Week One

Its been a nice one week here at Durham University. I got to learn many new things.Most of the people I am working with are post-graduates persuing their doctoral and I must say, they are immensely enthusiastic about their work. It is a privilege to get an opportunity to work in such an environment. 
We are working on a project which involves working on exhibits that are to be displayed at the Royal Society Science Exhibition. Toughest part being, we have to explain Dark Matter and Cosmology to the general public which involves people of various age groups. Various exhibits have been planned and been worked upon by the Cosmology Department. There’s one exhibit(and my favorite) which involves using kinect to demonstrate gravitational lensing. Another being a simulation of universe formation depending on the temperature of dark matter. Also, my suggestion of using wine glass to demonstrate gravitational lensing has made its way as a take-away demonstration for the Royal Society.
At present, I have been entrusted with two jobs. One, making a web application that will allow the attendees of the exhibition to view their photographs clicked in the lensing demonstration. The photographs will be stored on a computer from which they have to be emailed to the e-mail address of the visitors so that they can view/download their photographs only, after filling a questionairre.This is a bit of challenging task for me since I do not have much practice of this field. But since, I am the only person with computer science background, this work has been forwarded to me(the earlier guy was finding it very difficult and this is one of the main exhibits). This will definitely give me knowledge of making applications which are to be used in real time by thousands of people. Hence proper care has to be taken.
The other being, making a simulation of the dark matter universe which can be viewed as a three dimensional projection using a very innovative app(DARO – Durham Augmented Reality for android phone/tablets) made by a colleague. I say it is innovative because it has made the posters much more interesting. One can digitally embed movies, pictures overlays, simulations etc in the poster and with the help of this app ( it scans a bar code on the poster and downloads information from the web) one can view all these things.This project is planned to start by the end of the next week.
Other things which I have learnt here so far, though not related to my work include how religious and dedicated the people are towards their work and stick to the working hours unless required. It helps to understand how important it is to have a balanced social life and a work life. One thing that I enjoyed the most in this one week was the Coffee Room(called the Bransden Room). Here, people(mostly profs and postgrads) are free to come anytime to have refreshments. They sit together and discuss about the research or project that they are doing. Often, the other person does not have much idea of first’s work, yet he listens carefully and offers an outsiders perspective. This really helps to look at the problem from completely different angle and often brings out hidden bugs or may answer some questions baffling the person. Surely, that is how the phrase came into existence- “A lot can happen over coffee”.
I hope to learn many more things in my remaining stay of five weeks and hope that I am able to fulfill everyone’s expectations including mine.

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