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22. Kaustub #2

Hello. I have come to talk to you again…

The times they are a-changin’. I completed a year as a doctoral candidate at ORC. It came and went faster than a new iPhone needing to be patched. In times like these, self-assessment and reflection becomes essential (And brings an opportunity to be like Sinatra in My Way… Talk about the power of self-reflection!). The past year brought unbridled joy, sparks of mad creativity and a sense of intellectual growth. To maintain a perfect balance (and earn a nod of approval from Thanos!), I was also greeted with sheer paranoia, hopeless struggles and self-doubt. In these times, I have come to understand the core of my research, the challenges and problems associated with it, the current state-of-the art and what it means for me. The area of my research, to (selectively) remove ions from waste water, is exploding with activity and therefore, demands a decisive, focused line of investigation. I have managed to prepare an electro-chemical system, on a par with the current state-of-the-art, which can be used to remove ions from waste water. The role of parameters including the current, voltage, feed solution necessary for the system performance is nearly understood. This is how I learn to fly! My experimental competence (which is very much work in progress!) continues to grow. And the time has come to step into the unknown.

In parallel, my efforts to model my experimental system, in collaboration with my supervisor here at Wetsus, a multidisciplinary institute where one can pursue every idea possible in water treatment (and again, my demand to be paid for this line was declined!), have led to a better understanding of all transport phenomenon going on inside my setup. I speculate that we may have added something of value to the existing knowledge, however small it may be! That’s a positive feeling (que the Black Eyed Peas).

Other than work, my new-found hobbies and occasional acts of bravery (I did 80 Kms on my bicycle in 5 hours and yes, I felt braver than the guy challenging Eminen for a rap battle!) keep me occupied. I started with a guitar and gravitated towards a keyboard. Now I happily play game of thrones soundtrack and that settles the question on “how big a nerd is this dude?” I also managed to travel to 4 new countries, attend a Mozart concert and witness a Belarus orchestra play compositions of Hans Zimmer! If I ever had a bucket list, I would have made more tick marks than my high school biology teacher made on my exam answer sheets. Our study trip to Israel will be a highlight of the coming year and I am gleefully looking forward to it.

It has been hard work, this last year. I have discovered things about myself which must be improved for me to make this PhD my Bohemian Rhapsody. I should be more careful in my approach towards experiments, be meticulously organised and reflective of the work I am doing. A lack of self-examination is the second most dangerous enemy to a scientific career. The first is addiction to Netflix, off course.
I believe now is a good time to pause the reflection soundtrack. I will be back to talk to you more, at an appropriate time. Neither late, nor early but precisely when I mean to…

Namaste!

Kaustub Singh.

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