I just got my MASTERS!! Yeahhhh – And what have I learned with it?

This Feb 28th is the so called “Thesis Defense” day. It is where me, myself and I, after submitting the theses papers, put myself at the disposal of the thesis committee. In this case, “defend” does not imply that a I will have to argue aggressively about my work (although I see myself doing it).

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Rather, the thesis defense is designed so that faculty members can ask questions and make sure that students actually understand their field and focus area. It serves as a formality because the paper will already have been evaluated ( have been… it is called Qualification Process). During a defense, a student will be asked questions by members of the thesis committee. Questions are usually open-ended and require that the student think critically about his or her work. The event is supposed to last from one to 3 hours, I have heard it could take more.. geees!

The Defense, is the crowning event of at least 2 years of hard study, dedication and sacrifice. And I want to tell you what I have learned with it.

It is not as hard and mystic as it seems

At least here in Brazil, masters, or as we call it “Mestrado” is not as common as it should be. It has some sort of mysticism around it, like if it was reserved for a certain “class” of student and society. People really tend to go for an MBA. MBA in Brazil, although stands for – Masters in Business Administration, has nothing to do with masters Strict Sensu and it just a Lato-Sensu course, or a specialization. I’m not taking out the credit of those that chooses the MBA, but it is different. The MBA, in the country has a more commercial practical focus. Also it is offered during the night, or weekends which helps a lot those that actually have a job to attend. I guess that is the main reason people tend to go that way. In the other hand a full blown masters course, is considered too academical or meant for those that want to pursue a professor, researcher or academic career. This is not entirely true! You can enroll to a master course, continue to work in the industry and solve a real world problem.

This is part of the mysticism that goes around a Masters course. It is not only meant for academics, it is not meant only for super nerds researchers and you can do it while you keep your actual job! It is true, that the work you have must give you certain flexibility and freedom to cope with the crazy schedules that some schools push, but it is possible.

You can have a job that is not related to universities and academic world. You can work anywhere you want. In fact, big tech companies are the ones that employs masters graduates the most. And, there is a probability that your salary increases by up to 80% if you have a master degree.

The professors and board of teachers are pretty much regular people, with experience on some topics and areas of research.. but are NOT the owners of the entire knowledge. It is pretty common that the student knows more about a given topic than the professor. He is there, to help you to adjust your thought process and writing your ideas within the accepted scientific methodology but he is not a God with omniscience. You can argue, you can defend a statement, heck, you can actually fight with your professor (although not a good idea) if you think X is equal Y.

The other aspect of the mysticism of the Master course is that you are there to learn and have classes.Myth! There is no way for the school to teach each student the specifics about his work. What you actually learn is how to organize your thought process, how to treat numbers you may collect from your research, how to use others work to build the fundamentals of your work. That is it. Don’t expect to be there and have classes of advanced math or signal processing or any in depth classes about your field. That’s not going to happen. Instead you have several classes of debate, several seminars to expose your ideas and have the other student to confront, challenge and disagree with you. You have some writing classes, you have basic statistics classes and a lot of seminars. That’s where the knowledge and ideas are born. That’s where you mature and learn how to “defend” your work and identify potential flaws in it, by discussing it with other people.

Since it depends on you, to understand, collect, test, treat and present the work.. it is not as hard as it seems. give it a try. You might surprise your self.

It is a victory in solitude

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It is sad! I know. But it is the hard truth. There is a big chance that not a single soul around you will actually understand what you are doing. I mean, friends, family co-workers. None of them will, one – be interested about what you discovered, two – be willing to discuss it in detail. Nobody cares! If you are married, your wife will be interested about when you will finish it so she can have you back to regular life. Or when you will stop spending the night reading to give more attention to your kids, or – my case – When you will be finished to be able to request a raise at your current job!

There wont be any question about the inner details of your research, and if they initially show interest.. that is rapidly lost when you start going on and on about it.

Upon completion, your friends will be excited to know that you have finished it with success.. remember the myth that it is super hard and reserved for some people? Sure, they will be thrilled with the news. But don’t think they are really interested in bits and bytes of it. And it is not because the don’t like you, or have no interest on your stuff.. it is just because the don’t understand it.. and it is really hard to relate with something you have no idea about.. they are (as everybody else) afraid to look stupid.

Isn’t it sad? That you research, and successfully develop something that could be used by society and have the potential to put your name in the field history.. and nobody cares?! You can’t share it, or brag about it :)?! Come on!! So sad!

It is indeed a victory in solitude. Be glad you made it. The hours, the sacrifice is totally worth!!. Knowledge is one the few things you can actually keep and its value can’t be measured. It is however a satisfaction that only you will feel in its fullness. It is ok!

Are you curious to know what I have studied? Probably not, Maybe?!

My thesis is called – Image Perceptual Hash applied for Video Copy identification. and here is the abstract.

With the event of the Internet, video and image files are widely shared and consumed by users from all over the world. Thus, methods to identify these files have emerged as a way to preserve intelectual and commercial rights. Content based identification or perceptual hashing is the technique capable of generating a numeric identifier from the image characteristics. With this identifier, it is possible compare and decide if two images are equal, similar or different. This study has as objective discuss the application of image perceptual hashing to identify video copies. It proposes the usage of known and public methods such as the Average and Difference Hash that are based on statistics of the image also Phash and Wavelet hash that are based on the image frequency.

An identification technique was applied using a Hamming distance similarity threshold and the combination of perceptual hash algorithms for video copy identification. The method was tested by applying several attacks to the candidate video and the results were properly detailed. It is possible to use perceptual hash algorithms for video copy identification, and there are benefits when there is a combination of more than one of them filling performance gaps and vulnerabilities eliminating false positives

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