Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Research Environment: Flexible Hours, My Very Own Desk, and Other Surprises

So far (I’m at week 7 at this point), working in the IMDL has been excellent. IMDL stands for Intelligent Machine Dynamics Lab, which is headed up by Dr. Book. In our lab are 4 graduate students (as far as I know), one professional engineer who splits his time between our group and another professor, and me. I was initially astonished to be the only undergraduate in this lab. Back in Illinois, my adviser has nearly ten graduate students and a comparable number of undergraduates, if not more. The point seems to be that each graduate student has their helper (or army, in some cases) of undergraduates to help out in whatever way possible. I felt very intimidated at first to be the only undergraduate here, but I’ve realized that I am here to do my own project, under the guidance of Heather and Dr. Book.

The atmosphere is enjoyable. It’s nice that the hallway is entirely mechanical engineering laboratories because I’ve gotten to know several graduate students in other labs via lunch breaks or webcasts with the other two GaTech REU students. Some of the grad students have a cookout every Friday, which is a great way for everyone to just relax at the end of the week and reestablish human connections. I say that halfway-joking, but it is definitely taking a toll on my social skills to sit in front of a computer for 8 hours daily. After work, I often feel that I simply want to escape from any human interaction, but really that’s the wrong response. It would be far better to hang out with friends and briefly forget about the computer/engineering/complexities of the day.

As a result of that basic need, I’ve been going to the rock climbing wall across the street. I brought one grad student with me several weeks ago, and I’ve made several close friends there too. It seems like everyone here at Tech (for the summer at least) is doing some kind of research. Although there are a lot of Georgians, I have met a good number of international students and out-of-staters. It’s nice to know that more than half of the university is studying engineering. I’m not alone in my nerdiness or how hard I have to work daily to overcome gads of technical difficulties.

Dorky soldering selfie. Fun things happen in lab!

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