So I disappeared for a while but here I am again! Many things have changed in the past year which is also why I was not very active in writing more content! Here are some updates regarding my PhD journey, my career and the life in Australia during the COVID pandemic…
Well I haven’t been dealt the best hand when it comes to my PhD. My project was all about tracking people’s location indoor, studying their interactions and how they move around buildings. Thanks to COVID, buildings were pretty much empty in 2020 and 2021 so most of my work went out of the window. I’m working on my second big first-author paper and hoping to get another one before the end of the year!
As of now I would like to submit my thesis my Jan/Feb 2022 but who knows! As of 3 months ago we were enjoying life again, travelling everywhere. And now we’ve been on an off lockdown since June, too unpredictable to say!
Summer Data Science Internship at Nokia Bells Lab, Cambridhge, UK
Overall the biggest update career-wise is my internship at Nokia Bells Lab. Despite it being a remote internship, it was a very interesting and eye opening experience nevertheless. As I found out during these three months, research in industry is quite a bit different from research in Academia. For instance one of the things I noticed is the ethics process: In some Universities this process can take anywhere from a few weeks to a few months, and it is extremely important to not go out of the lines defined by your ethics application. In industry however it would appear that things are a bit more streamlined and open-ended, considerably speeding up the process of getting ethics and starting the data collection.
The initial project proposal was along the line of sensing and social dynamics. The idea was to match the “offline” interaction of a team with its “online” counterpart. In this scenario the offline part would be tracked through an indoor localization system while the online aspect constitutes of Slack messages, channels and interactions.
We then set out to deploy the indoor localization system consisting of RFID-based active badges and Ethernet receivers. In the few weeks since the beginning on the internship I received a lot of interesting devices, tinkering with all sorts of systems and programming languages. A quick list of what I’ve worked on in the first month or two of the internship:
- Developed a Slack Bot to download messages and workspace meta-data automatically (GitHub Link)
- The exporter is multi-threaded and takes care of load balancing the calls to avoid getting rate limited by the Slack API
- Adapted, fixed and implemented a set of NLP tools to automatically analyse the Slack corpus:
- 10 Dimensions
- Integrative Complexity
- Sentimnent Analysis through Flair
- Implemented the above NLP tools in an encrypted, secure and multi-threaded Python Flask Server service (GitHub Link)
- Implemented a server to collect RFID data from the active badges
- Configure the Active Badges through Serial Port
- Learnt Data Analysis and Machine Learning on Python, Pandas and MatPlotlib!
- Not sure whether I enjoy it more than R
- I have written some pretty cool functions to export graphics and LaTeX code for density and correlation plots (GitHub Link)
- Written a not-so-simple multi-threaded R script to clean up and complete LaTeX references in
.bibfiles (GitHub Link)
Life in Australia
As of July 14th 2021 I’m officially a Permanent Resident (PR) in Australia!!
I submitted an EOI (Expression of Interest) for the Global Talent Visa Subclass 858 on the 29th of January 2021. I then got the invitation to apply on the 1st of June 2021. I prepared all the documents proving my “talent” and the ability to earn quite a high salary eventually, plus police clearance and criminal record from Italy. Once I submitted the actual application with all the documents I had to do a Visa medical check. I booked the first available appointment, which was the 14th of August 2021!! Quite late and I was running the risk of lockdown being in place at that time, further delaying my PR. As a matter of fact, we were in lockdown on that day, and still are at the time of writing :(
I was obviously not going to wait until August and I wrote a little Python+Selenium script to automatically check the BUPA medical services website and modify my appointment whenever an appointment closer to the current day would be available. I ran the script for a few hours on the 28th of June morning and what do you know, it automatically changed my appointment to the day after,t he 29th of June 2021!
Once I did the medical check, I waited 2 weeks and I eventually got my PR! What a relief, at least I’ll be able to live in Australia beyond my student visa expiration date. But most importantly, I’ll be more easily hirable by any company in Australia!
I updated the website with a few new features. Most importantly I ended up buying the awesome Hydejack Pro theme for Jekyll
Well this part is the one that got affected the most and not just because of the pandemic! I have managed to lose 14kg since the beginning on 2020, went from 80kg to 66kg and I finally learnt the handstand properly (I can still walk for quite a few steps!).
Differently from Europe, the public transport in Australia just sucks. It’s expensive, rather slow, and the stations do not seem to be well spread out. I got a bike as soon as I moved to Melbourne and it has been essential. But I started to feel the need for more adventures, especially in those few weekends that Victoria was not in lockdown! So I got myself a cheap-ish second hand car, a Toyota Rav4 2011 (Manual) to drive around Australia and go camping and hiking!
- I chucked a mattress and two pillows in it. Got all the camping and cooking gear for when I’m on the road!
- So far I drove ~30 000km already.
- Went to Mungo desert twice in NSW
- Drove all along NSW and Queensland all the way up to Noosa (absolute heaven)
- Drove back to Melbourne alone on a 19h trip from Noosa!
- Drove a few times to the Great Ocean Road, on the snow in Mt. Donna Buang, and of course Phillip Island, Mornington Peninsula and Wilson’s Prom!
Since I got a car of my own, I thought it’d be nice to do more water-based activities so I also bought a Stand-Up Paddleboard (SUP)! I brought it all the way to Queensland during my end of the year trip in 2020/2021. Unfortunately the paddleboard was defective but I got it replaced for free with a newer model (Aztron Terra)!
I then got stuck in Queensland due to borders closure caused by a COVID outbreak. I took the chance to get my PADI open water scuba diving license while in the Gold Coast, Queensland!
Photography wise, I got myself a Sony 70-200m f2.8 G-master lens! I thought I would end up not using it much but oh boy! It’s incredibly sharp and fast! Perfect for portraits :)
I’m not sure whether I have more updates since the past year! I’ll add them whenever I remember them :)