Sometimes I wait a too long before doing what I really want to do. I’ve postponed writing this article more than once. And this mirrors the fact that I postponed going to visit John H. Holland until I missed my chance.
Very few academics have influenced my thinking as much as John Holland did. We never met, although I did half my graduate studies in Chicago, only 6 hours away from his home in Michigan. He was actually the person I had most wanted to do a PhD with before I figured that the American system wasn’t for me. When he died, in 2015, I missed my final chance.
Continue reading “Influences: John Holland”
18 months ago I left my academic nest to see what I could discover in the wider world. Here is what I learned.
Continue reading “Lessons Learned”
I trained in Mathematics, not Physics, so I tend to despair when I see physicists presenting their results and focusing on power laws. I used to think, “So what?” Unless you link this data point to some greater insight about the underlying process, “Why should I care?” But I’ve been revising my perspective recently.
Continue reading “The Power of Power Laws and Impact”
I am a really lucky guy. I am deeply talented. I had access to computer and internet technology from the 1980’s. And people around me have always given me the space to do projects that I am passionate about.
Recently I was forced to confront myself with the realisation that, throughout my life, I have always worked on exactly the projects that I most wanted to work on. Even in school, I just didn’t go to class if I didn’t want to. I learned ten times as much at home, about much more interesting topics, and still managed to ace the exams.
As part of this self-confrontation, I learned that i) this is entirely selfish behaviour on my part, ii) it’s not such a surprise that I have often lacked a mentor at key points in my career.
Continue reading “My art”
Last month I wrote about the historical world-views of mathematicians and biologists. These articles are part of a planned four part series, in an attempt to first understand and then improve the working relationship between these two key scientific disciplines. This is all a work in progress, so at the end, I will try to take the key learnings from each of the articles and distill them into a single composed article.
This month, I want to discuss the practical considerations why mathematics and biology still don’t work so well together.
Continue reading “Mathematics and Biology II – Practical considerations”
This week has been a really big week for me. I finally uploaded the first paper from my time as a postdoc to a pre-print server, called the bioRxiv. I did three major pieces of work, during my time as a postdoc, this is the first and potentially the only, of these, to see the light of day.
I am not usually so tardy in getting work out. I published two papers from my PhD – a record for working with my PhD supervisor – the work for both of which was finished before I ever defended the thesis. My postdoc work was a bit special, I ended up directly proving that the previous work of my collaborators was mistaken. Continue reading “Preprint Announcement – Roving and Unsupervised Bias”
A number of stellar academics made minor headlines, in 2016-17, by publishing CVs of their failures. This had an initial, and intended, positive effect. Many early-stage researchers marvelled at the bravery of Stanford-level professors being willing to open-up about the unsuccessful pathways which they had followed earlier in their careers. Some of those writing their admissions even argued that their current CV would not get them a real job, outside of academia.
A natural, if gentle, backlash set-in pretty quickly. It’s all very well for successful associate or tenure-track professors to open-up and reveal their inner worries. But they are doing this from a position of incredible privilege. Would it really break down any barriers to reveal that the British royal family have worries about health and relationships and money too? Of course not! It softens their public image in some eyes; it humanises them. But it does not change the fact that they are revealing that even people with privilege have mundane worries too. If you have risen to tenure-track at a top American university you have joined the privileged classes, even if you did not start out that way. Your contribution to society may be in opening up new access to the elites, but it is not in admitting that the elites also fail sometimes.
I was very tempted at the time, to join the rush, and post my own CV of failure. I wanted Continue reading “Shame”
my first real startup. That is, the first time that I’ve actually incorporated a company. Simmunology Limited exists since last week.
The path to incorporation has been an interesting and sometimes terrifying ride. (Aside: understatement will typically be an element of my style, this should be borne in mind when reading my prose.) I finished up a postdoc in computational neuroscience at TU Berlin last December (2017). Since then I have been trying to establish a place for myself in the world in which I get to use my, not inconsiderable, experience to choose my own directions.
I left academia with a strong feeling that not-all is right in the academic world. In fact it is very, very wrong. But more importantly, I don’t think that the kind of cross-disciplinary talents which I bring to the table will ever be fully utilised in that sector, at least not as it exists today.
I came up with two pet projects which I thought I could work on to bring an impact to the world. The first, Continue reading “Simmunology is….”