Here is a compilation of potentially useful material for graduate (and undergraduate) students related to giving presentations, writing your first paper, communication, job market etc.
General advice and inspiration
How to be a modern scientist (book). Practical advice on writing papers, giving talks, code, reproducibility and data sharing. I wish I read this book when I was beginning grad school
Scientist: Four golden lessons (Nature), by Steven Weinberg (physics Nobel laureate)
How to choose a good scientific problem (Molecular Cell)
Benefits of diversity (Nature Physics), by Abraham Loeb. Discoveries in astronomy can only happen when people are open-minded and willing to take risks.
The obstacle is the way: The timeless art of turning obstacles into triumph. Progress is hard, and it takes the right mindset to advance a field. Important life lessons from stoicism.
I annotated this decades-old “how to do research” document. It was prepared for new grad students at the MIT AI Lab, but I found that a considerable fraction of the advice here also applies to new grad students in astro(physics) everywhere. Advice on: • emotional factors and mental health • how to pick an advisor • how to get connected • learning other fields • research notebooks • writing.
Designing your talk well:
- Giving an academic talk (Berkeley)
- Rethinking scientific presentation slides (Penn State): i.e. designing presentation slides that don’t suck. Along the same lines: How to give a good talk (Molecular Cell)
General advice about improving your presentation skills: preparation, producing, delivering, language and more.
And improving it:
- Tips for killer presentations (Life Hacker)
- What not to do in your talk: How to Create Presentations that Don’t Suck (Life Hacker)
Great practices in scientific computing (arXiv). Set of computing tools and techniques that every researcher can and should adopt.
Ten Simple Rules for Better Figures (PLOS), with examples
Reading a paper
How to read a scientific article
HOWTO: • locate papers and assimilate their results • present a paper to colleagues • collect notes, PDFs and references
Writing a paper
HOWTOs (few pages)
- Be concise yet precise. A guide to scientific writing. Handbook for late stage undergraduate students and graduate students working towards a thesis, report or journal article.
- Writing papers like a modern scientist. This is one of the chapters of the book “how to be a modern scientist“.
- 12 steps for an effective first draft
- Typical structure of a paper
- This can be helpful to learn how to write an abstract for a paper: How to write a Nature summary paragraph.
- Nothing beats practice: once you have results, sit down and start writing. This is part of the “launch and iterate” philosophy that we discussed in our group meetings.
- The first draft of the paper will probably not be so great, and that is totally normal. After a couple of revision rounds, it will improve considerably.
- Reading a lot of papers will help you visualising how you should structure yours.
The book How to Write and Publish a Scientific Paper describes the process of writing a paper in a lot of detail, breaking down the typical sessions of a paper and strategies for writing.
Book with suggestions on how to be more productive at writing: How to Write a Lot: A Practical Guide to Productive Academic Writing.
The academic job market
Prepare for the job market while you are in grad school: it’s a tough world out there
Applying for a hubble fellowship (lots of advice here applies as well to other fellowships – Einstein, NASA NPP etc)
Thinking outside the box: Advice by Avi Loeb
It is common practice among young astrophysicists these days to invest research time conservatively in mainstream ideas that have already been explored extensively in the literature […]. [I] argue that young researchers should always allocate a small fraction of their academic portfolio to innovative projects with risky but potentially highly profitable returns.Taking “The Road Not Taken”: On the Benefits of Diversifying Your Academic Portfolio.
In physics the value of a theory is measured by its agreement with experimental data. But how should the physics community gauge the value of an emerging theory that has not been tested experimentally as of yet? With no reality check, a hypothesis like string theory may linger for a while before physicists will know its actual value in describing nature. In this short article, I advocate the need […] to alert the community of the risk from future theory bubbles.Rating Growth of Scientific Knowledge and Risk from Theory Bubbles. In Brasil, there are unfortunately many researchers working on “theory bubbles” that will lead nowhere.
Any ambitious construction project requires architects and engineers. As research shifts towards large groups that focus on the engineering aspects of linking data to existing models, architectural skills are becoming rare among young theorists. […] Albert Einstein once said: “If you always do what you always did, you will always get what you always got.”Thinking outside the simulation box