Join now! The Materials Modeling Stack Exchange forum is now in public beta

I’m thrilled to announce that the Materials Modeling Stack Exchange forum is now in public beta. This means that anyone can browse without having to sign up for sign up for an account and the questions might start showing up in google search results. We’re still actively recruiting more physics-oriented contributors, so I encourage you to check it out.

There are already hundreds of questions and answers on the forum, here’s a couple great discussions you might want to join in on:

Stock image of a classroom

A few tips to enhance your slides

Scientists watch a lot of talks, and I’ve noticed a lot of people (including me) make the same handful of mistakes. Here are a few of my tips:

  • Number your slides. Powerpoint, Keynote and Beamer all have options to add these automatically. Visible slide numbers make it easier for people to refer back to a specific slide if they have a question, especially at the end.
  • Test your slides on a projector or low-resolution monitor. Computer monitor resolutions have steadily grown, but projectors technology seems stuck in 2004. This leads to a familiar trap: you make beautiful figure with graceful thin lines on your laptop, which are rendered totally invisible by the projector. Same goes for contrast, light colors like yellow are often invisible on projectors.
  • Keep the text to a minimum. You want people listening to you speak, not reading your slides. Use slides for short bullet points and for showing off your figures.
  • Even fewer equations. Unless you’re teaching a class, people are rarely going to be interested in following any mathematical derivations, and they’re hard to follow on a slide anyways. 1-2 equations per slide max. If people want to know more, they can always ask, which will probably lead to a more interesting discussion anyways.
  • Finally, include your contact information on the final slide. It’s easy to space out at the start of a presentation and forget to jot down the presenter’s name. Make it easier for your audience by having your name and email on the last slide along with any relevant papers you want to promote.

Disclaimer: I want to be 100% clear that these tips are not a veiled reference to anyone in particular.

Write your congressperson to support science during COVID-19

APS President Phil Bucksbaum recently wrote a letter with recommendations for how congress can protect science during COVID-19 and ensure a quick recovery afterwards. “The letter’s recommendations include: providing grantees full or partial cost extensions, ensuring the supplemental funding necessary to restart labs and experiments is provided, and substantially increasing REU funding for Summer 2021.”

APS is also organizing a letter-writing campaign to call Congress’s attention to this issue. They’re provided a easy-to-use tool where you can plug in your voting address, sign your letter (and add some of your own thoughts) and they will send it off to your congressperson and senators. It takes less than five minutes and it makes a huge difference. On narrow issues like this, you letter might be the only one your elected official receives!

Sign and send your letter now!

New Stack Exchange for Matter Modeling

Some of my colleagues have worked very hard to build up a Materials Matter Modeling Stack Exchange forum, currently in beta. They need more contributors to graduate to a full-fledged forum, so I encourage anyone reading this to join at (you will have to create an account to join the private beta, but it’s super easy). Much of the discussion is currently on computational chemistry methods like DFT, but the admins are actively seeking more physics content to differentiate themselves from existing Stack Exchange forums.

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Rest in peace Phil Anderson, a giant on whose shoulders we stand

On Sunday March 29, Philip W. Anderson passed away.  Anderson is doubtlessly one of the greatest condensed matter physicists who ever lived.

Anderson made foundational discoveries in localization, high-temperature superconductivity and antiferromagnetism. Indeed, his achievements stretch beyond condensed matter; his work on spontaneous symmetry breaking contributed to development of the Standard Model of particle physics. I’m sure many more competent people will eulogize him (update 2020-05-04 they have), but I wanted share one specific personal connection I have to his work.

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I put together a collection of links and resources for how to stay safe and sane during the pandemic as a page on my website. I thought these were important to share, but I didn’t want to post them individually. I plan to update that page, so if you have suggestions for things to add, please let me know.