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Thursday, November 15, 2018

Boundless complexity - University of Victoria | Science - UVic News

Astronomy professor Sara Ellison, who plays violin in her free time, says studying the night sky is like learning to appreciate the intricacies of music.

Leading astrophysicist Sara Ellison unravels how galaxies, such as the Milky Way, form and evolve.
Photo: UVic Photo Services.
When Sara Ellison looks up at the stars, she does so with the hallmark precision of a scientist. “After so many years of studying astronomy, it’s hard for me to channel the humanist wonder that most people have when they look into the night sky,” says the University of Victoria astrophysicist. But her wonder been replaced with something more profound.

As a professor in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Ellison is part of UVic’s distinguished astronomy, astrophysics and cosmology group, one of the best such programs in Canada. Her work focuses on galaxies—gravitationally bound systems, such as the Milky Way, that contain millions to trillions of stars, along with gas, dust and dark matter—and tries to unravel how these endlessly complex systems form and evolve.

Ellison has been examining galaxy mergers—a deceivingly benign-sounding process wherein galaxies are pulled towards each other by gravitational forces, causing the orbits of billions of stars to break and reform. Less visibly, but more importantly, the gas that is spread between the stars is also affected by gravitational forces, spiralling inwards where it can pile up to form new stars and cascade onto the galaxy’s central supermassive black hole...

Over the past couple of years, Ellison has spent her spare time—between being a researcher, graduate advisor, supervisor and mother—learning how to play the violin. “I started with learning ‘Three Blind Mice’, and I’m still quite bad,” she says. “But I’m playing with a local folk orchestra and it’s a lot of fun.”

Source: UVic News 

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For 21st year, Jeff Buckley’s musical fans honor his classic Chicago concert | Music - Chicago Sun-Times

The late singer-songwriter’s manager says the shows at Buckley’s first local venue, Uncommon Ground, “keep Jeff’s memory alive.”

Manager Dave Lory with Jeff Buckley.
Photo: Merri Cyr
Jeff Buckley only played Chicago three times before his untimely passing in 1997, but his first was arguably his best.

On a cold, snowy night in February 1994, the revered singer-songwriter filled the quaint listening room at Uncommon Ground on Clark Street with soulful, spine-tingling renditions of songs like “Mojo Pin” and “Eternal Life.” Both were featured on his “Live at Sin-é” EP debut (recorded at a coffeeshop in New York City’s East Village in 1993) and would later become the material of “Grace,” Buckley’s only completed studio album, synonymous with the epic, haunting cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” that refuses to fade away.

Every November, that original, haunting performance is memorialized with a popular series of tribute shows at Uncommon Ground on Buckley’s birthday, now in its 21st annual edition. Buckley’s mom Mary Guibert is often in attendance, and proceeds are donated to the Old Town School of Folk Music scholarship fund to help the next generation of great songwriters, making it even more special...

Earlier this year, Lory opened up about Buckley in a book, “Jeff Buckley From Hallelujah to the Last Goodbye.” Released in May, it has been lauded for its rare intimate look at the talent, starting at the moment Lory nearly walked out on Buckley at their first meeting because he was 45 minutes late, to the day he got “the call” about Jeff’s disappearance, later discovering that he had drowned accidentally in Memphis. The release of Lory’s book was followed by a worldwide tour over the summer where audience members could ask him questions and had the first chance to hear a live album, recorded at Australia’s Triple J studios, that has never been released.

“People ask why it took me 21 years to write the book, but the truth is I found it too painful, too raw to revisit,” says Lory, who was finally convinced after seeing a psychic and believing he got a message from Jeff from the other side. “I realized I never really grieved for him until writing this book.”
Read more... 

Related link
Jeff Buckley - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Source: Chicago Sun-Times

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Google releases Magenta studio beta, an open source python machine learning library for music artists | Data News - Packt Hub

Melisha Dsouza, Author at Packt Hub reports, On 11th November, the Google Brain Team released Magenta studio in beta, a suite of free music-making tools using their machine learning models. 

