One of my more vivid memories of my graduate studies is a lecture on evolutionary models. Not especially because of the content (something about mutations, maybe?), but because of how it was delivered. Instead of starting with a question, and then showing the model, and then solving it, the beginning of the lecture was “Here’s today’s topic, what question do you want to explore?”. After a (short) brainstorming, we settled on a topic.
Beckett said “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.”. It is terse, bleak, and absolutely true. Especially when doing research, failure may be the most efficient way – as long as we fail in creative, novel, and interesting ways.
It is not a surprise that academia is built around gatekeeping. Admissions to undegraduate programs are competitive. Admissions to graduate schools are competitive. Scholarships are competitive. Positions are too. And publications. These are features of the system, which we must live with. But something more pervasive is general statements about what makes a “true ecologist”. There is no such thing.
Hey, before we start. I know. About grad school. I know it can make you miserable; this is when my first symptoms of GAD showed up. I had no adequate definition of work-life balance. I know there are a number of complex, related, systemic issues that can make grad school and the next years difficult. And then, there’s PhD Comics, and I don’t think it helps.
An invited talk at a symposium or special session is an important milestone in a career. It shows that your work is recognized, to the point where others seek you out to talk about it. And when looking at the lineup, there is often a lack of early career guests. There are a series of steps organizers can follow, to make sure early career scientists are represented, and can be heard. I will walk you through them in a lot of details.
It’s fall term. Do you know what this means? It means I’ll spend the next 12 weeks teaching Scientific Communication to a bunch of students, and thinking a lot about how to communicate efficiently. The first exercise we’ve done was to find an important figure, and discuss, in four slides and four minutes, how it changed the way we thought about science. It was interesting, because it helped me establish a baseline for the class (before approaching presentations in a more formal way), and also evaluate what each student will have to work on. And like the previous years, I think there are a few things that are easy to do, and would immediately improve presentations. Let’s dig in.
It starts, like all great stories do, with Lavender. When I was a PhD student, one of my projects was to study time-series of bacteria-bacteriophage infection networks in the soil. We had a little plot of soil, about 10 cm by 50 cm, in one of the remote university “green” spaces (Montpellier in the summer is the brownish kind of green). On day 1, we got our five soil samples, and started isolating them in the lab. Then after a week, we thought it was time for another sample. Took a fork and some falcon tubes (we were good at improv science), headed down the stairs. No more soil plot. It had been replaced by the loveliest arrangement of rocks,[…]
A few months ago, I was invited to an event organized by the Mozilla Science Labs, and I gave a short presentation on How to train data-driven ecologists. One of the key points in my presentation was the importance of community over institution, or broadly speaking, how to leverage existing training material that has been developed by the community.
I read, review, edit (and write) a lot of papers describing software for ecological research. So much so that I ended up developing a taste for it, and I thought it may be relevant to share it. This may also be the last blog post until September, so enjoy!
A good figure is worth a thousand words. But some figures can change the world in very profound ways. Today, I would like to discuss what I think is the most important scientific figure ever drawn.