Currently Solicitating Content Suggestions for a LaTeX Seminar

LaTeX (pronounced Lay-Tek) is a powerful document preparation language developed by and for scientists for writing manuscripts, journal articles, and even presentations. I’ve blogged about various aspects before here and  here on Upsection.

My advisor and I are currently organizing an Intro to LaTeX seminar for grads and u-grads here at McGill. Content we’re planning on covering includes:

  • Getting started with LaTeX (selecting and installing TeX software) 
  • General journal formatting, templates, dictionaries, and style files 
  • Figures and captions 
  • Tables 
  • Equations and special characters 
  • Building your reference library 
  • Resources, help, and cheatsheets 
  • Adapting your manuscript to McGill’s LaTeX thesis template (something I’ll be doing soon and I’m sure other MSc and PhD students will be interested in).

Are there any topics we’re missing? The purpose of the seminar is not to be all-encompassing, but to provide enough direction and resources to get students started with using LaTeX.

So what helped you when you started using LaTeX? Any tips or advice we should share with our students? Let us know in the comments!

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What do you do with reviewer comments?

A few months ago I submitted a grant proposal requesting money to perform some tests on a small aspect of one chapter of my PhD research. My grant proposal was rejected. I wasn’t surprised, this was the first grant I had ever written, so surely it was far from perfect. I could have expanded the importance of my research, gone into more detail on the analysis to be performed, worked harder on the accompanying figure, ect. When a grant proposal is returned (either accepted or rejected) to the author it includes feedback from the reviewers. In this case the reviews had a specified format for the reviewers to follow: i.e. Objectives and comments, Significance and comments, ect. I was quite surprised at the disparity between the two reviewers opinion’s of my proposal. 

For instance Reviewer #2 said the problem I was addressing was “Clearly Defined”, the significance of my project was “Interesting/Novel/Innovative” (the form probably just had check boxes for the reviewer to click), and that my methodology was “Clearly stated, well conceived and success likely”. Awesome, right?
Reviewer #1 disagreed. The problem I was addressing was “Not defined”,the significance was “Unacceptable”, My methodology was “Too vague to evaluate chances”. The accompanying comments from Reviewer #1 indicated that there was a complete disconnect and lack of basic understanding with my field of study, so far that I’m guessing the review wasn’t a geologist?). I will give them the benefit of the doubt in that my proposal was probably the billionth proposal they had read, that they had read it late at night long after the 10th cup of coffee had worn off, and that they were skimming every other sentence. Based on Reviewer #1’s comments it is clear that they did not know the terms, jargon, and ideas I was discussing. The proposal was supposed to be written for a general geology audience, so maybe I should have defined more terms. However, there was a tight word limit for each section of the proposal so I had to pick which jargon I should define. If I defined every piece of jargon I used that’s all my proposal would have been, with no discussion of what I actually wanted to do or how my idea is significant. Also, a quick Google search for one of the misunderstood terms yields a clear and simple explanation in the first result.
Based on Reviewer #2’s comments it is clear that they completely understood my proposed project and why I wanted to do it. Reviewer #1’s comments show they didn’t read my proposal. So where do I go from here? How do I find that middle ground where I demonstrate that I know what I’m talking about, still connect to a general audience, and stay within the word limit. I guess in future proposals I will have to set aside space to define terms.
What are your thoughts? As a reviewer do you have time to look up unfamiliar words or concepts? Do you have any stories of particularly useless reviews? Or particularly useful reviews for that matter?

Under Attack: What to do when your poster is under fire #AGU11

I by no means am offering solutions to this. Instead I hope readers in the comments will help out by posting their past experiences with this situation and detailing how they’ve handled it. That said, I need your help to make this post work! First, my poster experience.

My poster session at #AGU11 went really well. I was at my poster for the full four hours and never got a chance to leave. I was talking the whole time and getting great, positive feedback on my research, and some ideas of where to take it further. 
One gentleman did attack my work. The primary discrepancy came in the fact that he disagreed with outcrop features that I had interpreted as being cross-cutting. He had not personally been to the outcrop, but it was difficult to continue the discussion into the more interesting parts of my research because he would continually cut me off with “that’s not cross cutting.” Basic outcrop information that I had gotten across to everyone before (and after) was not getting to him. I must say it caught me off guard. This was my first time presenting a poster, and I was not sure how to handle this situation. I did my best to have a discussion with him, but it was very frustrating. 
Overall my first poster presentation was a positive experience, and it reignited my drive to finish my #SciWrite manuscript.
So please, readers and fellow GeoBloggers, if you (and/or research) has been attacked at a poster session please post the story and your insights in the comments section!