For my PhD at the MPI for Ornithology, I’m investigating the social behavior of wild blue tits. The project involves a long period of continuous field work which can be split into two parts: the winter season and the breeding season. Our goal during the winter season: to catch as many blue tits as possible! In November, we start with mist-netting until the start of the breeding season and it’s always the responsibility of the current PhD student to organize and lead the winter field season. In November 2017, it was my turn. I’d done fieldwork before in various projects, but I was usually only responsible for collecting my own data. This time I had to organize the field work, collect data that many others also depend on, and hire field assistants. Having four assistants working for me was a completely new challenge and I would like to share with you some of the experiences I made.
In 2008, when Manchester City FC (bear with me) were bought by billionaire Sheik Mansour, and given an immediate £500 million reshuffle of the first team, many thought their goal keeper Joe Hart would be one of the first to go. And indeed he did, he went on-loan to Birmingham City in 2008. The air around his departure was one of sympathy, though Hart wasn’t fazed, he was quiet and determined, and in public appearances he expressed gratitude towards Birmingham City manager Alex McLeish. He proved himself at Birmingham, and when he was subsequently recalled to Manchester City in 2010 he took the world by storm. Not only did he become the first choice keeper for the richest club in the world, but he also won the Golden Glove award for best goalkeeper four times in the next five years.
You might wonder why this blog would be interesting for you as a scientist. Well, have you ever thought about quitting your academic career and getting a ‘normal’ job somewhere else? Perhaps after another rejection of a grant proposal, you felt insecure about whether you should continue your academic career. Yet, for many of you, it might be difficult to imagine a life outside of science, or to picture the type of jobs you could do instead. In this blog I will give you some insight into the pros and cons of working as an ecological consultant, to illustrate one of the career options you have outside the academic world. Like any job inside or outside academia, consultancy has both upsides and downsides, and whether it might be something for you largely depends on what you value most in your professional life.
In mid-December 2017, I (Damien Farine) gave my first plenary lecture at an international conference. What’s more, this wasn’t any ordinary conference, but one where I would have an audience containing many highly influential researchers across all of the disciplines I have been engaged in during my academic career so far. The 11th Gottinger Freilandtage (GFT), a wonderful series of meetings organized by Peter Kappeler from the German Primate Center (DPZ) featured a great line-up of researchers (Programme here) to discuss the topic for this year: social complexity. I was so excited to be part of this conference that I invited my whole lab to attend, and together we presented 7 talks and 3 posters. Below I invited everyone to write about their experience (for several it was their first talk). But first my personal conclusions on the topic of social complexity, and then brief highlight’s of others’ experiences.
I’ve been writing scientific papers since 2010, not counting the physics paper I landed on as an undergraduate in 1999. For the last three years, I’ve put almost every paper I’ve written on a preprint server before submitting it to a journal. In certain corners of academia, this fact warrants an explanation. Some want to argue it’s a bad idea, others may be curious, and others may be fully on board but just want to hear another perspective. This is my perspective. Caveat: Some of my characterizations about the process of doing science, or of the peer review experience, may not ring true for some readers. So it goes.
One thing that students first experience during a Master’s or PhD is the conference circuit. These conference events are where students and career scientists of all levels come together to present their own research, discuss work with peers, and network to start up new collaborations. There are multiple things to consider when it comes to conferences, but two we want to focus here on are deciding which kind of event to go to, and social networking at conferences.
This post focuses on some of the ways in which postgraduate students with a learning disability –specifically dyslexia – can go about getting the best form of support from their supervisors to meet their specific needs. It may also be useful for supervisors themselves in assisting their students. This is from my own personal perspective and experiences during my time as a PhD student together with the assistance which I have had from my University.
I was a poor undergraduate student at the University of New South Wales (Australia) – engaging more with the social and sporting aspects of university than with the academic side of things – until I undertook an honours research year. I then engaged and developed a passion for independent research, and ultimately excelled. Yet as the first member of my family to go to university, I was not clear on the career trajectory available to me, and when my honours supervisor suggested I do a PhD I readily agreed and then we stood looking at each other awkwardly until I left the room.
At some stage during any career when applying for a position you will find yourself in an interview. You will be sitting behind a glass of water and nervously looking up at an interview panel glaring back at you, while your brain is churning and wondering what they might or might not expect you to answer. An experience, I believe, most of us have very mixed feelings about, to say the least. On the one hand, being there means that your written application stood out, that you have come further than probably quite a few others. On the other hand, however, an interview can feel like the deciding moment of your future academic life, where a small glitch might mean you’re back to square one. An interview can surely have all the ingredients for an intimidating and very stressful experience, and if you come to think about it good nightmare material. So the most important advice is: don’t, just don’t think about it, at least not all too much and only in specific ways.
During World War 2, those in charge of Allied strategic bombing were trying to reduce the number of their bombers that were shot down by German fighter planes. Looking at bombers returning back from sorties they noticed that they typically had most received damage from flak and bullets in certain places, and decided that these areas should be reinforced with additional armour. However, a statistician, Abraham Wald, made the counterintuitive suggestion that instead they reinforce the areas where they saw no damage. As Wald pointed out, the bombers that made it home had survived the damage that they could see; damage to other parts of the plane meant that it never made it home to be inspected.