Posted by: hmchang | December 1, 2007

Research: Putting Things into Context

I am taking ECE235: Stochastic Processing this quarter to get the fundamental knowledge of random variables, random sequence and random process, etc. Throughout the quarter, I have little understanding on what’s going on in the course. Part of it is because I did not spend much time reviewing the material, but also part of it is that I didn’t see the importance of how those mathy stuffs can be applied to my research.

Last session (11/29) was the first session that I finally understand where the stochastic theory can be used. The professor explain how to used random process for estimating the original signal from the received signal after channel distortion. Furthermore, on 11/30 (Friday), we have a distinguished lecture: Prof. Rutenbar who gave a talk on how to reduce the simulation time for Monte Carlo simulations in calculating process variations. In his talk, he used the terms such as i.i.d, central limit theorem and expectation, etc to give more solid reasoning of his proposed method. Since I learned those terminology from the class before, I am able to link them with the talk and really learn a lot!

I am very excited to learn that the complex math I am learning now can be applied to somewhere related to my research. I might have heard of some of them but listening to real applications after learning from the class is really important. I think I am the kind of people who needs to learn from seeing the applications. I want to know where this can be applied and how useful it can be. This kind of learning style may prohibit me from doing fundamental science research like deriving maths or developing experiments for some physics theory. Fortunately, I am in a engineering department and most of the things do have a context.

In most of the presentations or paper writing, it is also very important to put things into context in the very beginning so that the audience can have a sense of where you are targeting at. I think it is the same for teaching, but it might be hard to do so. For example, I am not sure where calculus can be applied until later stage in my engineering studies. However, I always appreciate small examples to get juice out of the math at the early stage. Such examples may need to be properly designed but that would be the value of a good book or a good lecture. In other words, those who can puts things into context or explain the fundamental meanings of the math beyond just the calculation and derivations are more helpful for learning.

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