Photo: Magenta Studio (beta)

It is a collection of music plugins built on Magenta’s open source tools and models.  These tools are available both as standalone Electron applications as well as plugins for Ableton Live

What is Project Magenta? 
Magenta is a research project which was started by some researchers and engineers from the Google Brain team with significant contributions from many other stakeholders. The project explores the role of machine learning in the process of creating art and music. It primarily involves developing new deep learning and reinforcement learning algorithms to generate songs, images, drawings, and other materials. It also explores the possibility of building smart tools and interfaces to allow artists and musicians to extend their processes using these models.

Magenta is powered by TensorFlow and is distributed as an open source Python library. This library allows users to manipulate music and image data which can then be used to train machine learning models. They can generate new content from these models. The project aims to demonstrate that machine learning can be utilized to enable and enhance the creative potential of all people.

Source: Packt Hub

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We're Still Learning How Music Helps Us Sleep |

In a new study, scientists surveyed about 650 people to see if they used music as a sleep aid, as reports.

Bach and Mozart
Use music to help yourself sleep? You're not alone.

Roughly 62 percent of respondents said they used music to help fall asleep, with classical composers like Bach and Mozart being among the most popular choices. Those who used music were on average younger, reported higher levels of stress and had a poorer sleep quality than those who didn't.

Researchers noted most participants relied on music to relax because they thought it stimulated sleep and blocked noises that might wake them up.
Read more... 

Additional resources 
The music that helps people sleep and the reasons they believe it works: A mixed methods analysis of online survey reports.


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Embarking on a PhD: failure is inevitable in the face of progress | Student - Times Higher Education

Blogger Olly Bowling, is doing his PhD at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh felt the fear of failure before starting his PhD but some wise words from literature helped to assuage those feelings.

Photo: iStock

As a person just beginning a PhD, there are many feelings floating around about my upcoming three (plus) years. Least of all is the fear of failure; that incessant thought that casts doubt on your abilities. Recently, I discovered a quote by the writer Samuel Beckett: “[E]ver tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try Again. Fail again. Fail better.

Despite the fact that this quote is from a typically bleak writer, it is comforting to hear someone so well respected express that failure is not only inevitable but entwined with any form of progression.

This has brought me some comfort in starting my PhD. I know that the academic world can be intimidating, filled with words that we don’t fully understand, and well-read academics who throw them around. However, now that I have started, I’ve become more at peace with the fact that I am new to this world. The knowledge will come with time and lots of hard work. I’ll do things wrong. I’ll write terrible first drafts that I’m sure I’ll look at in a few years and cringe. There’s a sense of comfort in accepting that I will fail but that I have to keep going if I want to improve...

Time away from research is necessary, and I found this to be a really important part of doing my master’s; having a routine of when to work and when not to work helped balance my life so I could still fit in seeing friends or playing sport and doing the other things that I enjoy doing in my spare time.
Read more... 

Recommended Reading

Photo: Harvard Yard
Third of top US professors got PhD at five universities by Simon Baker, data editor. 
"Figures have ‘alarming’ implications for equality in US academia, says researcher who analysed professoriate’s background."

Source: Times Higher Education

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Wednesday, November 14, 2018

NC State Education Adds Ph.D. Program Specialization in Social Justice Education | Academics and Programs - NC State University

Cherry Crayton, director of marketing and communication at College of Education at NC State University notes, The NC State College of Education has added a Doctorate of Philosophy in Teacher Education and Learning Sciences with an emphasis in Social Justice Education that will prepare scholar-activists to lead in championing educational success for all.

Photo: NC State University
Applications are now being accepted for this specialization area, which will enroll its first students in Fall 2019. The deadline to apply is Dec. 1, 2018.

“The goal of the program is to help educators recognize and disrupt systems of oppression by helping to foster and create equitable learning environments,” said Jessica DeCuir-Gunby, a professor of educational psychology and Director of Graduate Programs for the Teacher Education and Learning Sciences Department.

