Category Archives: resources

Institutional Open Data

Things are moving in terms of Open Data! The Department of Energy has just released an update to it Public Access Plan (initially published in 2014), and embracing the use of persistent identifiers for papers and data, to promote the FAIR principles (Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reusability of data and metadata.)

Mariposa Lillies, from Alexis Madrigal of the Oakland Garden Club

And let me insist on the last bit:

Data without metadata is mostly useless

At the time where Twitter was a nice place to share thoughts and disseminate bite-sized knowledge, I thought the Twitter posts/URL were something akin to Digital Object Identifiers – you could post an image with caption, and share the link on your blog or with anyone (now Twitter doesn’t allow to share those so easily.) Zenodo allows you to creat actual DOI for your data (data will include your ORCID and metadata.), albeit not as user-friendly – and to some extent, github works the same way (the visualization and graphical content is not the best)

At Berkeley Lab, the Office of Research Compliance has updated its guideline, providing excellent resources to build a Data Management Plan.

Out Of Many

Last week I was lucky to meet with Vanessa Chan, the Chief Commercialization Officer for the Department of Energy and Director of the Office of Technology Transitions. She wanted to hear what kind of hurdles when it comes to start a company (hint: a lot.) I told her that a major, overlooked issue is that you generally to be a permanent resident to start at company in the US, whereas two-thirds of postdocs are foreign nationals and on visas. There are ways to get around the requirement (such as Unshackled), but it’s a little sad not more is done to provide support to those willing and able (plus – it is a well-known trope that many US companies are founded by foreign nationals, what I tend to believe is among what sets California apart from other states and other countries, where entrepreneurship doesn’t flourish as much as expected despite many efforts)

Conversation with Vanessa Chan

Resources on writing and presenting

Scientist lean many things while they study their subject, but never formally learn how to make a good presentation. Here’s a few resources that can be helpful to get started.

Making a presentation to an audience is important to get your ideas through, and while communication is a basic human trait, communicating effectively requires some thoughts (TED talk speakers go through a thorough training to get their point across.)

Don’t trust Tufte, go for gold

Someone who has a good resource is Jean-luc Doumont – he’s a regular speaker at the lab and Stanford, and a contributor to Nature and other publications. Here’s a few resources available online: https://www.principiae.be/X0302.php
(maybe this video at 1.5x speed is a good start: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=meBXuTIPJQk)
Another interesting speaker is Peter Fiske, who also made a few presentations at the lab; I’m enclosing his slides from some time ago (another interesting but unrelated talk by him is
Careers In Physics Workshop: Putting Your Science to WORK, about career perspectives, networking etc.)
In general, the workshops for postdocs are really good, and should be attended:

Here are a few things learned, for the use of postdocs where one can easily drown everyone else. These are based on my experience, but there are many resources around the web to draw from.

Some practical presentation rules 

(These are stretch goals; I rarely follow these rules myself, but they are useful if you don’t know where to start.)

Use 16:9 format (these days most presentations are online, and most screen are wide)

Start with an outline.

Often, using the title to summarize the main point of the slide is a good use of the title.

No text should be smaller than 18pts.

Use animations sparingly, to expose your thoughts point by point. Avoid fancy animation or transition between slides

No more than one slide per minute (if there’s more, you can probably merge a few points)

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Two ways to say things

I am a native French speaker, and I have always been confused by the ubiquity of English, language which is actually quite difficult to speak (why is tough, though, thought and enough so different?) And I was also puzzled the difference between liberty and freedom – no one could ever explain me the difference, even though “Freedom” is probable the most overused concept in American society (French has “Liberté” in its national motto, but is has nothing to do with “free” as in “free sample.”)

Finally, I found an interesting explanation by Jorge Luis Borges, who sees this as a feature, not a bug:

I have done most of my reading in English. I find English a far finer language than Spanish.

