machi, sema scene da !!!! all the very best da..

  16. Anonymous says:

    Deepak – just few minutes before we chat today I was doubting your decision. But after an enlightening chat with you, I did not got an ideal convincing answer but I am partially convinced. But after reading this post, I can get myself convinced to greater extent that you have taken a courageous decision, the path chosen by very few or you may be the only guy ( as far considering my limited acquaintances).

    All the very best and with your excellent determination and perseverance, may you become a might entrepreneur, making a breakthrough in the way mathematics help humans.

    You are peerless…..

    Note: To be honest still I am not 100 % convinced on your decision.

  17. Deepak says:

    @Anonymous That was an interesting discussion where we found out astrology is nothing but pattern matching and data mining.

    Thanks for your honest and warm words. For me I dont see that I am doing something abnormal. Feels like I have taken a leave from work and holidaying.

    Even I wasnt 70% convinced at the start and there are still doubts. I am not waiting for 100% moment to go forward. It might be wrong or right, atleast I will not have regrets for not walking the path. I have been in Los Angeles for about a year without visiting Disney land. That’s a huge regret. Alteast here I am having a sort of fantasy fun in a disney land of my own – Books and people , maths and code!

    Once again thanks for connecting back!

  18. Lalitha says:

    Wow… it is great to see your experience… I can never understand anyone’s love for Math and I have great respect for people who do… and now you are in that list

  19. Naveen says:

    Nice read. By now you are 200% convinced that you made a very good decision? I am happy for you. Chase the dreams!

  20. Deepak says:

    @Naveen Thanks mate! 200% – I dont really know whether its good or bad, but it keeps me fascinated, thats all I wanted from it,so I could say yes!

    And as much as it is about the subject, its also about the people around you. Hail randomness, because knowing you is one of the side effects of this crazy move!!

    Its tough, but exciting instead of challenging:)!

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