Academic CV Tricks

I’ve been reading a lot of academic curricula vita (CVs) recently. By “CV” I mean the academic-everything-you’ve-ever-done document, not the one or two page please-hire-me document that is called a resume in North America but a CV elsewhere. (This page from UBC covers the differences nicely. See also my earlier post on converting a CV to a resume.) I’ve been reading CVs because I’m on committees involved in faculty searches and scientist awards. This means…

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Genetic algorithms and galactic empires

I had my most-ever-popular tweet last week: Don't see a lot of arxiv papers with "humanity's ultimate goal of a galactic empire" in the abstract but here's one: https://t.co/bqhw2xixbm— Pauline Barmby (@PBarmby) February 2, 2017 The “galactic empire” bit obviously caught some attention! So what is the paper by Fung, Lewis, and Wu of the University of Sydney, titled “The optimisation of low-acceleration interstellar relativistic rocket trajectories using genetic algorithms” all about? Figuring out how…

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What is astronomy good for, anyway?

Big universities have staff members whose jobs it is to help professors get grants — whether by finding the right programs for their research, introducing researchers to potential partners, or sorting out the seemingly-endless paperwork. These folks often have graduate degrees and research backgrounds, so they know what research is. Like most people, they have a general idea of what astronomers study: stars and planets and stuff like that. But we often have to try…

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The strange world of the NSERC Discovery Grant

It’s 2017, which means that I have to start thinking about submitting an NSERC Discovery Grant proposal in the fall. For Canadian astronomers, this is a pretty high-stakes operation. These grants are our research-funding bread-and-butter since there aren’t many alternative sources of funding: there are no regular sources of funding from our space agency, for example. It’s a big source of anxiety (for me at least) because a Discovery Grant is more like a hybrid…

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More galaxies!

Back in October, there were a number of news stories with headlines like “The Universe Has 10 Times More Galaxies Than Scientists Thought”, “We Were Very Wrong About the Number of Galaxies in the Universe” “Two Trillion!” –The New Hubble Estimate of the Number of Galaxies in the Universe These stories were based on this press release which in turn describes the paper “The Evolution of Galaxy Number Density at z < 8 and its…

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Please don’t be a DOOFAAS

If you haven’t seen the Dumb Or Overly Forced Astronomical Acronyms Site (or DOOFAAS) produced by Canadian astronomer Glen Petitpas, go have a look. It’s pretty hilarious. It doesn’t yet list “H0 Lenses in COSMOGRAIL’s Wellspring” (H0LiCOW) which, I have to say, still makes me scratch my head. In astronomy we like to make up names for our projects, be they instruments, telescopes, surveys, or programs. Often these are clever or silly; usually they are…

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Tips for short conference talks

There is lots of advice out there on how to give a good scientific talk. But less is available on how to give a good short talk, where by short I mean 15 minutes or less. Non-astronomers might be surprised to learn that contributed talks at American Astronomical Society meetings are only 5 minutes long! I have seen many of these go poorly. Here are some things to consider, based on a seminar I gave…

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How hard is it to get a PhD in astronomy?

I’m not much of a Redditor, but my spouse pointed me to this post which asks, effectively, “could an average person get a PhD in Astronomy if they worked hard?” My answer: Yes. You do not need to be a super-genius to get an astronomy PhD, but you do need to know what you’re getting into. Here I am very loosely defining the kind of “smarts” needed for astronomy as “ability to understand a complex…

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What to do with your giant telescope

So you have figured out where to put your giant telescope and how to pay for it. Now what are you going to do with it? For astro-political reasons, I’ve been reviewing the science cases for the three extremely large telescopes (ELTs, of course) currently somewhere in the process of being built. In alphabetical order they are: the European Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT) the Giant Magellan Telescope (GMT) The Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) All three…

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Academic CV to resume: a worked example

I recently needed to convert my academic curriculum vitae1 into a resume (no, I haven’t been fired). While you can find lots of examples of how to do this online, they are mostly aimed at students as opposed to people later in their careers, and I didn’t happen across one from an astronomer. So here is my worked example; you can find my traditional CV at the link above for comparison. The requirements for this…

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