Firstly, English is both a Germanic and a Latin language. Those two registers—for any idea you take, you have two words. Those words will not mean exactly the same. For example if I say “regal” that is not exactly the same thing as saying “kingly.” Or if I say “fraternal” that is not the same as saying “brotherly.” Or “dark” and “obscure.” Those words are different. It would make all the difference—speaking for example—the Holy Spirit, it would make all the difference in the world in a poem if I wrote about the Holy Spirit or I wrote the Holy Ghost, since “ghost” is a fine, dark Saxon word, but “spirit” is a light Latin word. Then there is another reason.

The reason is that I think that, of all languages, English is the most physical of all languages. You can, for example, say “He loomed over.” You can’t very well say that in Spanish.

And then you have, in English, you can do almost anything with verbs and prepositions. For example, to “laugh off,” to “dream away.” Those things can’t be said in Spanish. To “live down” something, to “live up to” something—you can’t say those things in Spanish. They can’t be said. Or really in any Roman language.

(thanks Jordan Poss for the transcription!)

I really enjoy this notion of physicality – onomatopoeia are a vibrant part of the language: whisper, gulp, slam, rumble, slushy, etc.

Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
– Ludwig Wittgenstein

Let’s all clap for Borges!

SFMOMA x Berkeley Lab: Hybrid forms

Yesterday I invited Tanya Zimbardo from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art to give a talk at Berkeley Lab (details about the even can be found here: Hybrid Forms: Connecting Art and Science)

Tanya Zimbardo (SFMONA) at Berkeley Lab

It was quite interesting to hear her perspective on a topic which is close to my heart, and happy to hear many references to Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, who currently has the Techs-Mechs exhibition running at the Gray Area, but also quite surprising not hear anything about Jim Campbell (whose art glows atop the Salesforce building “Eye of Sauron”) or the work of Illuminate.

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How do you spell croissants

Finding the best croissants in the San Francisco is an essential quest. Here are a few great options:

  • Rotha (East Bay) – 1051 San Pablo Ave, Albany, CA
  • Arsicault (San Francisco) – 97 Arguello Blvd, San Francisco, CA
  • Marvel Cake (South Bay) – 1614 W Campbell Ave, Campbell, CA

I won’t dare to mention pastry shops that bake monstrosities such as Cronuts, Croffle or Croffin (there must beat cosmic justice, Mr. Holmes went down.)

I’ll take a minute to say a word about Bakesum (3249 Grand Ave,  Oakland, CA), a French pastry / Asian flavor fusion that started in Berkeley during the pandemic, very close to where I lived and brought me a lot of joy when I needed most.

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SMART & TGROW

Acronyms, I like acronyms!

Here are two resources that I found useful for (1) supervising researchers (SMART) and (2) mentoring scientists (TGROW)

SMART

(this is an excerpt from the Virtual Remote Mentor Guide -DOE-SC-WDTS Programs)
SMART is an acronym for a framework to help guide goal setting. It is intended to ensure that goals are planned, clear, trackable, and reachable. With SMART goals, you are more likely to achieve the goal efficiently and effectively. Below is an overview of the framework to establish SMART goals.

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1000 days

Today is the thousandth day since the start of the pandemic, and we still haven’t figured out how to hold efficient meetings online.Here’s a useful resource:

A practical guide to Remote & Hybrid Communications – Berkeley Executive Education
https://drive.google.com/file/d/14ztjFkkKQGHK-HOtebUOtu-Lpa3DanVt/view

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Penn State University (Fall 2022)

I had a great time at Penn State University, where I was positively impressed by the facilities and the people!

I mainly visited the Material Research Institute and the department of Astronomy and Astrophysics, where they are developing x-ray adaptive optics for space application together with NASA, for the Lynx project.

Millennium Science Center, Penn State University (November 2022)

Thanks Susan Trolier-McKinstry for hosting me!

Angela Saini at Berkeley Lab

We were pleased, as Berkeley Lab Global Employee Resource Group co-chairs, to invite and co-organize with Angela Saini at Berkeley Lab on November 9th, 2022.

Author Angela Saini in conversation with Aditi Chakravarti from the Diversity and Inclusion office at Berkeley Lab (IDEA)

More details about the event:
global.lbl.gov/events/idea-speakers-series-angela-saini