Can you believe the time for New Year’s resolutions has come again? Maybe this year you can add to the traditional “I’ll eat healthily”, “I’ll stop smoking” and “I’ll hit the gym regularly” a new one: “I’ll look at statistics carefully”. You can start with these five simple tips.
- Reported averages might be meaningless
An arithmetic mean (sum of all values divided by the number of values), often reported as the average, in fact doesn’t say much about the average value.
Imagine you’re describing humans to extraterrestrial visitors. How many legs does an average person have? Slightly less than two.
Studying for a masters degree in science communication is a very different experience to studying for my undergraduate degree in maths and physics. Perhaps the greatest difference is in the amount of reading I now do. In addition to the weekly readings set for each module, which are mainly academic articles, you are strongly encouraged to immerse yourself in literature of every kind. This can range from popular science books to biographies, journal articles to science journalism, books about feminism to books about philosophy. Lots of books you’ll need for the course are available in the campus libraries and most journal articles can be readily accessed online through the library search.
You picked Imperial to become a scientist, engineer or a medical doctor. What do these careers have in common? You’ll need to write a lot: scientific papers, grant applications, lecture notes, popular science articles. Unfortunately, university curricula lack writing courses, so we end up with thousands of unreadable scientific papers. In my research I’ve chosen some mathematical methods just because the authors made them easy to understand; nobody has time or energy to look for interesting science hiding behind word clutter.
I’m a mathematician, not a writer, and my writing is far from perfect. Let me share five tips to improve your writing so that you can learn on my mistakes.
Years of research squeezed into three minutes? That was the task I and eighteen other participants of Imperial College Three Minute Thesis competition had to face on Tuesday 24th April 2018.
The rules are very simple. Contestants get exactly three minutes to describe their research to general audience, using only one static slide. Sounds easy, but trust me, it’s extremely difficult. How do you introduce your narrow topic, explain what your research involves and persuade the audience that they should care in the first place?
All nineteen of us managed to do that. I learned a lot about a variety of research areas, from planting forests in Brazil, to optimal mixing of coffee and milk, to gravitational waves.
My plan for today was to publish an article about π, to celebrate the International Pi Day (check out my last year’s post). Unfortunately we all woke up to hear very sad news: Stephen Hawking has died.
Only yesterday I and my office mate J. had an interesting conversation about the importance of social skills in academia. We came to the conclusion that while the stereotypical maths or physics professor is, for lack of a better word, a weirdo, such scientists are more likely than not to lose the battle for academic jobs. Research is all about collaboration and nobody wants to have rude or antisocial colleagues.
Watching cat videos can give you a Nobel Prize.
Well, Ig Nobel, to be precise, but still sounds impressive. That’s what I learned thanks to our Graduate School.
I just came back from the Ig Nobel Award Tour Show 2018 hosted annually by Imperial. Ig Nobels are awarded every year at Harvard University by actual Nobel laureates. The only criterion is: the research first makes us laugh, and than think.
Having attended the show last year, I suffered from a stomach pain after laughing too much. The “goat man”, Ig Nobel prize winner in Biology who decided to become a goat for a few days, still makes me giggle.
The mission of my life is to show people surprising ways of using maths. However, today I’ll make an exception: I’ll talk about an example of maths abuse.
Surely you’ve heard that tomorrow we have the Blue Monday, apparently the most depressing day of the year. Even restaurants and shops all over the UK become almost charities by offering great deals (I can’t believe I just linked you to the Mirror!) to make this day a bit brighter for us, customers – I’m sure they do it solely out of goodness of their hearts, without any profit…You might also have heard that it was scientifically proven and that this date is found using a mathematical formula.
Best part of doing a PhD? Conferences! When you finally manage to do some meaningful research, it’s time to present it to a wider audience. In other words, pack your suitcases and bon voyage! I know that attending conferences might be a bit overwhelming in the beginning, so here are a few tips to make the most of them.
- Find a good conference. If you’re as lucky as I am and have a great supervisor, she or he will suggest interesting events to you. Otherwise you’ll need to do the work yourself. However, at Imperial we’re flooded with e-mails advertising scientific events, there’s also Google and your colleagues who can give you some advice.
Some people were just born public speakers. Others are terrible at it, they suffer from stage fright and should just avoid talking to crowds altogether.
That way of thinking is very convenient but, unfortunately (or fortunately), not supported by facts.
Most of us have attended some presentations or watched TED talks that left us with a feeling: “Wow, this guy knows how to get the audience’s attention! I’m so jealous, I wish I was like him/her”. What if I told you that this guy isn’t “a natural”, but has been working very hard to sound so? What if I told you that you can give talks that people would enjoy listening to?
March arrives and it’s time for the annual Natural History Museum (NHM) Student Conference! I am on the student committee and so help with the organisation. There’s a lot to do organising a conference but we learnt from last year and with new members on the team it seemed a lot less stressful this year! Despite the stress and extra work being part of a committee and helping organising a conference is a great opportunity to learn useful skills and make contacts, so I highly recommend getting involved with one if you can.
Talks are compulsory for 3rd year PhD students like me so although I had spoken at the two previous years’ conferences (I need the practice :\ ) I was yet again up on stage.