A gap

As Confucius famously said, choose the job that you love - and you will not need to work for a lifetime. However, this is all not that simple. As a matter of fact, the school system (or at least Polish school system), kills a lot of natural talents: knowledge served at schools is standardised and the amount of material you need to learn is so overwhelming that you are becoming a little robot, working days and nights for good grades. There is just no more room in your life to explore the environment around you, and learn about your own talents. This is exactly why I decided to conduct an experiment on myself; my contract expired some time ago and I came to a conclusion that it is a great opportunity to actually find out more about myself instead of jumping into a new job straight away.

What trading gave me, and what it stole away from me

Since a few weeks I have been doing research projects again, as opposed to past few months when I was mostly trading instead of doing any science. My aim was to work out an independent source of funding for myself, but also to rest from science for a little while in order to see if this relationship has a chance to last forever. So, trading turned out to be a refreshment of a particularly painful sort, as it did not make my daily life any easier - rather the opposite.

The tragedy of commons

The year of 2009 was groundbreaking, for at least two separate reasons. Firstly, on January 3rd of 2009, the genesis block of bitcoin was mined. Secondly, on October 12th of 2009, Elinor Claire "Lin" Ostrom has became the first woman awarded with a Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, "for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons". The clue of this work is a phenomenon known in economy as the tragedy of commons. This phenomenon occurs when a group shares a resource, but at the same time, every individual acts on their own behalf, which is often against the common interest of the community. Can we spot the tragedy of commons in academia?


Recently, we have a lot of new, interesting markets to skyrocket, including cryptocurrencies, marijuana pots, and others. This gave me an incentive to search out for passive income in these markets. But, when I entered the world of trading, I didn't know how difficult and disturbing my new life can be. 

Yesterday was a nostalgic day not only for me, but for every Polish person there is. The reason is because one of our little heroes, Tomasz Mackiewicz, is dying in Karakorum, and no one can really save him from death at this point. Climbing in Himalayas can seem like a distant and exotic concept, but one thing we can definitely learn from mountaineers is a team work. 

Everything in the world follows some rules - the items move according to classical mechanics, and optimise some trajectory according to some cost function. Apples follow the gravity and fall down from the trees straight towards the ground, and the electric current flows from high towards low electric potential according to the shortest possible trajectory. People also construct their own cost functions, and adjust their behaviour according to the rules present in their environment.

Up until now, research on the influence of mentorship on the career perspectives in young researchers is scarce. It seems that, in academia, there is a consensus that mentorship is beneficial in general, but the extent to which the positive effects of mentorship hold in the long term is not clear.

Today, the concept of a job is far from the original concept at the times of the industrial revolution. Back then, a worker was a person who wakes up in the morning, and leaves their household for the most of the day, in order to sell their time in an exchange for a salary. Having a job meant a physical work. Today, the job market is much more diverse - complex but also full of possibilities.

Nothing changed since my childhood: I still enjoy stimuli that are annoying to others, the most. For instance, in the whole process of conducting a research project - from project planning, through combining a team, doing actual research, submission, review process, production and promotion - I actually enjoy the review process the most. There are at least three separate reasons for this. 

As every PhD student at the end of the contract, I slowly get the idea that publishing papers is a minor problem in a researcher’s life. There other, more painful issues, such as the environment fractioning into ‘team Brown’, ‘team Green’ et cetera - especially in circles developing new methods for data analysis. Such friendships and antipathies that last for ages before you even found yourself in the community, and once you appear as a fresh person, you do not necessarily understand why you are actually expected to love Mr Brown and hate Mr Green.

In the famous riddle, you are supposed to connect all the dots with four straight lines. You can sweat and try as long as you like but you will always be just one line short from connecting all of them. Unless you look outside the box, and make yourself space beyond the limited area of the square - then, all of a sudden, everything becomes easy. The point is: as a scientist, you are pressed to do multitasking as well: as opposite to industry, in academia, you need to prove yourself in multiple different roles every day, and the collateral stress is inevitable whenever you are a good or a bad worker. So, how to deal with stress?

I observe two contradictory trends in academia these days. On one hand, experimental researchers flock together into bigger and bigger consortia, in order to collaborate in large groups in order to be able to conduct complex experiments that are so labour- and knowhow- expensive, that it would not be possible to approach them in a more traditional fashion based on an individualistic achievement. On the other hand, anyone who is connected well enough and talented enough, can formulate a research question, search out for the open datasets, conduct a computational study, report the results and post them in a form of a preprint, and then spread the news through the social media.

As a scientist, you are doomed to live in a shadow of deadlines, short contracts, and mutual dependencies as you are by definition bound to a dynamic web of people, some of whom might behave differently than expected. The collateral stress is inevitable whenever you are a good or a bad worker. And if you ask your family and friends about what to do with yourself in such conditions, they will all tell you: go for a walk, meditate, go to spa, relax, go to a therapy, grow flowers, stare at the blue sky, listen to your favourite music. All these activities are superficial and do not solve the true problem.

Initially, I was hesitating for a long time if I can even manage to supervise a student. Namely, if I will be able to catch some good vibes and keep on going regardless of little bumps on the way which naturally pop out during research: you try and fail, and then try and fail again and again… But now, I must say that supervising students is a wonderful experience to me, and I consider it – so far – the most fulfilling part of the PhD track. 

Researchers have their personal styles of working, and some of them are more like craftsmen, whereas others are more like artists. And the irony is: in order to produce a novel scientific study and publish it well, you need to be an artist, but you also need to be a craftsman - and these two qualities are rarely to be found in one and the same person.

So, when I found myself in the Silicon Valley, I realised that I had heard about almost all the new trends in business and industry, and almost all the influential figures in the Valley - from YouTube, not from press or television. This means what whatever is more or less popular in real life, becomes also popular online. Or maybe even the opposite?

This evening, I was sitting at the Didirion Station in San Jose waiting for a bus to Los Angeles.  It was a Monday evening, 11pm. I just finished a goodbye dinner in a good restaurant with my sister.  I was at the station from where the cheapest buses to Los Angeles were taking off, and I was there mostly to taste some folklore; just to try some simple life from time to time once I am on travel.