The Ph.D. in Social Justice Education Program will be housed in the Department of Teacher Education and Learning Sciences, and its core faculty will come from a variety of focus areas within the field of education, including educational psychology, literacy education, multicultural studies, social studies, English Language Arts education and special education. Their research focuses on social justice teacher education, multicultural education and literacy, education and immigration, and diversity and equity in schools and communities...

Learn more about the program’s coursework and admissions requirements on its program specialization page. You can also complete the form below to have a faculty member follow up with you with additional information.
Read more... 

Source: NC State University

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UWF and IHMC partner to launch new robotics research doctorate program | Pensacola News Journal

Jim Little, Reporter at Pensacola News Journal inform, Graduate students looking to go into robotics research will soon be able to add the University of West Florida to their list of potential schools, thanks to a new partnership with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

A robot at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition
Photo: Courtesy of the University of West Florida

UWF announced this morning it was partnering with IHMC to develop a doctoral program in intelligent systems and robotics after the Florida Board of Governors approved the creation of the program at its meeting Thursday.

The program will be the first robotics doctorate program offered at any university in Florida, and nationwide, the program is only offered at universities like Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh and the Georgia Institute of Technology...

The field of robotics is a growing one and has drawn the interest of students at UWF, with 66 percent of 149 engineering and computer science students responding to a survey that they would be interested in the program.

"The national demand for experts in intelligent systems and robotics is large, yet universities and technology firms such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon struggle to find people with the expertise and skills their organizations need," said Mohamed Khabou, interim program director, in a press release...

The program will be modeled after doctorate programs in Europe, where the work will be tailored to the student and the researcher with whom the student will be working at IHMC.

"We call it the European model because it's much more similar to the kinds of doctorates you see at Oxford and Cambridge than it is to, I guess, what you'd call the typical U.S. doctorate," Saunders said. "That adds a dimension that we think is on the front end, and will serve as a model for others to come in the state."  

Source: Pensacola News Journal

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Good practice in PhD writing | General -

I have been reading and examining a lot of PhDs recently (4 in as many weeks!) and this has got me to reflect on some principles of good practice, says

Doing a PhD is a significant undertaking and dominates the person’s life for a number of years, so it is important that this adventure isn’t taken lightly. Chosen a good supervisor is vital, their role is to guide you and keep you on track, it’s all too easy to go down blind alleys, it is important to remain focused on your core research questions.

I always advise my students to keep an ongoing bibliography of references and for each reference to summarise the main points and indicate how the reference might be used in the thesis. It is a good idea to keep references in referencing software, such as Endnote, Zotero or Mendeley. Write as you go along and stick to a standard structure such as: introduction (setting the scene, explaining why the focus is important, an indication of the contribution to the field and research questions), literature review and explanation of key terms, methodology (data collection and analysis), findings, discussion, conclusions and suggestions for further research. The THES provides a useful set of tips for writing a PhD.


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Graduate School Should Be Challenging, Not Traumatic | Advice - The Chronicle of Higher Education

No, doctoral students complaining about a toxic adviser aren’t just whining about the workload, according to Kathryn R. Wedemeyer-Strombel, Ph.D. candidate in environmental science at the University of Texas at El Paso, and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

Photo: iStock
As a doctoral student, I have at times found the culture of graduate school to be toxic. When I’ve mentioned that — in conversations in person or on Twitter — some professors and fellow students rush to contradict me. "You’re just complaining because you don’t want to work hard," they say. Or, somewhat more politely, "a Ph.D. should be challenging."

Yes, graduate school should be challenging — but it shouldn’t be traumatizing. There is a difference.

I recently created a Twitter thread to share my views on the difference between intellectually demanding hard work and a toxic or hostile work environment. The response was astounding: In 24 hours there were more than 1,000 likes and 300 retweets. Even two weeks later, the thread was still getting traffic. Clearly, this topic resonates.

I am open and honest — some may think too much so — about the struggles I have experienced as a doctoral student. Hearing on Twitter from hundreds of people who can relate makes me feel less alone, but it also angers me that these struggles are widely relatable yet not talked about nearly enough. So let’s talk about them.

