It has now been nearly three months since I last updated this weblog. It’s not that nothing has happened in my life; quite the opposite. The problem is that life has very much been in transition so I haven’t felt in a place to write definitively on where my life is until now. I suppose this is natural when one is moving into a new chapter of his life.
The first thing to report is that I finished my Ph.D. at Cornell. Yes, I am now Dr. Aboul-Hosn! I wrote my thesis this past semester, which didn’t turn out to be too bad. It incorporates the work I’ve done since my second semester, which started as a project for the first class I took with Dexter. Actually, that is an interesting story that exemplifies my belief that things always work out for the best.
When I first got to Cornell, I was assigned to TA CS 381, the introductory theory of computing class. The class had six TAs assigned to it, which turned out to be too many compared to the honors version of the course, 481. Consequently, I was reassigned. At the time, I wasn’t very happy about it, or more accurately, I was nervous about it, as I wasn’t sure I had the knowledge in the area to TA the honors version. Dexter was teaching the class and I’d say it went just fine. He suggested I take his graduate class in the spring semester and I did. As a final class project, I worked on the KAT-ML theorem prover, which turned into a paper I presented in Kazakhstan.
In the fall semester, I continued working on the theorem prover and Dexter became my advisor. Terese came to Cornell and we started working on adapting the theorem prover to work for category theory. Some interesting aspects of that problem led to the exploration of the formal representation of the relationship between theorems, proofs, and tactics. Ultimately, this is what became my thesis A Proof-Theoretic Approach to Mathematical Knowledge Management.
So this means that a simple little thing like changing the course I was TAing, which was unpleasant at the time, turned out to be one of the best things to happen to me.
I’m also happy to report that I have found a job. The job search was quite overwhelming, with several interviews in which I was asked 30+ minutes of technical questions. This is just not a scenario in which I excel. What was also annoying was that sometimes the interviewers didn’t know the answers to the questions they asked. One interviewer presented me with a question and I gave him a solution that he immediately rejected as incorrect. However, upon inspection when I got back to my office, my office mates and I determined that my solution was in fact correct. The solution I presented wasn’t complex or incomprehensible, either, so I don’t think that was the problem.
For future interviewees, there is one thing I discovered: almost all the companies ask variants of the same three or four questions. Here is a sample question you might see if you interview for a software engineering job: You have an array of n numbers containing all of the numbers from 1 to n + 1 once with the exception of one of them. Determine which number is not in the array. This can be done in linear time.
So, I’ve now gone two paragraphs talking about getting a job without actually mentioning the job I got. I will be working at Bloomberg in the Research and Development Department in New York City. The job sounds quite interesting and very challenging, which I like. This means that people like Chethan can be expected to be bothered…often.
Finding a place to live was a challenge. I got spoiled when I moved to Ithaca. My mother and I came up one Friday, got the local paper, called a place, visited, and signed the lease right away. I had a place to live without an hour and a half of my first trip to Ithaca. I have to say that it was a completely awesome place, too. The market in the NYC area is a bit different. My constraints are a little unique because I need a house due to the drumset. This severely limits the places in which I can live. I ended up with a house in Jersey City. At first, I was a little nervous as Jersey City doesn’t exactly seem to be the greatest place on Earth. However, the place I’ll be renting is quite nice and an article from New York Magazine helped reassure me.
Friday night, I got to go out and celebrate my new job with Lee and several other friends. I was finally able to celebrate in the way I had always planned to when I got a new job. With the thesis done, a job lined up, and a place to live found, I could relax and let go. Upon arriving at the bar, I opened a tab and bought drinks for the people I came with. Then, any people they were friends with, or friends of those friends, or other people I saw there I knew, were added to my tab for the rest of the night. I had a great time talking and dancing with some people I knew and others I just met. When it was all said and done, I had spent $200 that evening. It was definitely one of the best nights I’ve had, so thank you to all of you who were there to celebrate with me!