What I learned from the online hands-on DFT workshop

During the last week, our group organized a hands-on workshop on the DFT code FLEUR. I participated the workshop as a tutor. I gave two talks and led a hands-on session on the Wannier function.

About the talk, one was about the basics of the Wannier function and its interface with the FLEUR code and the other was about the usage of the code for spin-orbitronics research. The first talk was provided as a recorded format since it is quite general and may be useful for users even after the end of the workshop, which can be found in this link. But regarding my own research I decided to give a live talk. To be honest, I was not quite comfortable with recording the talk about my own research because the recording makes it harder for me to be open to the audience. For example, I wanted to give my own perspective on the field, which some people might have different opinions. I think this kind of “raw” ideas are what inspires others the most, at least according to my own experience, even though the argument is not fully supported by solid evidences or proofs. Sure, I also wanted to present unpublished results from on-going projects.

Thus, I think for established techniques and knowledge, recording makes sense and can be helpful to many people. But about on-going research topics, it is likely that there are unsettled controveries in the field. Even I often my point of view changes over a few months. This means that something I say right now might not make much sense a few months later. I mean, I would diagree with my own opinion which I thought is correct in a few months before. Also, I think talking about only established or well-supported results makes all science activities quite boring. Imagine a conference without any controversy and everyone agrees. Honestly I wouldn’t enjoy this kind of science at all. I like to open myself a bit more when I give a talk. People might disagree, but I can learn from them if they give me reasons why my argument isn’t right. This gives room for me to learn and possibly to solve the problem by community-driven efforts rather than working alone.

Talking about the hands-on session, I found that it was more interactive than I have expected. I noticed that the participants can be roughly classified into two. The first group was quite active, and they ask so many questions, both regarding the workshop and their own research. They already knew what they want to learn, especially for experienced researchers. But PhD students who just started were asking questions in various aspects, which was very refreshing to be honest (and I liked them very much). I found that it’s quite nice to have a chance to hear different research topics and challenges to achive goals. The second group consists of kind of self-learners, who seem to be a bit shy. They didn’t ask questions and were very silient most of the time. During the session, I tried to talk to individual participants as much as possible but I found that several people were just silent. Some didn’t even answer at all. Probably they’re too shy to talk with camear and microphone. By the way, there were also a couple of funny characters. Some avatars were following me a lot whenever I was helping other participants or chatting with other tutors. It made us a bit uncomfortable because these people were listening to what we were speaking about but never showed themselves.

Let alone the workshop, I found also nice to dedicate a full week to think about the code itself. We discussed a lot about the future direction for developing the code. Especially I had two other colleagues who were helping me during the hands-on session. When there was no question, we chatted over various topics regarding the code. Sure we also discussed the best pizzaria in the city, which was very helpful for me since I haven’t tried many pizzarias yet since I moved.

Also, with the recorded talks and tutorial materials, I believe that we can make our webpage more helpful. On my side, I will give these materials whenever a new student or postdoc joins our group. So far, we transferred the knowledge in an old-fashioned way: One just sits down next to an experienced one in the same office and go through examples one-by-one.

Personally, I also studied quite a lot on the code and methods we’re using. To be 100% frank, although people from the outside may think that we’re gurus or Yoda on the method we’re using and developing, we don’t study basics that much. In my case, sure I have read key papers many times but it was long time ago when I first learned the technique. It’s when I had to teach, I studied the material again and realized that how ignorant I have been. I think this experience makes my knoweledge more mature, and importantly this knowledge becomes integrated with practices and experiences.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s