Better Grad Student

Be the best grad student you can be!

Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

We’ve moved!

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I’ve got some really excellent news! Better Grad Student has moved to its own domain name! It’s even easier to remember now!

bettergradstudent.com/blog

For those of you subscribed via email, I kindly ask that you re-sign up at the new site. You’ll see a link in the upper right corner. Thank you ALL for reading! Expect some good things to come out of this blog in the coming months. Thanks again and see you over there!

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Written by Taylor M.

April 11, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Posted in Internet

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 25

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A common occurrence among people in my field (chemical engineering in case you forgot) is that we are quite capable of doing high level math, but are terrible at simple computations. Things like 4th order runge-kutta and modified bessel function actually make some sense to us but trying to figure out the tip for a restaurant bill can be an onerous task. As our ability to do more complex analysis has increased, our simple math skills fall by the wayside. Fortunately, I have a way to fix this ‘un-education’ in math and many other disciplines.

I found Khan Academy the other day and have absolutely loved it. This non-profit’s goal is to provide a world-class education to anyone anywhere. And from what I’ve seen, I believe it! They have thousands of videos on topics ranging from basic biology to advanced math, personal finance to venture capital. It really is astounding the information they have and, from what I’ve seen, all the videos seem to be of very good quality.

For graduate students, this site may be useful as a refresher for a specific topic. It can also be very useful if you’re considering a teaching career. Watching some of these videos and critiquing them for what you found to be interesting and useful, can be a handy tool for you in the future. Take some time today and check out this site. You’ll definitely learn something in the process! Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go relearn arithmetic.

Please tell me what you think in the comments. Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

Written by Taylor M.

April 6, 2011 at 4:27 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 24

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Picture is sort of related.

Photo by owenbooth

Have you ever had one of those emails that, after you read it, made you want to reply back with the nastiest and snarkiest think you could possibly write? I got one of those emails the other day and actually started to compose a reply that I would’ve regretted sending. This email was actually from my homeowners association, so it had nothing to do with grad school, but I’ve had similar reactions to emails from people within the department and in the academic setting. I wanted to share some advice on how to properly respond to these emails so that you don’t start an unnecessary argument or burn any bridges.

The first thing to do when you get a message like this is to just walk away. Literally, step away from your computer and go do something else for a little bit. Take a chance to reflect about what the person sent you and think about what really ticked you off. Then think about what you know about this person and what was not sent in the email. The nice thing about talking to someone face to face is that you get to see their body language and hear the inflections in their voice. A lot of people don’t realize that what they send in an email can be taken the wrong way. When you’ve had a chance to calm down, reread the email and see if the message might not be as bad if there had been other social cues to accompany the words.

The next step is to start crafting your reply. Each situation is different, and some situations may not dictate a reply. For those that don’t, just brush it off and go on with your life. It’s not worth expending energy on and you’ll feel better by getting on with your life. If the situation does require a reply, then start slowly and thoughtfully. Gather your thoughts and try to control your emotions in the face of what seems like a rude or mean-spirited email. Even if you know the other individual was being deliberately rude, you should try to be the better person and not retaliate. It can really disarm people when you respond to rudeness with civility, so form your response on the assumption that the other person wasn’t being rude. I tried to take this approach when I replied to my HOA and I was pleasantly surprised. It turns out that the tone of the previous email came off wrong and by being respectful in my reply, it yielded a much kinder email that clarified the situation. The first email definitely could have been worded better, but by taking a moment to reflect and clarify, I was able to defuse a potentially rude and unnecessary exchange.

The key thing to keep in mind is that, in general, most people aren’t trying to be rude when it comes to email. Some messages are sent so quick that the author doesn’t even take the time to read what they wrote. Try to be optimistic and assume that the intent was not to be rude and you’ll save yourself a lot of anger and frustration.

Please tell me what you think in the comments. Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

Written by Taylor M.

April 5, 2011 at 10:37 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 12 & 13

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WordPress was misbehaving yesterday so I was unable to make an update. Worry not though, today’s post has literally twice as many tips as the last post. So brace yourselves!

I wanted to share with you two separate tools that I use very frequently to help with productivity. Productivity, and specifically productivity on the computer, can be a nebulous goal. How do you decide that you’ve been productive? You really can’t without gathering some sort of data on the issue. This is where RescueTime comes in. This small app, once it’s installed on your computer, will keep track of how much time you spend doing different tasks on your computer. At the end of the week, it will tell you how you’ve spent your time and whether or not this falls into the productive or distracting categories.

 

Red vs. Blue

 

The above picture is my efficiency summary for the previous week. I’m not 100% sure how it calculates the final value (maybe it’s just an average) but this basically says that, overall, I did more productive activities than distracting ones. They’re also kind enough to break it down by day:

 

Blue won this time... but barely.

