Every morning I follow the same simple routine. Park my car, short walk to Sally. That stands for Salvatori Computer Science Center (SAL), but I like Sally better. I take a short staircase down to the dungeon-like basement that houses my lab. Since I'm typically the first person to arrive, I get the privilege of turning on the lights to the main room. I fire up the computer terminal and log in to the server.
I've trained myself to spent no more than 15 minutes everyday doing my morning routine of checking to see if last night's batch program has finished, making sure all of the experiment data has been collected, and reading my email. Being expedient is important to me.
I am the only early bird on my team, and because of that, I get to have the benefit of these several quiet moments to myself in the lab each and every forming. My peers typically arrive within 30 minutes—just before 10am. They are all super talented graduate students, with extroverted manners. When they come into the lab, a sense of jovial camraderie fills the space.
I am grateful to feel a kinship with my fellow graduate student peers plus my great advisor, professor Bart Kosko. I don’t tell him this to his face, because I’m not sure how he would take it, but Kosko’s last name always makes me think of the word “cozy,” which is how it feels to work with him and the rest of my group.
Before I leave the lab every morning, I do the same routine in reverse. I love being the last one to turn off the lights. First in, last out. That's what I strive for each day while working on my research.
We were pushing the limits of AI, at that time. Our goal was to find the optimal way to incorporate fuzzy logic as a possible solution for building an intelligent machine. But, despite long hours and a highly ambitious team, our research was getting us nowhere near what we wanted. Still, we kept on pushing despite the mounting difficulty.
After three years of trying, I could hear the sound of defeat get louder every day as my time as a graduate student was coming to the end. While I got the grades to graduate and satisfy the requirements, I was heartbroken knowing that I was not able to make the research come to fruition. As my graduation day grew closer, I grew sadder each day.
On my last day, I spend thirty minutes debriefing and saying goodbye with my Professor Kosko. By this point, I've accepted that what I've worked tirelessly on for the past three years has turned out to be dead end research. I accept that this is why they call it experimentation. There is a high chance of things not working out.
I stay until just before midnight in the lab on that last day. The team had a celebration with a pizza party and we all said our goodbyes three hours ago, but I decided to wait just a little while longer. I want to draw out the moment, knowing that I won't be able to access this room after tomorrow. My access card won't work after midnight.
When the time comes, I feel like I'm saying goodbye to a beloved pet. I take a deep breath, switch off the computer lab lights for the last time, open the door, and walk out to the cold night, hoping unknown tomorrow will be kind to me.