This is a repost of an article I was invited to write for the Academic Life Histories Blog, a great collection of articles about navigating academia. See it here.
I always knew in the back of my mind I wanted to have children. However, I never really thought about when that would be. About halfway through my PhD that started to change. Work was progressing well and I was really enjoying the freedom of being able to dive deep into my own research interests. I was fortunate to have my own scholarship and a great supervisor who gave me all the freedom I wanted but was also there for me for long chats about science and academia. I was making my own plans and working according to my own schedule, which wasn’t exactly always nine to five. After some time, I suddenly started to realise that these conditions were actually pretty ideal for having a child and that, as I wanted to have children anyway at some point, why wait?
Towards the end of my third year as a PhD student my son was born. As I was doing my doctorate in the UK, that unfortunately also meant that I only had a few months of funding left. I took a couple weeks of paternity leave and, when my son was about five weeks old, flew with my family to Southern Germany for a job interview. I was lucky to get offered a postdoc position. I still had my PhD to finish though…
As a scientist, I think it is important to contribute to the community. One of the ways I have been doing this the last couple years is by reviewing a fair share of papers (currently 44 reviews for 20 different journals). Even if I am busy I try to accept review invitations if I think I can give a proper assessment of the paper.
I have recently decided to join Publons to have an actual official log of my reviewing activity. After adding my whole backlog of reviews it is now as simple as a simple as forwarding an email to Publons to keep track of my reviews. I think it is great scientists get credit or their reviewing and editorial contributions and think that potentially a website like Publons may help provide further incentive for academics to keep fulfilling this important job.
I’m always looking for ways to make my science more interactive with the public. What better way then to visualise your data and to make them dynamic and playable! I recently found out about Plot.ly, a website that enables you to create very beautiful plots that are fully customisable and embeddable and allow manipulation and interaction from your website visitors.
What I particularly like is its link with ggplot2 in R. With some simple lines of code you can easily make a plot you created for your scientific publication interactive and online. As an example, I will create an online interactive version of one of the plots in my recent paper on leadership in sticklebacks:
Here is the online interactive version. Hover over the point and try to drag the plot or zoom in and out:
This is a snippet of my late-evening train of thought on blogging and the start of a more personal and open style of blogging I’d like to embrace.
I really enjoy blogging. From the moment I created my nature blog mudfooted.com back in 2009. However, over the last years I have discovered again and again it is challenging to find the right balance with self-criticism and careful considerations to actually publish my ideas. It often takes considerable time to properly research background information before publishing new posts. Furthermore, having high standards to deliver interesting/fascinating/in-depth/popular content makes it hard to actually publish those drafts waiting in my ideas folder.
I have recently started a youtube channel (here) to showcase my research projects and interests. As a scientist I believe it is important (and fun!) to engage with the public and make your work understandable to scientists and non-scientists alike. Not only because most science is ultimately payed by the tax payer, but also because one of the main goals of science is to learn more about our world and share this knowledge.
Next to publishing papers it is important to make these papers understandable so that this new knowledge can be appreciated and potentially be used by the general public. The aim with a new youtube channel is to show videos of different aspects of my experiments and projects but also of interesting aspects of social life of both human and non-human animals that reflect my research interests.
Today I would like to share a short video from a recent experiment that shows the successful tracking of five three-spined stickleback fish to investigate the role of animal personality on leadership and group movements.
By tracking the fish we can accurately (mm scale) determine each fish average position in the tank and calculate individual characteristics as well as social parameters for the group, such as group cohesion and leadership. In this particular situation fish 2 was the leader of the group.