Robert Izzard's Pages of Astronomical Happiness

  Teaching • The Astrophysics Seminar

I am no longer in charge of the astrosem: please contact Yu-Ying Zhang for further information. The following information remains purely for the curious.

Welcome to the student guide to The Astrophysics Seminar (astro894 - 6961), a four credit point elective seminar in the Master of Astrophysics programme at the Argelander Institute for Astronomy, part of the University of Bonn. Students give a talk and answer relevant questions both live and afterward on the Astrosem Blog. Talk topics are based on published papers, as suggested by the supervisors, and students should discuss their topic, and the content of their talk, with their supervisor prior to giving it.

Time and Place
    Mondays, 14-15.30, Room 0.008 (winter) or 0.012 (summer), AIfA. Please note: exceptionally seminars will be held at a different time and/or place, please check the timetable on the main astrosem page.

Sign up! The introductory session
  The astrosem starts with an introductory session (probably the second Monday of the term) during which supervisors give short presentations of their papers. You should attend this session and during it, or shortly after, decide with which supervisor you would like to work. If you miss the introductory session, you can still sign up! Simply contact the supervisor of your choice and arrange a time. Students should then email Robert Izzard () stating their choice of date, paper and supervisor.

    In science, it is not enough to simply do your research even if you are the best scientist in the world. We all must communicate what we have done, both effectively and efficiently. This seminar is a chance for a student to give a talk on a state-of-the-art subject in astrophysics. Students will learn about oral communication: the art of communicating using your voice with their peers. This is a skill required of any professional scientist, e.g. at conferences, in meetings or when teaching.
    See also the course on Scientific Writing for complementary information about writing skills.

   The talks are a strict maximum of 30 minutes in length with 15 minutes of questions at the end (total 45 minutes). Speakers should expect to receive and answer questions both immediately following the talk and on the Astrosem blog during the week following their talk (see below).
   This may be the first time that students encounter state of the art scientific literature in the form of research papers. Research papers are not easy to read, and this is one of the hurdles will need to be passed on your way to giving the talk. Supervisors are there to help!
   A research paper typically contains references to other papers. Which of these should followed up will be clarified by talking to with supervisors. Following-up some of the cited literature will teach the speaker how to navigate the minefield that is the scientific literature.

The Audience
   An important skill in giving talks is to know your audience. The Astrosem audience consists mostly of the peers of the speaker: Talks should be aimed at a level that can be understood by all the attending students. That means for most weeks each speaker is a member of the audience. However it is not an opportunity to sleep: there is a question and answer session immediately following the talk and all students are expected to participate. Questions should also be posted on the Astrosem Blog (see below).

Astrosem Blog
    After the seminar, the questions posed and any further questions and/or discussion can be posted on the Astrosem blog     To use the blog you need 1) the password given out in the seminar and 2) to register. Please use your real name when you register, we need to know from whom the questions and answers come.

    Students must attend all the seminars on time (a register is taken), give their complete attention and participate fully by asking questions immediately following the talk or by posting questions on the Astrosem blog after the seminar. It is an essential part of training as a professional - scientist or otherwise! - to learn to both respond to and to ask good questions. All students taking the Astrosem are graded on the usual 1-5 system, 1 being the best, based on their talk.

    Students can provide anonymous feedback at using the password given in the class.

    Talks are usually in the format of computer-based slides (e.g. Impress, Keynote, Powerpoint, LaTeX Beamer). If you use the projector you must make sure it functions with your laptop before the talk starts because any time taken fixing the laptop will be taken out of your allocated 30 minutes.
   It is also up to you to make sure - in advance - that all your text, plots, images, animations etc. are clearly visible. Marks will be deducted for poor presentation because it often impedes good science. In particular, credit may be removed if you simply read from either prompt cards or your slides: such talks are frequently dull and show a lack of proper preparation. Do not learn a script, be flexible and knowledgeable and you will be fine.

    As with all of the Master in Astrophysics, talks must be given in English.

    The topics (i.e. talk titles) listed on the main astrosem page are chosen by the scientific supervisors. You should choose one of them from the list by contacting the supervisor, usually at the introductory meeting or shortly thereafter. Topics other than those shown can be arranged with the supervisors (please let Rob know too!). Note that there are maximum two talks per week - first come first served!
Please arrange for your talks to not be held in the last week of term! Exams will take priority for you around that time, you do not want to be giving a talk as well (and neither do your fellow students).
Please note that each supervisor is limited to two talks.

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