We’ve recently gone through the process of hiring a postdoc. There’s a companion piece to this that gives advice to applicants on CVs and cover letters. But in this post I wanted to share some ways we tried to get a more diverse pool of applicants, and how we tried to make the process more positive for everyone involved. It may be that everyone does this already, in which case great! It may also be that people have other better solutions. This is just what we tried…
We’ve recently gone through the process of hiring a postdoc. I hate running postdoc/PhD searches because you get to read about all these amazing projects, being done by all these passionate, intelligent people, but you can only hire one of them! This was a particularly painful one as we had 69(!) applicants, and all bar one or two could have definitely done the job.
1st April 2019 is the 10th anniversary of me getting my PhD (I do still sometimes wonder whether it was all an elaborate April Fools joke!). In that time I’ve lived on three continents and visited 14 countries for work. I’ve made friends all over the world. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, and I’ve been bitten by several small mammals. Ten years seemed a good time to reflect on what I’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, and I thought this might be of interest to some of you earlier in your academic journey.
It’s grant writing season again (actually when isn’t it grant writing season these days?)! I’ve been thinking a lot about writing fellowship grants, as I’ve a number of postdoc mentees who are applying for these now and through the year. Our discussions have revealed that while there is lots of advice available on the sorts of things to write, and people are very happy to read drafts and give feedback, it’s often really hard as an early career researcher to know where to start with such a massive undertaking. As someone who is often completely overwhelmed by grant proposals and just gazes at a blank screen for days, I thought I’d share my coping mechanisms.
This post written by my ex-MSci student Charlotte Page after the publication of her first paper, based on work she did here in my group at the NHM. Well done Charlotte! Read on for a summary of the paper, and some details on the enigmatic world of river dolphins…
This year I’ve supervised seven Masters student projects, and second marked several more (amusingly I’m now at a non-teaching institution but doing more project supervision than at a university…). They’ve all been lovely to work with and hopefully they enjoyed working with me too! I realised through this process that there are a couple of things I’ve said to each one of my students at some point this year. In the interests of sharing I thought it’d be good to put them down here! This is aimed at students on courses here at NHM, but may be relevant to other folk too!
We all know academia is a bit of a pyramid scheme. Far more PhD students graduate each year than can possibly become professors. Students often ask for ideas of what they could do outside of academia. However, academics are often the worst people to ask, because we’re stuck inside the system. Recently, when I’ve asked people for ideas of what my students could do post graduation, they’ve said “data science”. But what is data science? And what kinds of things do people do in data science? In this blog post I’m going to try and summarise what I learnt about data science from attending the EARL - Enterprise Applications of the R Language conference last week in London.
Over the last couple of years I’ve organised a lot of meetings and conferences. In July 2017 I organised my biggest one yet, BES Macro 2017 (see Storify here) with over 150 attendees over three days at the Natural History Museum, London. It was great fun, but a lot of work! At the end of the meeting, it was suggested that we create some kind of hand over document for helping people to organise future BES Macro meetings. I thought some of this might make a good blog post, so below are some tips, advice and ideas. Of course lots of this can be done in multiple ways, and different people have different organisational styles. But hopefully some of it is useful.
2016 has been an awful year for many of us, especially if you care about science, the future of the planet, equality, facts etc. But it’s also been quite a fun one here at the Museum. As we enter the season of year end round up shows that remind us just how many of our favourite celebrities kicked the bucket in 2016, I thought I’d share some of my favourite moments of 2016.
One of our projects in the cetacean collection involves taking bone and baleen samples to extract stable isotope data (see this post). Often you’ll see in the literature that “samples were taken” but you don’t always get a full sense of how this works. Hence a post about a computational biologist, a powertool, and some 90 year old whale dust!
Guest post by my former PhD student Thomas Guillerme on collaborative science.
In September the British Ecological Society Macroecology SIG ran an early career researcher (ECR) mentoring workshop at Charles Darwin House. We had four expert mentors (Prof. Yvonne Buckley, Prof. Rob Freckleton, Dr Rich Grenyer and Prof. Andy Purvis plus me facilitating) and had small group discussions on a range of topics including applying for postdocs, CV writing, fellowship applications, mental health and work-life balance. At the end of the meeting we asked the mentors for their top pieces of advice for ECRs. We also asked the attendees what they would take away from the day.
This post was originally written by my ex-PhD student Thomas Guillerme after the publication of this paper. The accompanying paper has now been published here as part of Special Feature for Biology Letters on Putting Fossils In Trees: Combining Morphology, Time, and Molecules To Estimate Phylogenies and Divergence Times. I’m reposting this blog post in an effort to make sure each paper I publish has a blog post to go with it! See the Paper 2 section below for the update including analyses from the new paper.
One of my favourite parts of working as a researcher during the summer (aside from quiet campuses with less students around) definitely has to be the “conference season”. Indeed, I don’t need to convince many people that conferences are one of the lively and exciting parts of doing science that rightly mix traveling, networking (and sometimes drinking) and learning about so many new things (and sometimes hangovers).
In February 2016 we had our first day working in the collections on our British Ecological Society project “A Whale of A Time” (see our proposal). The plan for the day was for myself and my collaborators Andrew and Clive (plus Masters students Kate and Dan) to take a look at what was in the collection then make a strategic plan for what we would sample in our project. We estimated that we had enough money to take about 300 samples, and the original plan was to take these from the jaw bones of rorqual whales (Balaenopteridae - this includes humpback, minke, fin, sei and blue whales) of different species, from different geographic locations and from different dates. This didn’t entirely go to plan.
Is your research good value for money?
A Whale of a Time is the name I’ve given to the research projects happening in the cetacean collections at the Museum. However it is also the name of a specific project funded by the British Ecological Society on using stable isotopes to monitor changes in baleen whale diets through time. I intend to document the progress of this project here, so thought I’d start with our proposal.
In early 2015 the Natural History Museum announced that it would be moving “Dippy” the diplodocus from the main hall of the Museum and replacing it with a blue whale. This turned out to be controversial, but for me it provided an exciting opportunity to serendipitously expand my research into a completely new area.
New job, new blog.