Starting Fresh

Posted in communication, passion, science on October 18, 2017 by angiegiegie

For over a year, I went on a hiatus for two reasons – finishing my Ph.D. thesis, and facing my demons. Some of us know that doing a doctorate is the real deal. It feels as though you’re a monk who deserved to be whipped several times because penitence will ever be granted according to your supervisor’s will. Being in the academia for so long (but not as long as those who have committed their lives to never-ending post docs and search for a better tenure position) have made me a stronger person be it mentally, emotionally, and physically. During the past year, I had the luck to dislocate my shoulder one more time and this among many things (such as writing my thesis) became the nails that were pounded to my head. I lost my nerves and my consciousness several times as I broke down constantly because of the pressure I accepted to be immersed into.

I have to admit in all honesty that doing a Ph.D. has its ups and downs but one cannot proceed to do so if they can’t fathom the psychological torture that comes with it. You need to have a brave soul and a strong mind while doing so and many mistook it with a mere shrug. No wonder the news today talk about the depression that comes with doing a doctorate. People have to talk about it. I applaud the initiative of some to do so yet it is still not enough. Why do a Ph.D.? There are many reasons to do so but just to say that it is your only option because you chose to do a scientific path in the beginning shouldn’t be the reason to do so.

I have friends from all over the world who have chosen to do a Ph.D. as I have as well. Thank goodness I am done with it. I had this pictures in my mind of “what ifs” while I was on the brink of quitting my Ph.D. last year. Gladly enough, some people stood up with me and pulled me back up from the deep sea when I was drowning from all the imagined responsibilities I had to do just because I was told that I had to do them. Fast-forward to September 2017, I was able to survive past the depression and identity crisis that started from the last months of my Ph.D. And here I am, starting anew with a goal on promoting awareness on science education and communication. Hopefully, I will write regularly on the latest developments on science, technology, society and communication as these are the few of the many things I am very fond of talking or writing about.

 

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Finding strength from my passion

Posted in acceptance, communication, famelab, fear, passion, public speaking, science, Uncategorized on March 4, 2016 by angiegiegie

It has been three days since I got eliminated from the semi-final round of Famelab Torino. It was a good fight even if it was something that I was still unfamiliar with. Communicating science sounds easy from a bird’s eye-view but it isn’t. Before walking up that stage, I was a bit anxious on how to prepare my 3-minutes pitch. Being able to speak out a specific scientific topic for that brief amount of time is a challenge. I was up against many who spent countless days explaining to the public how their science works. I, of course, started from nothing. I was a rookie and to be able to go past the first round was already a breakthrough. Of course, I am still learning little by little. What I have always pictured in my mind aren’t how things are in reality. I still have to step up my game even if it takes months, or years, for me to do so.

I am not a natural born prodige when it comes to public speaking. I listened with enthusiasm to people who affirm their beliefs and opinions in public.  It is an all different ball game for me compared to writing, which I have developed over the years. Despite my interest for speeches, I fail to picture myself speaking in front of a crowd. Public speaking was not my forte but if I pushed for it, people might listen to me. So I tried. Nothing much to lose anyway, I thought. I curse a bit in silence when my unconsciousness craved for perfection, but the show must go on. So I did, a few days ago. I was not there for the fame. I was there to kick myself out of the shadows and fears, and tried to prove myself that I am someone worth listening to.

Events like Famelab pushed me out of my comfort zones when I only get to perform experiments nowadays. Perhaps I can get a beer or two with friends and share my science but I don’t do that. Will people tire themselves listening to when I talk about the science behind my work? I knew that I am much more than my profession yet I obliterate my value to my friends and strangers on what I do. You know, I am not a woman with a strong heart so it is hard for me to get by with confirmation. Time, and time again, I struggled. I knew that the fear is still there, not as big as it used to be, but I can still feel it. Despite my countless fears, I try to accept it and fight it – not an easy one, but I hope to go past it, and be a woman I can always count on. I have always dreamt of speaking out loud the science I am working on, and why it matters. The news I scroll over the web don’t talk about materials. Not really. They talk about the popular science behind astrophysics and neurobiology. I am pretty sure that other scientists in these said fields are doing a great deal to change people’s perspective on science. But what about the other fields? Science for the public became narrow that many are misinformed of the many possibilities our future holds. Sad? Yes, and I want to change that. With that said, I have to let go at a certain point, these fears of people’s judgment over me, and public speaking.

If not, until when will I hide from the world when there are so many things to share, apart from the general interests of the public?

From here onwards, I will make it a point with my will power to share to you, piece by piece, the fascinating world of materials, be they big, or small (apart from the other things I can talk about to anyone!)

“Rebirth”

Posted in Uncategorized on February 26, 2016 by angiegiegie

It has been a year since I last wrote anything out of the context of science…

Then again, why should I stop myself from writing even when I have to work on my research? I just realized that I have failed in communicating or expressing myself on anything I am passionate about like politics, art, science, etc. EVERYTHING! Ok, perhaps I reserved another blog/journal for my notes on travelling yet, I realized that I should devote a part of my time in this, writing about anything, sharing what I feel, and think.