What are the differences between a challenging graduate-school culture and a traumatizing one?...

For professors and graduate-program directors looking for ways to promote a healthy, challenging culture in your department, here are some ideas:
  • Provide graduate students with links and phone numbers to campus counseling services. Normalize seeing a therapist in graduate school for your students.
  • We all know that a Ph.D. program means long hours of reading, writing, research, and stress. Recognize that your students are more than research robots. Encourage reasonable work hours, mental and physical health, and time with family.
  • Encourage your students to pursue hobbies unrelated to the degree program. For students new to the area, recommend local sports leagues, book clubs, and the like. Support their having a life outside of the intense focus of graduate study.
  • If you notice a student in your department who appears to be stuck in an unhealthy, toxic relationship with an adviser, reach out to that student. Or find someone in your department who can. Struggling students may not know whom they can trust — you can at least let them know they have options (including the three I suggest below). If they decide to change labs or switch advisers, support them however you can, even by just being an advocate and a positive reference as they search for a new adviser.
  • Especially if you have tenure, work to resolve problems in your own department. Or find someone who can in the departmental or institutional leadership. Do not put that onus on the student.
For current graduate students feeling stuck in an environment that seems more toxic than challenging, here are some suggestions:

Source: The Chronicle of Higher Education

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How to turn your interests into a career | CAREER FEATURE -

Emily Sohn, freelance journalist in Minneapolis, Minnesota observes, Scientists are merging their life’s passions with their academic studies, and coming up with new fields in the process. 

Danish neuroscientist Peter Vuust heads a lab, teaches music and plays his bass in 60 concerts a year.
Photo: Mads Bjoern Christiansen
Indre Viskontas took piano lessons as a child and made her opera debut at age 11. But her mother, a professional conductor, told her that music did not pay well. So Viskontas, who often listened to the opera singer Maria Callas while doing homework, decided to pursue science instead, earning an undergraduate degree in psychology and French literature at the University of Toronto, Canada, and a PhD in cognitive neuroscience at the University of California, Los Angeles. During a year in London, she took singing lessons that she continued during her PhD, when she also sang opera.

Viskontas saw neuroscience as a stable career choice that might offer ideas about how to better embody roles in operatic performances. But after years of alternating her focus between science and music, she found a way to combine the two, by applying neuroscience to musical training. She now works as an opera singer and cognitive neuroscientist, with positions at the University of San Francisco, California, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Scientists who have successfully crafted a research career out of their non-academic passions and talents say that persistence and patience are key, especially when trying to merge two professional paths that might not seem obviously connected. Melding worlds can be unsettling, and it takes time and creativity to persuade funders and advisers that the work is worthwhile...

During the time it can take to work out how to combine science with an outside interest, it might be necessary to pursue both in tandem. Good organizational skills can help researchers to juggle two identities at once, says neuroscientist Peter Vuust, who is director of the Center for Music in the Brain at Aarhus University in Denmark. He also teaches music at the Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, and is a bassist. His research addresses questions about how the brain processes music, with projects such as the use of music in health care.

Vuust started playing music professionally when he was 16, but studied French and music as an undergraduate, mathematics for his master’s degree and neuroscience for his PhD. Even now, as a working scientist, Vuust plays music every morning at 6:30 for up to an hour and a half. It’s meditative time for him that helps him to maintain a performance schedule of 60 concerts a year...

Vuust took a different approach to the same need for freedom. For two years, he worked every day on applying for a major grant from the Danish National Research Foundation, which is given to about ten scientists once every three years. He didn’t get it, and had to rely instead on smaller grants. In 2014, with a polished application, he got the grant, allowing him to focus on his research and his music without worrying too much about the need to constantly seek more money...

Researching any type of science requires intense dedication and energy, Vuust says, adding that the best scientists are those who study what they love. “In order to be a really good researcher, it has to be a passion,” he says. ”What you do has to be fun.”  

Additional resources 
Nature 563, 431-433 (2018)
doi: 10.1038/d41586-018-07357-2


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