Category Archives: Mentoring

How much time does it really take?

To present a scientific subject in an attractive and stimulating manner is an artistic task, similar to that of a novelist or even a dramatic writer. The same holds for writing textbooks.
– Max Born

When a graduate student come to me with the big news that its abstract has been selected for an oral presentation, my first reaction is a big congratulations and the second is to already set a deadline for a first version of the talk. Because of the abstract, you already know the content, what needs to be presented. But crafting an effective 7, 8 or 10 minutes presentation is a complete new game.
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Advice to new graduate students

  • Invest time in learning tasks/project management – start here.
  • Review all of your tasks/next action weekly
  • Set time aside to review your projects/goals on a regular basis (at least monthly for projects and quarterly for goals).
  • Set time aside to do something else: sport, tricot, …

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A 75 min presentation on Organizing Creativity

From the author of  Organizing Creativity, Daniel Wessel, here come an overview of the book in 75 minutes!

As I have said before, this is a must for all graduate students. I cannot recommend enough that you take the time, listen to the presentation and afterward download (free!) and read the book for more in-depth information.

Quite frankly, this book is so good that I bought the printed (color) version. Yes, a paper version, call me a romantic…

An interesting resource for PhDs, postdocs and early career researchers

I recently came across the following document by Professor Alan M Johnson, which appears to be distributed freely by Elsevier and entitled “Charting a Course for a Successful Research Career: A Guide for Early Career Researchers – 2nd edition“.

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O Captain! my Captain!

To Jean Pouliot (1958-2015)

Berkeley 1985 (left) and more recently (right)

The title of this post is from a wonderful and powerful poem by Walt Whitman, delivered to a large public by a passionate performance in the movie Dead Poet Society.

It is here dedicated to my PhD thesis co-supervisor whom, through the years, became of a colleague, a co-conspirator in many fruitful scientific projects for which we successfully “tricked” numerous students to undertake them (as we acted as co-supervisors), and more importantly a dear friend.

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Business management meet student mentoring

There is Nothing so Unequal as the Equal Treatment of Unequals

– Leadership and the One Minute Manager

If someone would have told me 15 years ago that I would write about a blog post on the link between some business management principals and student supervision, I would probably have reply “are you crazy, science is pure, untainted (yeah!). Business is all about money and nothing about peoples”.

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The thrill of abstract submission deadlines

Goals are dreams with deadlines.

– Diana Scharf Hunt

The last few days our research group has been literally perturbed by a deadline for abstract submission to a major scientific meeting. It happens a few times per year and almost every research group around the world live more or less the same level of excitement. Not only for the student trying to make sense of their data and get to present their work at key scientific meetings but also for the supervisor.

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Book: The Art of Explanation by Lee Lefever

Just completed the reading of the book the Art of Explanation by Lee Lefever. I must admit that although I really like Nancy Duarte’s duo Slide:ology and Resonate, Lefever’s book does focus on concepts that are also not that well covered in the other books. In particular, knowing your audience: to whom are you presenting and for what purpose.

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Warning, may contains more nuts!

I have previously described some inherent conditions related to PhD studies. It turns out that there is much to be said about undergraduate studies also.

I remember vividly in the first semester physics courses having one of the professor describing us the “truth” about undergraduate studies, in particular in physics. Why physics? Because this is one of these undergrad program where you are expected to do graduate studies to increase you chance of employment (relative to an engineering degree)

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The “me too” works…

Over the last few years, I notice (though it might be anecdotal since I haven’t done a thorough review) that the less original content is present in a poster or talk, the less likely someone is to acknowledge that their work is a remake and seems to simply skip proper referencing. This year, I have seen a perfect (and I mean it!) remake of a work we have published three years ago. The talk did not even had a single reference, not just to our work but to any works…

 

These talks or posters are basically presented as original, totally new. Is this a failure of the supervisor when attributing the topic or that of the student for failing to do a proper literature review?

180 seconds to explain your thesis work?

We have all heard of the 30 seconds elevator pitch. In  fact, if you search for those terms in Google, you will get over a hundred thousand hits. It seems that this has even been push to an art or even “engineered” systems.

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En route to ESTRO 33

Traveling with colleagues and students to one of the major scientific meeting in our field.

Year after year, one word come to mind: exciting!

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Warning, may contain a PhD

Recently saw a comment by a student about not being advised before hand that doing a PhD had many difficulties and challenges. However, my first reaction reading that text was to start laughing. Of course, all that was said was true. But the first thing that came to my mind was the famous warning when you ask for a sundae with nuts at a McDonald : you received (at least in North America) the nuts in a small, sealed separate bag (think allergies); this bag has a warning that reads (seriously): may contain nuts!

Doh!

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PhD thesis examination: you are the expert, behave like one!

An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field.

– Niels Bohr

Quite interestingly graduate studies usually take about 5 years total in order to obtain a PhD. It can sometimes be one year less or one or a few years over (too long is usually not seen as a good sign however). Assuming that this is basically your full time occupation, have you notice that at the end of this time frame, you will have reached about 10000 hours of dedicate training in your field.

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Are you at an exciting phase of your thesis project?

If we knew what it was we were doing, it would not be called research, would it?

– Albert Einstein

How do you know for sure that you are at a particularly interesting stage of your thesis project?

When the excitement spread to your supervisor, fellow students and the extended team (collaborators and others). When you present at a meeting and peoples come talk to you with that look in their eyes. When you are asked by scientists or other students unrelated to your project if you have published/submitted your results.

The flip side of that coin is that the pressure is on you (and your supervisor) to convert in a timely fashion to peer-reviewed publications 😉

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