Writing has been my passion since I was a toddler yet I have always lacked the discipline to write constantly. Every single time I start a journal, I fail to reach to my 5th entry. Fail – what a strong word. I know. Yet it is in failure that we learn.

I should not feel bad for missing out on this, writing for fun, though I kinda do. I guess I have those moments that I lose myself in my work, in my free time exploring the city I have been settling, the sports and the activities that I have been discovering – yes, I make sure that I find time for a lot of things I am passionate about, apart from writing on what comes to my mind.

My thoughts have been clearer now that year has passed. I usually could not muster my brain to let the words flow out of my mouth, nor through my finger tips. I was always in doubt, depressed, perplexed, you know, those kind of feelings millenials grieve upon. Yet, I found my way back, through a series of life-changing experiences for the past year.

Maybe I have not been writing a lot, but I knew for my part, that I discovered so much of myself, be it the best things that I possess yet, which I was not aware of, or of my worst traits that have only shown this past year under massive stress called, the PhD life. Yeah, I guess you can picture those series of PhD comic strips coming to life at the back of your mind. It kinda is like that, though I try to keep my sanity aftermy job’s done for the day.

I guess I tried to listen to my body, my mind, and my soul, more often now than before, that I manage to write all these paragraphs now. Rejuvinating? Yes, definitely.

Now I guess you’d expect that I pop out a thing or two from this journal/blog on any opinion or idea I can come up with. Then I guess, you would definitely also see out of surprise, a bit of what I do, the magic behind the science I am working on. I am not very public about it, but you know, never hurts to share a bit of the technical side to the public, in a gentle way.

Why should science be presented in complex, and sophisticated manner? It is in its simple expression that people are in awe. I am talking about Einstein, Feynman, Fermi, and Dirac here. They were fantastic. They gave some light in man’s darkest moments. One of my dreams was to be like them – maybe not a genius, but to be able to let that awe and wonder continue to shock the people. We already lost that somehow. I feel like I need to be able to bring out the magic in people’s eyes, and let creativity come into the world again.

Dreams. They can hurt, or burn, but they live on.

A Brief Point on Science Communication

Posted in Uncategorized on June 1, 2015 by angiegiegie

This article highlights the value of scientific writing which many fail to remember based on a book by William Zinsser. Instead of listing down jargon phrases and expecting people to comprehend us immediately, we need to look at science communication as an inverse pyramid where we give a brief overview of what they should anticipate. This is also how people write in non fiction literature. In this way, we do not only encourage the reader to explore more about the topic behind a given article but to also let them elucidate little by little on what’s written, giving hints of light at the end of the tunnel.

http://www.brainpickings.org/2015/05/27/william-zinsser-on-writing-well-science/

Questioning Adaptability  

Posted in Uncategorized on January 16, 2015 by angiegiegie

In the past years, I was known among my colleagues and peers here in Europe as one of the most adaptable people they have met. I do not have as many needs and wants as some people yet if problems arise, I am able to sort things out somehow. Thus, my overall supervisor from my Masters program here in Europe was able to recognize this feature as a positive trait that was dominant among us Filipinos studying in the said program. Like them, I was able to survive in different countries for the past couple of years doing so.

I was so used to “passive adjustment”. It is a way to get by through the thick and thin as how plumbers deal with broken pipes. One just needs to change some of the pipes or tighten them and the system is good to go. It was an innate quality some of us Filipinos have especially when dealing with natural disasters. This is how we Filipinos were known for around the world. Having been used to this type of treatment while encountering problems, I was not expecting that there will be a day when it won’t work in helping me deal with some of the many existential questions I have.

Last year, I was offered a doctoral position that would permanently place me in Italy. It was only in the then that I felt slowly overwhelmed with my growing problems despite my method of pushing aside anxiety and patching up some holes and irregularities. I already had my basic needs sorted out but not fairly established. I was able to find a flat yet it was too cold during the winter and too expensive for me to get by with my given allowance from the university. I was doing grocery yet in it, the sustenance was not justifiable for what my body needed. Apart from those, I wanted to stay healthy yet I had an urge to work a bit more than others in the laboratory, which was my excuse to keep on working without pushing myself for a fitter lifestyle. I had been disregarding myself initially in order to passively sustain myself, to make my life barely living. My mind was still in that mind set of barely surviving just because I was a student. Like any other person, I had my rough moments and hoped that what I am doing now would be able to give me a better future.

During the first few months, I met all sorts of people from the city itself and from different parts of the world, with the majority coming from Europe, who chose to stay here in search for a better living. Unlike the past years where I met Erasmus Mundus students or exchange students, I get to meet people who actually work and live here. They were either people who are doing their doctorate here like me, or doing some professional job. Having had some discussions with them over coffee in the afternoon or beer in the evening, I was discovering a bit on how they manage their lives while working.

