Saturday, February 28, 2009

Academic Battle

I have been trying to learn a brand new professional skill for the past 12 months. It's called Digital Signal Processing. About this time last year I made the decision to focus my Master's Degree on Electrical Engineering as opposed to Computer Science. Ironically, that decision was based on the assumption that a degree in C.S. would be too much work (because of the programming assignments) and that DSP would be easier because it's math based, after all, how hard can the math be?

Well my friends, on retrospect I could welcome programming projects, I have been reviewing and learning math, math, math for the past 12 months. I think I am finally getting it, but only because of rote determination, by the sheer power of my fear of failure, I have been spending my evenings and weekends trying to know, and understand the material in the books pictured above.

From Calculus I am reviewing Integrals: Integration by parts, the number e and its properties, logarithms and logarithmic functions, Taylor Series, Fourier Series, Power Series, Trig identities.

From Signals and Systems I had to teach myself the Convolution Integral, something that I never saw my undergrad and something that was truly meant for computers to calculate, I don't know how on earth mathematicians knew these things before the age of electronics. Kudos to them.

From Probability and Random processes I realized that I am a math chump, an inferior being who can't grasp the simple concepts of combinations and permutations, who has trouble setting up probability densities and distributions. Random variables, Random functions, Random sequences and Random processes nearly took my sanity away last semester.

This semester looks more promising, since we use all the math in the foundation subjects to apply them and come up with working systems that transmit and receive information using electromagnetic fields, binary or M-ary signals. We learn about the signal to Noise ratio necessary to have a low probability of error. It's kind of rewarding to see how all the material comes together to make something do useful work. I never thought so much about something we take for granted on a daily basis. We expect cell phones to work, our laptops to get flawless wi-fi signals, our long distance phone calls to sound crisp and instantaneous. Behind all these things there were industrious engineers making things happen.

So I have been studying. I take a break every now and then, but I can't think of much else, just the family, the job, and the math.

I am glad I took this break though, after this a little more work and then put the kids to bed, and watch a movie with my lady.

Be good to each other guys.



Fernando said...

Uff. Looks hard. I took a math-intensive course last semester and hated it. Too much linear algebra and statistics. Good luck!

jmac said...

Believe it or not Jose, when something gets hard in my life...I remind myself of you and Martha and somehow things seem much easier. I've even told my brother (he's going back to school) about you guys and how you manage to do it all! Your hard work will pay off. I'm rooting for you.