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Archive for the ‘Research’ Category

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 19

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Security while at  school is probably one thing that students don’t think too much about. You may have a key or access card to get into your building and your lab, and you might have passwords to access shared computers, but how many of you have given much thought to security on your personal computer or in your office? How easy is it for somebody to get access to your data or personal information just by sitting down at your desk? What about physically stealing your computer or personal items at your desk? Sadly, theft is a real problem on college campuses and many workplaces. Many institutions already have policies in place to protect people from this crime, but I would guess that many more don’t. For those of you that are in a security lax environment, what is the minimum amount of effort that you should put into securing your data and valuables?

I believe that at a minimum you should ensure two things: the first is that your office or lab is locked when nobody is in there. If everybody is going to seminar during the day, then close and lock the door. An open office with nobody around is just begging to have something unknowingly removed. The second action you should take  is to password protect your computer. I have my computer require a password every time it turns on and comes back from screen saver mode. This simple step makes it significantly harder for a would-be thief to have access to your data and personal information. These two measures represent a bare-bones security setup that everybody should have.

Further security protection may be necessary depending on your working environment. Physically locking your computer to your desk is one option, another is requiring a key/access card anytime somebody wants to enter your lab/office. Whether you are extra secure or not, take some simple steps now to avoid heartache later. These tips may seem obvious to some, but I’ve been surprised at the lackadaisical attitude towards security from many people. Protect yourself now, and hopefully you’ll never have to be on the receiving end of computer or data theft.

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 30, 2011 at 5:55 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 18

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Photo by matt hutchinson

Do you ever feel like you’re the only one who sees the logic behind a situation? Or do you ever wonder how everyone else can be so irrational and stupid? Well guess what: you’re deluding yourself.

Now before you get too offended, let me be the first to tell you: it’s OK. It really is. It means you’re human and it’s how you keep your sanity. But being aware of this fact can be beneficial to you and learning about it even more so. This leads me to today’s link: You Are Not So Smart.

You Are Not So Smart is a blog which focuses on the self delusion and irrational thinking in which everyone partakes. Each post handles a different topic and picks apart the fallacies that exist in that particular belief or behavior. All of them are well-written and researched, but they read like a good story that never gets too confusing or data heavy.

Take some time to read a few of the articles and I expect you’ll come away as impressed as I was. Some particularly good ones are Self Serving Bias, Learned Helplessness, and Procrastination. Hopefully you can learn something from his blog and eventually realize that you are… well, you know.

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 29, 2011 at 9:58 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 6

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My Master slideToday’s tip is a quick one that has saved me a ton of time when making presentations. Generally, when giving a presentation, you don’t want your slides to be a distraction to the viewer. At the same time, you need space to identify information such as the title of the slide, the university which you represent, and the number of the current slide. Some people, I would venture to guess, create images to block out the different sections of their presentation, and then just copy and paste the basic formatting from slide to slide. This is one way to make a presentation, but there is a much better method.

You can edit the default settings for a new slide and set up your desired theme as the new default. The default settings are controlled in the Master View. The Master view lets you control the appearance of all the different slide types. I only use the title and text slides and work within those two slide types for all my presentations. I have it set up so that the black bars, the university name, and the current slide number are always present in a new slide. This creates a consistent theme across all of my presentations and it’s something that I don’t have to worry or think about anymore. Spend a few minutes setting up your desired theme now, and you’ll save significant amounts of time in the future.

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 15, 2011 at 5:53 pm

40 Days of Tips, Tricks, and Links: Day 2

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Record keeping is a necessary fact of life in research. Much of this record keeping is done by hand in a laboratory notebook using a pen. With this in mind, today’s post is about where the rubber meets the road, so to speak. When you’re writing in a notebook, you need a good pen that can handle the job. Using a crappy pen can work in a pinch, but the better the pen, the more apt you are to actually write something down. When the tools you use don’t work quite as well as you would hope, then subconciously you will take steps to avoid using that tool. In the case of a pen, you may convince yourself that you will remember something you did in lab and therefore don’t need to write it down. Take the time to get a good pen and you will have removed a barrier to you being a better record keeper.

I’m a fan of gel pens for a few reasons. First, they write easily. I can jot down what I need too without applying too much force. This allows me to get down what needs to be recorded and then move onto the next thing. Second, they’re available in way too many colors. This can be useful in certain situations (extreme OCD being one of them), but generally I’ll stick with black, red, and blue. But having the option of many colors is nice. And lastly, if you expand their use to outside of school, they can give you some extra protection when writing checks. This applies specifically to the Uni-ball 207 Gel pen. Frank Abagnale, of Catch Me If You Can fame, recommends these pens for writing checks. If somebody tries to wash your check, they won’t be able to if you’ve used this pen.The ink will be absorbed into the paper of the check meaning a chemical wash will be unsuccessful. This pen is my personal preference, but hopefully you have a good pen available for your own use. If you don’t, then get one pronto!

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 10, 2011 at 5:59 pm

How to Organize Scientific Articles

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Grad school is the land of a thousand papers. You will be reading for what seems like eons. You have to read to learn; there’s no way around it. You will be surrounded by scientific articles and pretty soon they’re going to be getting out of hand. Organization will be key to reigning in this literary beast. Knowing where your papers are and how to get a hold of the information they have, and quickly, will be essential to your future success. Spending some time now will help you avoid wasting even more time in the future.

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Written by Taylor M.

February 5, 2011 at 7:14 pm

How to Make Your Failures into Success

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One of the most frustrating moments in research is when you spend a ton of time on some project and it just doesn’t work. Even if you prepare yourself mentally ahead of time, that feeling of failure can be overwhelming when you get the final result. A very natural tendency when this occurs is to let it completely bum you out. A single failure can ruin an entire today and it can have an effect in other areas of your life, not just research. So what can be done to change this failure? How can the positive be found in a situation which is just screaming failure?

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Written by Taylor M.

January 25, 2011 at 11:03 am