Our trip to Singapore excited the senses – from a fantastic cross-cultural workshop with students of NUS and Tsinghua University, to street food which aroused new parts of the palate, to a refreshing evening with Dame Wendy Hall sipping Singapore Slings and discussing the project to which we all devoted years of our lives: Web Science.
The trip was truly a transformative experience, in that we not only were able to sample the delightful steamed pork buns available at various 7/11 mini-marts, or the fluffy (almost cloud-like) noodles from Hill Street Tai Hwa noodle bar (which, with their subtle feathery texture yet pulse of life, made one feel as if again inside their mothers womb), but we were able to also sample and experience the ideas and thoughts of academics at the conference. In this way, the new areas of the palate which we explored in the street commingled with, and contributed to, the new cerebral areas of the mind which were awakened by talks from Professor Min-Yen Kan, Wendy Hall, and Mark Weal (whose talk I found personally helpful in my own research).
The second day – the day of the Workshop, was only a half-day for me personally due so an acute digestive problem, but in the time I spent with the NUS and Tsinghua, I was pleasantly surprised by the rigour of their thinking and ‘can-do’ approach to computational problems. In seeking to understand how AI can help combat ‘Fake news’, our friends at the NUS and Tsinghua approached the problem with zest and vitality – something I admired greatly.
All-in-all – the trip allowed us to not only discover new tastes and ways of thinking from our collogues across the world, but, perhaps most importantly, allowed us to find a deeper bond with each other as PhD students. Researching a single topic for months on end, one can loose a sense of the world around you. By having the opportunity to embark on a research trip with other students, I personally felt a sense of connection with my fellow Web Sci researchers, something I can only thank our CDT for.