Today I'm in Singapore with most of my students here together with Dr. Chan for the Conference on 90 Years of Quantum Mechanics. I hope they are at their best behaviour and learn as much as they could from the event here. Being the rare opportunity it is, this might be the last time I'm able to do this.
I would like to say a few words surrounding events with students the last few weeks and my own experience being a student for life. First, it is good to understand that we are learning something and why we are learning it. I think it is common to all that we do it for self-satisfaction, showing that we are able to overcome certain challenges and are capable to do difficult technical stuff. I used to receive comments that, being stereotyped, I would not be capable of doing certain things. For instance, at undergraduate, I was discouraged from doing supergravity and thus on returning home, I took it upon myself going into details of Wess and Bagger's book and Van Nieuhuizen's Physics Report article. Later, I got myself interested in Witten's Topological Tools in Ten-Dimensional Physics article and said I need to learn this. True enough, ego partly drives this but one needs to be level-headed and use it just as much for your own sense of self-worth. Today, I'm more into owing up to responsibility. I see that there has been a lot spent into my career development and would like to give as much back to the community. Partly in providing opportunities for aspiring students. Aspirations alone are not enough, the hard work must be there. Sleepless nights are common when I'm a student. Thus, I find it disappointing if the student is not up to the work expected. Worse, when they feel good about it. I've seen vivas where students feeling so much self-confident but left broken down. I hope my own students won't be in this situation. That is why, I worry to see some students brag on their capabilities but yet they have not been truly tested.
I tend to let my students free to do what they want and set their own creativity within limits. This sometimes run counter to what organizations want: graduate on time, productive in publishing and carry part of organisational goals. However, I'm beginning to feel the pressure of making the students toe the line and thus things might change in the future. Whatever is the case, there are few traits I would like to see in students: creativity, intelligence, hardworking, self-ciritical, appropriately productive and yet humble enough. I am trying to apply these to myself too and thus much more that I want to see it from my own students.
With today's conference, I hope get to pick up bits and pieces of research culture. Sometimes one need to go beyond our circles to see sometimes how much better are others than us. This will probably tone down our own self-satisfaction and make us want to work harder. I owe much to my Singapore colleague, Kwek, for making this opportunity available for us.