Unlike the stories I hear from my friends back in the Philippines, I can see in their eyes their burning passion to live life at its fullest. Their priorities were completely different. We Filipinos on the other hand work to sustain what we think are needs such as getting a flat, a car, and so on. We wanted to build a future for ourselves. We have been too busy scurrying ourselves like rabbits while building a good rabbit hole for each of us to shelter ourselves from the outside world, one that has yet to be discovered. As for them, they wanted to embrace the uncertainties of life even if they look scary as walking through a dilapidated bridge between two mountains some kilometres high.

Then on, it just occurred to me that all these things I have been doing to keep myself alive won’t work out in the long run. I can’t always be stuck in the position where I had to choose between living a life now, and working for a “brighter future”. At this point, I had just realized that I have disregarded myself for the sake of others’ opinion of me. Furthermore I felt that I have slowly lost myself during the process of establishing myself in this world. At this point, I felt the need to set aside what I have been doing for the past months, and years, and to see what I have become and what I wanted to be. I cannot always be passive for me to cope with these issues I have. I would need to be more dynamic in dealing with problems thus I thought of some questions related to the existential realization I just had.

Like any other person, what am I preparing myself for? If I cannot calmly touch and feel the wind on my face and embrace its magnificence, what is there to live for?

There and then, I knew that this problem was not only happening to me, but to others too.  Having heard from my friends talk about their lives, and dreams, I have come to realize this — our generation has become too anxious for things that can be wiped out by many forms of crises. Rather than living, we prioritize security. We have turned a blind eye of an apocalypse that has been present with us for years while growing up. At this moment, like me, many of us have already forgotten what it means to be human.

It was only when I tried to approach my existential problem in a more dynamic way that I begin to question the regularities of life. Only at this moment did it seem to me that being passive cannot guarantee us the safety net we search for. Like some problems we have over the years in the Philippines, we may have been so used to the “passive adjustment” or adaptability we have been so proud of the problems that reoccur. We have to find another way on dealing with our problems may it be an existential one like mine, or not. I guess sometimes we need to be more active in dealing with them or to look at them in other angles rather than “fixing the leaks” while ignoring the main issue that will overwhelm us as we always do.

Traditions and Doubts

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on November 24, 2014 by angiegiegie

I sometimes think that many of the traditions we have in different cultures are non-sense. They sometimes don’t provide us the logical reasoning behind these actions. In my opinion, they sometimes force us to stay down on our knees and let the cycles continue.

All throughout history, we have abolished some actions, and created new ones. But there will always be some actions deemed traditional and senseless. One of them is paying respect. We pay respect to the elders. Sure. What if they don’t respect our opinion too as we grow older? Now that’s another story.

Another example is treating the first boys in the families as princes (in the Chinese heritage). It was thought in the past that men will be the leading society as they have the guts and courage to fight for everyone. As long as mothers pay too much attention to them, they get used to this attention that they cannot become man nor fathers themselves.

These examples have been too close to my heart as I am part of a long standing tradition of the Filipino-Chinese heritage. Yet I still fight hard to understand why people still tend to go through these cycles. Is it because they choose to keep it simple, or have they lost that feeling of doubt in everything they do?

Doubting after all is what makes us reflect more, thus making us more human in one way.

Why I Travel

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on November 9, 2014 by angiegiegie
I took this photo while walking along the boulevard in Nice. It just captures the little beauties in life that one fails to appreciate...

I took this photo while walking along the boulevard in Nice. It just captures the little beauties in life that one fails to appreciate…

I have never felt so alive in my entire life had I not begin to travel by myself or a few people. Travelling is not really an excuse to escape the normal life. It is in travelling that I completely immerse myself to new places and be able to construct a better reflection of myself and the world. It is where my point of view on everything begins to mold itself as how a clay is being shaped to a pot or a sculpture.

It is in travelling that I realize that I cannot live in a constrained world where I have to merely obey people. In my opinion, obeying is not an entirely bad thing as long as you are conscious on what you are obeying. I adore my elders. I really do. It just sickens me that we have this world where some traditions seem to withhold ourselves from thinking, understanding, and embracing what it means to be human. They have set limits as we continue to set other forms of limitations in the present times. That includes how people perceive on developing technology and on how people manage conflicts.

So you see, travelling is where I feel more alive in the sense that I am able to sense things and appreciate the grandeur of what the world brings. It is in that moment that I feel that I have become a better human being as I see the different phases of humanity in different parts of the world. Despite these, many still succumb to the tedious life that they believe will bring them happiness. Then again, only they can survive better than the likes of me because they have jobs that can support their needs. So who am I to say that they are wrong when previous civilizations point out to us that we have to be more evolved in terms of strategy and foresight to survive? Saying this, do you think humanity is worth it when we only do things to survive, instead of finding ways to live?

It is sad to see at this point that what the world needs now are people who bring light to others yet are unappreciated.

I hope this simple image brings out some beauty in life as it is one of those moments that people tend to divert themselves from…