Three Years of ‘Science GIFs’ on Google+

Three years ago, Google announced the Collections feature on the Google+ social network. It offered a way to group posts by topic so that others could follow their specific interests rather than your entire profile. I created two collections, Data is Beautiful and Science GIFs, the latter of which I’ve maintained for almost three years now. Every week I post a science-related GIF and an accompanying explanation of the finding, physical phenomenon, or chemical reaction. I try to feature recent research publications and announcements whenever possible to avoid reposting content seen elsewhere online.


Google Scholar Visualization

One of the most common images I see during science presentations is the frequency of publications within a particular field over time. It’s a great way to show the growth of the field while attempting to validate the worthiness of the research that follows. As far as I can tell, most people manually assemble this data with sequential searches on Google Scholar or Web of Science. This seemed like a straightforward opportunity for automation, so I made a little website that does just that. It takes a Google Scholar search query and a range of years and plots the number of results over time.


Website Crafting for BOGO

One of the student groups I’m involved in at the University of Texas is the Biomedical Optics Graduate Organization (BOGO). We’ve recently had some changes in the leadership and I’m now the Treasurer for the group. One of the tasks I decided to undertake was an updated website that keeps better track of our upcoming events as well as helping members announce their publications and achievements. Unfortunately the webspace we’re provided by UT is very limited and pretty much can only allow for static webpages (sadly cannot use WordPress). I spent a few hours throwing together the new design and making it as easy as possible for future updating of content. Fortunately PHP is available so some of the more frustrating things to update (i.e. the list of members displayed in a table) can be automatically generated from a list of the users. I’ve also opted to use Google Calendar and Google Drive to provide functionality on the website in the form of our future events list and contact form. We’ve had some trouble in the past with incoming emails getting lost in our mailing list, so hopefully the new contact options will help alleviate that.


The Qualifying Exam: Part II

As of yesterday afternoon I have completed and passed my qualifying exam for the Department of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, the qualifying exam consists of two parts: a written response and an oral exam with a faculty committee. The written part was extremely straightforward and really just required the reading of background papers to adequately answer the questions. More than anything it just served as a starting point for preparing for the oral examination, which is much more open-ended and difficult to predict. All we were told were the time and place of the exam and the number of faculty members that would comprise the committee. There were four in total with two from my research area (Imaging and Instrumentation) and one from each of the other two research areas. Going into the meeting, that was literally the extent of my knowledge concerning the exam, which leaves the mind quite free to imagine horrible, horrible outcomes.


The Qualifying Exam: Part I

Today marks the beginning of my qualifying exam for becoming a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Texas at Austin. The exam is taken at the end of the first year of graduate school and basically is a check to make sure that you have the basic research knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to continue onwards as a doctoral student. The exam is broken into two separate parts: a written exam and an oral exam. Both exams are based off a single research paper, selected by the student depending on their research technical area (I fall within Technical Area #1 – Biomedical Imaging and Instrumentation). Later today I will be given the choice of two different papers to choose from. I will then have to answer five questions regarding the content of the paper, which is due in a week. At some point in the next month I will go before a four-person committee made up of faculty members from each of the different research tracks (Two from my track and one from each of the other two tracks) for an oral exam concerning the paper and more importantly my ability to “think on my feet.” If all goes well, then I’ll be continuing on my way towards getting a PhD in biomedical engineering.


Fun with Optics

I spent my entire Saturday helping out at Explore UT as part of a Biomedical Optics Graduate Organization (BOGO) outreach event. We held three forty-minute-long sessions with about thirty kids (8-11 years old) and taught them about optics and the properties of light. Thanks to some incredible funding from our backing organizations (OSA and SPIE), we were able to provide the kids with numerous hands-on, take-home demos including polarizers, diffraction gratings, UV color-changing beads, and a telescope. (more…)