Status Update – 2011/06/09

Lots of things have happened!

First off, I’ve changed projects, again. I am now going to be working on a flexible manipulator for minimally invasive surgeries. My supervisors are now Dr. Prokar Dasgupta, Dr. Thrish Nanayakkara, and Dr. Kaspar Althoefer. They are great mentors to work with, and have helped me a lot so far.

If anyone is keeping track, the original PhD project I was meant to work on was the flexible manipulator project. However, having heard about a humanoid locomotion project, I quickly switched gears, especially since that project looked like it had a lot of good funding. However, some technicalities in the grant thwarted my supervisor from providing me with a scholarship. Then, King’s College London (KCL)’s Guy’s Hospital was able to find a good scholarship to fund my PhD studies here in the UK. Thus, I decided to switch back to the flexible manipulator project.

While I am a little saddened to have to step away from the previous work and progress I had made with the humanoid project, it is hard to be too regretful, as the surgical robot assignment is also a great project to work on. Moreover, this “new” project is a bit easier to handle alone. I felt that the humanoid project needed a bigger team, more than just Dr. Nanayakkara and me. Then again, I guess it doesn’t help that I’ve made that team even smaller now.

At any rate, it’s also good to have financial support from the school, because it gives me the motivation to put in that extra effort.

Next up, on Wednesday, June 8, 2011, I gave a talk about nuclear fusion, moon mining, and space travel at the Sizewell nuclear power station in Suxmundham, UK. It was an enjoyable experience, as my presentation was part of a competition against 5 other finalists. Ultimately, I did not win, but I’ve been told that my presentation was the most interesting. I think I won the unofficial popular vote, but that wasn’t good enough for the judges. Nonetheless, it was a close call, as the other finalists had good talks, as well.

After the presentations, we were shown the nuclear plant’s control room simulator. It was a full scale, exact replica of the real control room, where workers train and rehearse emergency protocols. Unfortunately, pictures were not allowed, but I can say that it was a very large rooms with lots of lcd screens, dials, and buttons. They even turned on one of the simulations, and I got to press the big red button to trip the reactor. Then I had to turn 4 red dials to start the coolant flow, or something. It was difficult to pay attention amidst the little flashing lights and polite warning tones.

The competition was hosted by the Nuclear Institute’s Young Generation Network (YGN), and they did take a video of my talk, as well as some professional photographs of all the finalists. I’ll try and post them when those become available.