[Technical] Lessons learnt from my MEng project
07-23-2021 12:28:19
Black Paper

People never learn from others' experiences. They only learn from fatal mistakes.

The reason why I write this is not only because I want to actually learn it from my experience (a.k.a. convert experience into wisdom) but also because this may be helpful to those in the university. You are always awesome, just don't make these flaws let you down! I also hope that this article can help someone who may want to contribute to research but have met many obstacles towards their paths.

This is the most fatal mistake I have ever made, which has led to many unwanted consequences of business and created obstacles to my expected path.

It was at the beginning of my MEng project. I discussed my research plan with my supervisors. At that time, my vision always stayed at the analytical solutions to a complex problem, which would be proven unfruitful and time-wasting at the end. He suggested that analytical solutions might not get a valid result, and it is too complex for an MEng project. Instead, he recommended a research method, "Design of Experiments" (DoE), to do practical experiments for the conclusion.

I picked his advice and started to learn DoE, but I still kept the thought about the analytical solutions in mind. I picked pieces of literature about DoE, but the content I read were not systematic and I could not really get into the concept.

I somehow finished the literature review to choose one factor of the project, the material. As I haven't get into the concept of DoE, I didn't realise that I have done only a small portion of one of the steps of the experiment.

And then, I cannot say whether I was lucky or not, all practical stuff had to be deleted from the objectives due to the COVID-19 pandemic. My thought about the analytical solutions took my mind. During that period, I was too stubborn to listen to any advice unrelated to the analytical solutions. Both my supervisor and examiner have tried their best to persuade me to do computation experiments. I always feel uncomfortable for myself and respect them when this memory went back to my mind.

Not surprisingly, I failed to conclude a feasible analytical solution to the model I tried to describe. Even if I have learnt a lot about pure mathematics and physics, which sounds fancy, I didn't get what the project really required.

I started to regret what I have done as soon as I realise this rock truth. I started to turn to COMSOL simulation. However, I only had 2 months left. I still got a reasonable conclusion to the project within 2 months, and I am still proud of it. However, I always ask myself, "What if I did it at the beginning of the project?"

Furthermore, I just started my systematically understanding of DoE recently. Soon I found that I could have done much better if I followed the steps of the experiments. Again, this was the suggestion given by my supervisor.

I am thankful that my supervisor and examiner gave me useful feedback, and it is not too late for me to realise the problems and improve myself. I am planning to re-do the MEng project. At this time, I hold the advice from my supervisors and get systematic knowledge about DoE. There are tons of ideas on how to proceed with this research on my own. I believe that my future will still shine and I will still step into my dream path: researching.


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