Someone once told me that with writing, you only ever have a good draft; a final draft doesn’t truly exist. She was describing the feeling that a paper could always be better, but at some point, it needs to be done enough. The first time I ever experienced this was with art. For a painter, the piece can always be better, the details adjusted or the colors enhanced. I think this dilemma exists with any creative work and is best approached with a good iterative review process. It’s like minimizing a cost function; there may be peaks and valleys, but ultimately each iteration brings the work closer to where it should be.
This week the first full draft of my project report was due. Early on in the semester, I spent significant time working on the literature review and was surprised to find that there isn’t a significant body of work that exists on UAV operator mode classification. So, I decided to spend time with research related to the general classification of UAV behavior. Similar to an iterative writing process, immersion in a body of research feels like it starts off with a broad net and a large margin of error. Much of the work I read was only tangentially related to my specific project but ultimately helped me position the work in a larger context. As I continue to iterate over my project draft and continue with the research, I imagine my net may grow much smaller, but also more precise.
I was also reminded this week of the importance of adaptability in research. Last Friday, I realized my neural network was overfitting, something I hadn’t noticed until running a very large number of epochs. I was able to diagnose the problem and fix it (there was a class imbalance in the dataset, which I was able to offset with a weighted loss), but that also meant that I had to throw out my previous results and re-run all of my tests. I worked through the weekend and was able to get everything done in time for the final poster and rough paper draft! That said, I certainly plan to continue iterating over my paper.
In the lab this week, our lab administrators organized a potluck for the REU students – it was so great! We got to eat some home-cooked food with the lab directors and graduate students. We also had the opportunity to review our posters with the lab directors and give a two-minute overview. The lab directors gave us some great feedback, which was certainly helpful and confirmed that I need to practice. Outside of the lab, we attended a helpful presentation on giving effective research presentations. Again, we were given the opportunity to give one, three and five-minute synopses of our work. Next week, I’m excited to take the Part 107 Drone Pilot test and present at the final research symposium!