Friday, September 10, 2004

Toronto, Turbines, and Tomato Sauce

Got back from my week long trip in Toronto, in summary:

-Thank you John and Meagan for having me to your place and being so generous. God Bless.

-Thanks go out to my uncles and aunts and cousins who were so generous with their time and transportation, especially Uncle Nick

-Checked out the local Chapters, The Sci-Fi Superstore (the comic selection was a little on the light side, but still a decent place overall) and Planet X comic shop.

The bulk of my time was spent with my grandparents and great uncles and aunts preparing the Tomatoes to be made into pasta sauce. I honestly think my generation is woefully unprepared for the amount of WORK that will need to be done preserve their traditions into the next century when they finally leave us. Having spent a goodly number of hours with them, I am continuely amazed by my grandparent's energy entering their 80s that would astound those in their 40s.

Of course, the main reason for my excursion was to talk to professors at the University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS, see the link). Overall, I think it was a positive experience, as it really opened a lot of possibilities I had not considered. Going in, I would have told you that I wanted to do Computational fluid modelling for aerodynamic design, but looking at the research that these guys are doing, I find there is a lot more out there that I could do. Here's what happened:

DAY 1: The first professor I met told me that he wouldn't likely have funding for me until next year, but he deluged me with research papers and a lot of other info and suggestions. Good guy, despite the fact that as I skimmed those papers I realize that what he's doing isn't really for me. The second guy is doing some fascinating research that would take advantage of my ergonomics and systems modelling training, but again, no likely openings until september. Professor #3, however, is a different story. He entices me with every hook (Lots of industry interest in his research, that he's had experience with Systems Design grads and thinks the world of them, possiblity of a job waiting for me after I get my Masters, etc), but what really struck me was that his research had applications beyond those of aerospace, including a lot of fields that could use a broad based systems person like myself. What can I say, he buttered me up. I left there feeling really good....

DAY 2: ...until I met #4. #4 did something I never thought I would see a professor do: He basically spent 30 minutes telling me how little anyone thinks of his research, how no one cares, and how he is basically riding it out until he retires. NOT A GREAT SALES PITCH. #5 and I hit it off fairly well, not just on the research, but on the fact that we have the same general interests, and that we are both huge followers of the X-Prize and the new private space race. We are both believers in space flight...and that's when I realized something....

I am a bit of a living stereotype. I'm the small town boy influenced by his father's science fiction (one of my earliest memories is at 3 years old watching "The Doomsday Machine" episode of Star Trek the original series) and inspired by the hometown hero astronaut whom the hometown threw a tickertape parade and named streets and buildings after (This being of course, Dr. Roberta Bondar). Sadly, we both realized that with today's culture, I might truly be the last of my breed. I hope not, and I will spend my life fighting against that sadness to prevent that prediction.

So there you have it. Now, here's the sticky part: Do I choose the prof with the better research or the one that I like better as a person?

Michael Paciocco

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