2015 Closure

I have earned my MS in August 2015. That’s 1 year, 8 months, and 14 days since I last penned any word here. There are drafts but it is all what they remain. I’m told in scientific paper publication, done is better than perfect. But in this instance as there are no PI, editors, nor reviewers to whom I should report I ought to afford some leeway.

The year 2015 saw a number of trips for both work and leisure. Half of the trips were the spur-of-a-moment kind of thing, including running the Kyoto Marathon 2015.

Here are some selected activities from 2015:

1) Finishing the Kyoto Marathon

It’s an open secret that Kyoto is one of my favorite city in the world to visit. Being able to run the city and eventually finish the marathon is like a cherry on top for me. At the end of August 2014 I submitted an application for entry to the marathon. From there the organizer uses the lottery system to randomly draw participants. In early October 2014 I received an email notifying that I was one of the selected 15,900 runners out of 61,523 applicants. For number nerds out there, that’s 25.8% draw rate. As for the marathon course itself, boasting not one, but seven UNESCO World Cultural Heritage sites the picturesque route promised to be a feast to the eyes.

Not expecting to luck out in the entry, I hatched a last-minute 16-week training plan. On the work front, my PI dissented me leaving the country (and by extension the lab) to run a marathon. I promised him I would stay for extra hours and work through the Lunar New Year holidays in return for his permission. In the end it all worked out.

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Crossing the Kyoto Marathon 2015 finish line at Heian-jingu Shrine

What makes it special is that The Sister was also a participant. Since this was her first time in Kyoto, I put on my guide cap and took her in to the sights and eateries around the city. Tonnes of fun running the the city and then replenishing our calories!

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An old Japanese tea and dessert shop in Gion

2) Defending the Thesis

That pivotal moment of any grad student. After having to reschedule the date and time multiple times to accommodate three of my thesis committee, it was finally set. Grad students would agree that  10 minutes was allocated for my speech and the remaining 20 minutes for Q&A, giving the defense session a total of 30 minutes. We finished on time and after answering all their questions (plus more follow up) the committee gave the thesis nods of approval; a win-win situation.

Afterwards for little celebration I went to dinner at my fav sundubu place with my high school friends who were in town visiting, followed by watching Dibaba gave a good fight for the 2nd place at Boston Marathon. A memorable day.

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Explaining the increase of radical using ESR graphs

3) Getting My Paper Published

Unlike regular graduation requirement, my MS degree graduation is contingent upon at least 1 published paper in any SCI journals. More specifically, in order to graduate it is required for an MS candidate to have his/her paper published in SCI journal by the date of his/her final thesis defense. As is with Murphy’s Law, not every plans go accordingly.

Although having submitted the manuscript 4 months prior to my tentative defence date, prolonged review process was inevitable. I have been in and out of my PI office countless times, discussing how and what will happen if my manuscript didn’t get published on time. Even after completing my final defense, at this point my graduation decision is still hanging in the air, and I was at the edge of a cliff.

One morning in June, after a late night of drinking with the peers, I woke up greeted by a flood of texts, all congratulating me. The manuscript was finally accepted for publication. Consequently, my graduation status was affirmed.

Talk about killing two birds with one stone 😉

4) Celebrating MS Graduation in Hong Kong

The day after my final day at lab, I packed the carry-on luggage and crossed the pond to Hong Kong. After a quick 2-hour flight, I was welcomed by humidity and HK’s prominent double decker bus. Joining my friend Su who was already there few days prior, we set out to stuff our face with egg tart, wonton, and dim sum goodness. It’s also worthy to note that since it was in the middle of fasting month (Ramadhan), the eating antics commence after sunset through sunrise.

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Har cheong fun at Tim Ho Wan

During the day I head out to a public pool located near my accomodation. The pool complex, as it turns out features 10 Olympic distance lanes, with 3 different pools. While the facilities are by no means luxury, it was practical and well maintained. The patrons were a mix of locals and expats, mostly in their 30s/40s/50s and with kids. For the fee of HKD19 (~$2.4), I think it was the best dollar I’ve spent.

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Morrison Hill swimming pool

5) Attending Wedding in Malibu, California

Wow, Malibu. You have my heart.

A Japanese/Chinese/American girl married a Mexican boy and held a beautiful, multicultural, multilanguage wedding. With guest lists of no more than 50 people, the wedding was intimate and truly felt like being amongst family and closest friends. The fact that the celebrant was a friend of the bride’s father for more than 40 years is a testament of how true friendship is a lasting one.

A memory for the lifetime.

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The wedding of K & E

6) Visiting Prospect Schools for PhD

While in California I also took the opportunity to visit prospect schools. First on the list was UC Berkeley. I met up with a Professor whose lab’s research interests spawn around a wide range of energy applications. He also allowed me to sit in the graduate students meeting as well as the weekly group meeting. From there I was able to observe and grasp his advising style and the group’s general culture. The following morning I returned to the campus for coffee and Q&A with 4 of his graduate students.

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Passing Wheeler Hall on my way to Hildebrand Hall, UC Berkeley.

Next on the list was Stanford. Unlike Berkeley, I was on my own to do the touring at Stanford. In any circumstances, by visiting the group and the campus I can’t help to think about the significance of campus visit to gauge your fit with a school/lab.

7) Exploring California

The remainder of our time in California was spent running, hiking, cycling, hunting grubs, and shopping. And oh, Disneyland too! In short, all the good Cali stuffs. In particular, California’s microclimate and proximity to mountain AND beach fascinates me. One morning in SF I had to wear jacket but in the afternoon it’s t-shirt weather again. For instance in SF/LA, a 20 mins drive could get you to beach or mountain. On top of that, the variety of choice for great food (Mexican! Thai! Lebanese! Italian! the list is endless) was also mind boggling. Between the climate, terrain, and food and drinks selections, I have to tell that I can’t decide which I love more.

One thing I’m certain is I look forward to be back in California.

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Morning run in Silver Lake

8) End of Summer Rooftop BBQ Dinner

Living in Seoul where the studio, or as we call it here oneroom, is the size of a shoebox, space is a luxury. My friend Hidayah recently started operating a guesthouse. The space comes with a spacious rooftop which she was kind enough to allow me to use for an outdoor BBQ. I think it was great to see everyone under one roof (some were in town for weekend travel) and be able to introduce them to ane another. The sunset wasn’t too shabby either.

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Sunset in Itaewon

The Year of 2015 Bottom Line

As some of you might know, 2015 was the 8th anniversary of me living in Korea. All the fun trips aside, although it was filled with sleepless nights and long day at lab I couldn’t have asked for a more formative year. To quote Maya Angelou, ‘You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.’

I hope you too have had a great year.

And with that, thanks for reading!

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