 

Tuesday, I didn’t work at my desk much, and this is reflected in the low amount of time in both the productive or distracting category. You can also set up the time frame that RescueTime records; I have mine set to 8AM to 6 PM Monday through Friday. This way, I’m not recording what I’m doing at home to relax, and I can get a better picture of what I’m actually doing at school. There are several more settings that you can tweak and optimize, but I’ll let you explore those if you decide. Overall, RescueTime has allowed me to see just how much time I spend on distracting sites and helps me to budget my time more wisely.

Part two of today’s post is about a little program I love called Evernote. Evernote recently became quite popular when it was released on the Mac App Store, but it’s been around since 2008. The basic premise behind this program is to capture the information that you want to store, in the format of your choosing. As its name implies, Evernote allows you to keep your notes forever and it allows you to do this on pretty much any format: Windows, Mac OS X, iOS, Android, and WebOS.

 

Elephants... memory... get it??

 

A note can be any information that you want to store for later: webpages, pictures, videos, internet links, etc. All of these become searchable within the program for easy access. Personally, I use it to capture ideas and information for both research and this blog that I want to use later. It syncs up seamlessly between my phone and computer and has really enhanced my ability to keep track of ideas and to recall information for later use. If you’ve ever been in the situation of forgetting something that you really wanted to remember, which, let’s be honest, is everyone, then I highly recommend this program.

P.S. Both of these are free!

Please tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

Written by Taylor M.

March 23, 2011 at 5:36 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 7

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Photo by SergioTudela

It’s questionable whether today’s link will make you a better grad student or not. It will make you smarter, so that’s at least worth something. This link comes from the all-knowing Wikipedia. As I’m sure you’re familiar with, Wikipedia is packed with information on just about any topic you could ask for. In recent years it has become an indispensable tool for research and quick fact-checking. The problem with just using it for research or school though, is that you never get to explore the randomness of the 3,500,000+ articles on the largest crowd-sourced encyclopedia.

Enter Wiki Random. From any article in Wikipedia, you can hit the link on the side of the page and go to a random article. To make that even better, you can set that link as a bookmark in your internet browser. Add http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Special:Random as a bookmark to your bookmarks bar or favorites. Whenever you need a mental break, hit that link and you’ll be transported to a page to learn about who knows what. This magical ability is also available to you via the keyboard: while on Wikipedia, hit control-option-x (or alt-x for you Windows users) and you’ll be taken to a random page. Use this when taking a break to learn about something new and unexpected, but be careful not to let it take too much time. Too many hours to count have been lost in the sea of knowledge that is Wikipedia.

Please tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

Written by Taylor M.

March 16, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Posted in Fun, Internet

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40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 4

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Photo by Nasa Goddard Photo and Video

One of the many reasons I started this blog came from the fact that I enjoy reading many other blogs. I like seeing the way other people think and what they consider important enough to put into words. Finding quality blogs can sometimes be quite a challenge, especially considering the size of the blogosphere: as of February, there are over 156 million blogs out there. Science blogs, in particular, can be very elusive. The goal of today’s post is to rectify this situtation for you, my science-y readers.

ScienceBlogs.com is an aggregator of excellent science related blogs. They have over 70 different blogs that cover a range of topics including Life Science, Physical Science, Technology, and Education. I subscribe to several of the blogs on the site and I’ve engaged in different discussions on a variety of topics. Uniquely interesting are the blogs that challenge ideas or misconceptions that I have; I find this type of challenge to be exciting because of the new aspects of science that I’m constantly learning. Take some time to peruse the numerous blogs on the site and I’m sure you’ll find something you enjoy!

Please tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

Written by Taylor M.

March 12, 2011 at 6:05 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 1

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In the spirit of the lenten season, I wanted to do several mini-posts (40 to be exact) of some quick tips, tricks, and links that may help in the quest to be a better grad student. Come back everyday, excluding Sundays, for a short post on something relating to grad school. It could help you work smarter, it could make you laugh, or it could save you some time. I don’t know even know yet! Hopefully we’ll all find these posts useful… enjoy!

Let’s kick things off with a little humor. Most of you probably already read these, but if you don’t, then get on it! PhD Comics are a hilarious source of grad school and research oriented humor. Updates are seemingly random, but every single one of them is hilarious especially if you’ve been there before. Be sure to check them out, but don’t get lost in the archives… it could suck down a ton of time!

Red Ink

 

Please tell me what you think in the comments! Also, if you like what you’ve been reading here, why not sign up at the top of the page to receive emails every time I make a new post. Thank you for reading!

 

Written by Taylor M.

March 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm

Posted in Fun, Internet, Web Links

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