September 7th, 2010

Efficient Teaching

In Forget What You Know About Good Study Habits, the Times describes some important findings about how students learn that could play an important role in your teaching: Variety in content matters a great deal: In a study recently posted online by the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology, Doug Rohrer and Kelli Taylor of the University … read more


July 31st, 2010

Communication Skills

Carl Zimmer just gave a short talk at SciFoo on 3 rules for making sure your research is understood: Mentalize – Try to get inside the head of your reader (someone without your knowledge) and see what you are saying through their eyes. Choose every word – No jargon. Carl’s list of banned words is … read more


July 2nd, 2010

Learning to Communicate

A great article by Chris Mooney on the need for scientists to adopt better strategies for communicating with the public. A central point: Scientists read more assume that if only their fellow Americans knew more about science and ceased to be in a state of knowledge deficit, a healthier relationship between science and the public would emerge. … read more


January 21st, 2010

Network, network, network

I got my job at Google due in large part to having a friend working there in a similar position. My Microsoft job I found through a friend of a friend. My postdoc advisor at Dartmouth had met me previously at a conference. The same for my stint at Rice. And so on. Pretty much … read more


January 15th, 2010

What makes a good scientist?

There’s an interesting piece in today’s NY Times about what factors predict whether people will be good doctors. Everyone currently focuses on things like the MCAT, which measures some combination of basic domain knowledge and cognitive skills. What the Journal of Applied Psychology study described in the Times found is that personality matters a great … read more


February 25th, 2009

Pure vs Applied Research

Stephen Quake, a Stanford biophysics professor, has been guest writing a column in the New York Times. His opening column was on the links between pure and applied research. He raises a lot of great points about how applied research can lead to new ideas for pure research and vice versa (and includes a few … read more


April 16th, 2008

Graduate Education at Stanford

Mark Horowitz, Associate Vice Provost for Graduate Education at Stanford, gave a talk at Google a few weeks ago about some of the things Stanford is working on to enhance the quality of its graduate programs. After many years (a decade or more?) of having no senior leadership with responsibility for graduate education at the … read more


August 10th, 2007

Better Adaptation

If the people with skills that are the most valuable outside of academia leave universities in disproportionate numbers (as I think they do), students will miss out on what they have to offer, and there the risk that academia will grow progressively more insular. How might one counteract this effect? One straightforward remedy is to … read more


July 27th, 2007

The Importance of Communication Skills in Science

The Poincare conjecture was until recently one of the great unsolved problems in mathematics. Stephen Smale proved the conjecture for 5 or more dimensions in 1961, Michael Freedman proved the conjecture for 4 dimensions in 1982, and Grigori Perelman proved the final case for 3 dimensions in 2003. All 3 mathematicians won Fields Medals for … read more


June 4th, 2007

Effective Teaching

There’s an interesting piece in today’s Chronicle of Higher Ed on the effectiveness of regular quizzes on learning. Basically, it appears that the act of recalling information (as for a quiz) reinforces the memory of that information. Quizzing people soon after they learn something produces pretty big improvements in their long term retention of that … read more