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!