• A call for lightning talks at scientific conferences

    At this year’s BEACON Congress, we had undergraduate lightning talks. One student, three slides, five minutes. Next. I rather enjoyed this session. In my mind, some of the most engaging talks of that conference happened in that session. (And I’m not saying this just because my student Dariya won an award for best science presented.) This got me thinking. Maybe we should institute lightning talks more commonly at conferences. And not just for undergraduates, for everybody.

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  • My gripes with prezi, and some suggestions for making good prezi presentations

    Prezi is all the rage lately. It seems everybody and their dog is switching over to prezi for presentations. My twitter stream has more prezis than it has powerpoints, keynotes, openoffices, or whatever else people use to make presentations. (Latex beamer? Please don’t tell me you use latex beamer.) Just last week, I gave a presentation on giving engaging presentations, and one of the first questions I received afterwards was what I thought about prezi. In my opinion, everything I said in my talk applied to prezi just the same as it did to powerpoint.

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  • Should you as a scientist be active on LinkedIn?

    Mention LinkedIn, and you generally get two types of responses. Either you will hear that LinkedIn is the most important invention in the search for jobs since the invention of the printed resume, or you will hear that LinkedIn is completely irrelevant and that you shouldn’t waste your time with it. In my mind, there is no doubt that LinkedIn plays an important role in connecting people with new employment opportunities in the business world. For example, I know some people here in Austin who run a successful recruiting company, and they operate almost entirely on LinkedIn. If you don’t have a LinkedIn profile, you’re basically invisible to them. (Did I mention that they generally look for candidates with advanced knowledge in data analysis, visualization, and statistics, basically the exact kind of person my lab trains?) However, things are different in academia. I don’t know of a single faculty member who got her job through LinkedIn, and I doubt I’ll hear about such a case any time soon.

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  • The emotional distress of being a new Twitter user

    I’ve finally broken down. I’ve made a Twitter account. For years, I tried to hold off, thinking that Twitter was something for a younger generation, with a better stomach for cryptic text messages. The typical Twitter conversation is such a random stream of letters and special characters, made up of usernames, hashtags, and abbreviations of regular words, that it makes the winning entry of an obsfucated perl contest look outright legible. My thinking was that I gave up on perl for a reason. Why should I subject myself to Twitter? Anyway, this weekend I broke down and made a Twitter account. And I have to admit that it has its uses. While I don’t see myself doing long conversations over Twitter any time soon, I can see how it excels at disseminating and sharing information.

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  • Engaging presentations and text-heavy slides

    At this year’s BEACON conference, Art Covert and I gave a presentation on how to give engaging presentations. The slides for my part of the presentation are available here. If you browse through the slides, you’ll see that some of them are rather text-heavy. I did this on purpose, to demonstrate that text-heavy slides are not the bane of engaging talks, if presented appropriately. By all accounts, despite the amount of text on my slides, my presentation was engaging.

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  • Common errors in statistical analyses

    This is a post I originally wrote for my lab webpage. I’m reproducing it here (with minor edits) as an exercise in getting to know this blogging platform.

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  • Why not write a book?

    I’ve always wanted to write a book. For years, I have considered possible topics, thought about detailed contents, even drafted a first chapter or two. Yet I have never followed through. I’m right there with the millions of people who fantasize about being a great author but never do anything about it. However, unlike most of these people, I actually am an author. Writing is a major part of my job. I have published thousands of pages, mostly in the form of scientific papers. I have written winning grant proposals. I have edited journal articles and conference proceedings. I have even taught university-level classes on how to be a successful writer. Surely, if I seriously wanted to write a book, I could.

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