Reading

Just realized, finally realized, while writing this research proposal, that this is a year where I probably should be doing a ton of reading. Tons of it.

A paper-hunting technique Paul taught me once: Take a seminal paper or review, backward cite it in a few tree branches, and forward cite it a few tree branches, to get a feel for how the field has been impacted by the history and where the trajectories are going forward.

And then borrowing from Cal Newport’s Study Hacks blog, relentlessly figure out and master the information contained in the important nodes in the trees, the ones that have been cited many times over, and the most recent ones that are pushing the boundaries of the field. This should help me dig down on the fundamentals of the field, and prevent me from entertaining ideas that have already been tested.

As I’m a synthetic biologist building machines with parts, I should probably also bring up papers surrounding the biological parts that I’m dealing with. Simply touching on the one paper that I had in my current Papers library might not necessarily be enough. So, that would involve the Cph1 red light sensor, the Omp promoter, the CcaS green light sensor, GFP, RFP, cI repressor, lycopene and violacein production pathways etc…

As I’m in the biological sciences, I should probably also be relentlessly mastering new techniques. I have circuit assembly and design started, qPCR started, and flow cytometry started, but it may be a few years of relentless study before I fully-master them.

In terms of motivating myself to read, I think I will start writing my thesis research proposal for real, not unlike the one I’m writing for 20.440. The idea I’ve proposed is sort of a side-project that I’d try if I have time, and I think I will start dropping outside activities in order to make time. But my actual research project, that’s going to be a fun one to try making!

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