Sunday, March 7, 2010

Spring Break = Think Week?

Apparently Bill Gates has a long running tradition of holding 'Think Weeks', where he would retreat to a small, remote cottage and spend a week intensively reading papers (to the tune of more than a hundred a week), thinking about up and coming trends in the technology business and how to strategically direct Microsoft over the coming year and beyond. Also drinking lots of orange soda. Check it out here.

I mention this because I've been planning my own variation on 'Think Week' this coming week, coincident with our spring break and a brief respite from coursework. Goals for the upcoming week:

- Try to read everything in my 'To Read' category in Papers (currently sitting at ~52 papers)
- Follow my nose beyond that
- I'm going to start really broad, with a set of commentaries on ecology, theoretical ecology, and where they're heading (the good, bad and ugly), then towards the end of the week start to read more narrowly

Best case scenario, I'd like to emerge from the end of the week having identified:

- 1-3 topical areas that I would enjoy doing a dissertation on,
- 2-3 theories/models related to these topical areas that I could try to test with experiments (and possibly additional theory) over the summer.

This blog is going to be one of the outlets for me to keep myself on task, as well as collect and summarize my ideas a bit. I'll try to post a daily reading list of what I've been looking through each day. Suggestions of other good articles are most welcome.

Here's my queue for today (Big ideas in ecology):


Ethan said...

Great post! Ping.

Unknown said...

What program are you using there to organize your papers?

Transient Theorist said...

Hi Andy!

Thanks for the question. I'm using a program for macs called 'Papers', check it out:

I love this little program to death; it definitely makes my life significantly easier. It's how I organize all of my journal articles and ebooks currently - it makes it really easy to import pdfs of papers, locate the relevant meta data (aka citation information), and sort them into collections like itunes folders. The whole kit and caboodle is then key-word searchable (not just the citations but also the text of any pdf files with text resolution). I'm really bad at remembering exact citations and with Papers I don't have to because I can search them so easily.

People tell me it's similar to Endnote in many respects, although I think one nice feature it has that Endnote might not is that it has web browser capabilities built into the program, so I can search through my schools databases and find new papers all within the program; they get automatically imported. It's also got some (admittedly limited) functionality for creating Bibtex files.

I'll stop raving now... it's a good program, and is quite affordable for students (check out the discount). I definitely recommend it!

- Theo

Unknown said...

Thanks! I'll definitely check that out. I've got a stack of about 20 papers for an ecology course I'm in right now, so frustrating keeping track of em all.

Transient Theorist said...

My pleasure - I got the tip from a friend so I'm more than happy to pass it along. There really is a lot to keep track of, and it only gets worse the further you go!

Good luck with your course; Ecology is one of the best topics out there...

- Theo

Unknown said...

That's why it's my major :) Although, it's ecosystem ecology, and I much prefer a less macro approach to things.

Hey! If you had to choose between a field course in Alipine Ecology (in the Rocky Mountains) or Marine Ecology (in the Atlantic off New Brunswick), what would you pick? Summer plans are changing and I'll need to choose one soon!

Transient Theorist said...

I spend most of my time hanging out around the population/community level m'self, with a little bit of evolution thrown in. Ecosystems seem macro to me at times from that perspective ;-)

I'd have to say my personal bias would be towards the Alpine Ecology course, being a terrestrial plant guy. But really it should depend more on your interests and goals. It's a good idea to expose yourself to lots of different places and systems, especially early on, so there's something to be said for doing whichever you're least familiar with. Other perks could be getting to work with good mentors, or learning techniques you think you might want to use someday.

The Rockies are beautiful, but then again, so is New Brunswick, and there are Puffins there I hear tell.

Eugenie said...

"I got the tip from a friend". *cough* *cough*

Also, check out Mendaley, which is similar to papers, but FREE!

Andy- marine ecology is wayyy cooler, forget the boring terrestrial stuff!

Transient Theorist said...

Yeah, so Eugenie would be the one that told me about Papers. Several other of my grad school friends use it, and I've converted my labmate.

I'm going to stick to the balanced high ground here on marine vs. alpine. Cute alpine plants hold still while you admire them. Puffins fly surprisingly fast, and whales and fish and stuff swim underwater. To each their own...

Unknown said...

That's what I meant actually (re: macro ecology), I was really hoping to take pop/comm ecology but it would have meant dropping 3 other courses :(
I'm still trying to figure out a "niche" that I really like but I agree with your point, I just find it hard not to like whatever it is in particular I'm currently studying. Maybe that's what I'm almost done 4 years of undergrad but need to complete 3 semesters more to finish... lotta jumping around from discipline to discipline. That's another story.

Anyway, hah, I'll check out Mendaley, thanks Eugenie :)
hmm... whales or trees... hmm

Unknown said...

OMG. Mendeley is going to save my life. Thank you.