Sunday, December 14, 2014

Here's to a repeat of last week!

Another week of typically meager work life balance has come to an end. However, this week, I have more good to report than bad...yay! :)

I had an irregular number of meetings this week, mainly with my co-advisors Dr. E and Sarah. Typically I am a nervous wreck going into these meetings (this week was no different) and come out feeling slightly more pessimistic about getting my degree than I did going in. This week, however, was different. Not because I walked out of one meeting feeling optimistic, but because I left three meeting feeling optimistic regardless of the setbacks that may have been discussed :D. My advisor who I've been working with from the start feels that my progress has improved and for the first time in the 4 years I've been at NC State my advisor didn't name any things to be improved that I didn't come up with myself. It may seem like it would be better news to have no things that need improvement at all, but if you've ever done research or attempted to attain a PhD you know that's completely unrealistic :)

Not so good:
I'm still finding bugs in APATIAN. Just a little background, APATIAN mines GitHub software repositories for concept application and feature usage -- the goal of this prototype is to show the possibility of building an accurate model of developer knowledge. The prototype is doing what I want it to do, however, more often than it should; this skews my "knowledge values" which is no good.  For example, I just realized that the list of revisions being used was twice as long as it should be; this meant that when I ran my code it would go through all revisions twice. There's also the possibility that my counts are getting added redundantly when files are renamed or moved. I will report back when I know more...

Silver lining:
Boa. There exists some research on mining software repositories for feature usage that might provide some insights (or source code) that I can use to deal with some of the current limitations of my prototype. I've enjoyed building this from the ground up but it's getting to the point where I think I need to outsource as often as I can (that's if I want to finish in the next couple of years). 

I've been a bit under the weather over the past week or so (and things my personal life aren't the greatest) but weeks like this past week give me hope that I'm where I should be and that if I keep working hard it will all pay off. Until next time... :)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

"Today was a good day..."

Hey all out there in cyber world!

Despite my feeling under the weather for at least the past week, things are finally starting to look up - what has turned things around for me good you ask? Let me fill you in...

First, today is my beautiful Mom's birthday. She hates taking picture so I don't have many recent ones of here but here's an old one that I love ever so much!

Today she turned 56 and doesn't look a day over 30. My sister and I sent her flowers and candy, which made her happy (one of my favorite things to do). I hate that I can't see her for her birthday often but I know (and she knows) it's for good reason and won't be this way forever. One of the many reasons I love her and my dad - so understanding :).

The other reason for my cheer pertains to my research. Though I've been making progress, sometimes slower progress than I would like, I have continued to feel like I'm not making the kind of progress I need to be making. Especially since I haven't conducted a study in over a year -- just been paper writing and coding. Now, I know at some point there is a transition from advised researcher to independent researcher but as it seems to draw near I continue to second guess not only my own abilities but the overall ability for me to successfully attain my PhD. I have a great advisor that does all he can in any given situation to help me be successful and make my way to becoming an independent research -- including reminding me from time to time that I'm not as much of a n00b as I like to sometimes make myself feel.

Last time I met with my advisor he had a few concerns regarding the work I'm doing...we called them "terrifying questions" that need to be answered before I move forward with planning for my oral proposal. I've been running my prototype on various repositories over the past couple of days and from what I could tell things looked promising...but the true test is feedback from the advisor. I won't bore you with the gory details but long story short the meeting concluded with him telling me "I'm now less terrified." Now, this may not seem like much but the questions I had to answer dealt with data, so they were pretty damn terrifying! But, after looking at what I did and the data I gathered, he was convinced *so far* that things will go as we'd like them to. Yay! :D

This all may seem like not so big a deal but please believe...big deal! I'm making progress and it's that much more likely I will finish in the year 2016. Future Dr. Johnson speaking... :)

Monday, December 8, 2014

Long time no speak :)

I'm baaaackkk (again)!

I was just updating my website and when I looked at the link to my blog I thought, "Brittany, people look at your website, which means people might click this link. Either update it, or get rid of it." Anyone who  knows me knows I'm somewhat of a hoarder so of course I decided to keep and update it :)

I won't do massive info dump like I did last time I went MIA, but I will give some high level highlights/details that will serve as the basis for blog posts following this one (which there will be!). I'm determined to post at least 3 times a week (and on special occasions of course).

Overall update, I'm currently finishing up the Fall semester of my 4th year; for anyone who doesn't know, that means I'm working to get the hell up out of grad school sooner than later! Currently I'm working towards getting my oral exam done soon - if you're curious about the research I'm working on right now, you can get more info here. I only took one class this semester (Teaching and Learning in CS) so my class load was super light meaning for the first semester I was able to focus on my research and building my brand. That involved making progress in my research as well as traveling and networking. Aside from going to Australia for the first time this summer to present my potential thesis work (:D), this semester I traveled to Michigan to the NextProf workshop to learn more about a career in academia and Arizona for Grace Hopper where I made more connections than I have in my past 5 years I've gone (including more connections at Microsoft, the importance of which I will discuss shortly). All in all, despite some set backs, this semester has been a successful one that I wish I could have described here in more detail!

I mentioned making connections at Microsoft; there is value in various dimensions here for me. For one, I was funded to attend Grace Hopper by a scholarship sponsored by Microsoft. This meant I was going to have ample opportunity to get my name out there and make connections of my own. My advisor has worked at Microsoft Research, so I've been able to make some connections through him; it was just nice to make some connections on my own :). Anywho, between the meals for scholars only and visiting the Microsoft booth at the career fair, I made a variety of connections, people that currently work and used to work at Microsoft and Microsoft Research. Part of building my brand, in my eyes, is getting experience doing research in a setting other than academia - my goal has been to do this at Microsoft Research for a summer internship. After such a successful trip to GHC, and encouragement from others, I submitted an application once I returned. I haven't heard back from MSR, however, I was contacted to interview for the Microsoft Azure team by someone I met at one of the GHC Microsoft events. I just had the interview Friday, which I think went well despite the fact that I am not actively looking for a development internship at the time. Even if I don't end up at MSR, I've made lifelong connections that have and hopefully will continue to benefit me as I move forward. The moral to this story -- networking is the key to success!! Never leave home not prepared to build your brand!

I said I wasn't going to do a dump, but it's looking more like one as I'm looking so I will bring this blog post to a close - until next time (which will be soon I promise)!