Since the beginning of my research on unconventional computing architectures (e.g. quantum computers, quantum annealers, etc.), I have wanted to visit the United States and present my findings at a conference there.

It became a reality last year at the end of October when I had the opportunity to attend a conference in the United States. It was a weeklong visit to San Jose, Palo Alto and Sunnyvale, or Silicon Valley as it is called in the tech world. For me, it was definitely an exciting experience since it was my very first time traveling to the western hemisphere (and also my first time visiting Haneda airport. To be honest, the journey was full of “first times”).

Arriving at San Francisco!

I arrived at the San Francisco airport with my professor on October 22nd. Thereafter, we took the train and the bus to Palo Alto, where our hotel was located. The experience was quite different from that of Sri Lanka or Japan.

Photo 1: San Francisco Airport

Our arrival time at the hotel was too early for us to check in, so we went to the nearby Starbucks for breakfast (well, one bucket-list item crossed off!). As soon as I checked in, my first day was spent watching television! (Ain’t that a dream!).

Photo 2: Bus from our hotel to the conference venue

It was the next day that work began! On the 23rd, we visited a Sunnyvale lab with which we are collaborating, and we discussed certain research-related matters. Then in the evening we went to a nearby place to have dinner. On the 24th, the conference began. As part of the first day of the conference, I presented a poster.

Reflecting on the conference

It was a great pleasure to participate in the conference, listen to the talks, and to see the posters of other participants. It was nerve-racking to present my poster to professors and other participants. However, I managed to get through the day. I think I did a good job. As it was a three-day conference, the following days were spent networking, attending amazing talks, and discussing further research directions.

Overall, considering the research aspects, the trip was extremely beneficial. However, I wish I had more time to explore the city. During my stay, I was able to learn a great deal about and have a taste of American cuisine (bagels, pretzels, muffins, root beer, burgers, etc.). In a sense, it was almost as though I were a child again. Despite my best efforts, I have not been able to locate pretzels or root beer in Japan. Please let me know if anyone knows where to purchase them. Moreover, the accommodations we stayed in were very pleasant.

Photo 3: San Jose Station

What do I want to say?

My intention with sharing my opinion like this is to convey that doing research has its own set of difficulties, especially mentally. There are, however, some benefits associated with it as well. There are times when it is difficult to keep going and we feel lost. Take some time to rest and refocus. Research is not just sitting down or standing up and doing your thing until you obtain some results and publish them. Apparently, networking and travel are also aspects of being a researcher.

Photo 4: Trying to be photogenic in San Jose