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 guide for supervisors of students undertaking the astrosem. Really it is just a FAQ list.

Basic Organisation
  Please read the Student Guide to the Astrosem for basic information regarding time, place, format, language, presentation etc.

The role of the supervisor
  Supervisors choose the papers which define the material on which the students will speak. It is up to the supervisor to ensure that the material, or a subset of it, from the paper is suitable for a 30-minute talk by a Masters student. It is not fair to give a student a few-page letter or a 100-page review paper! It is highly recommended that the paper you choose be both recent and of general interest.
  There is no strict definition of the amount of contact required between the student and supervisor, but expect a few discussion sessions and a maybe a practice talk. Naturally, the students will vary considerably in ability and the amount of required contact time will reflect this.
Please note that each supervisor is strictly limited to two talks.

Introductory session
  The astrosem starts with an introductory session during which supervisors give short presentations of their papers. Students are expected to attend (although talks can be arranged afterwards) as are all supervisors! As a supervisor you should give a (very) short presentation to lure potential students, i.e. one PDF slide only with a one or two minute introduction.

  Please let Rob know by email when you will be available for your students' talk(s). Naturally, the supervisor should be present for their own student's talk. Sometimes plans change and we try to be flexible. Again, as much notice as possible really helps resolve these situations.

Attendance by supervisors
If possible, please attend as many astrosems as you can. I do appreciate that people are busy, but it sets a bad example for the students (for whom attendance is compulsory) if supervisors pick and choose which seminars to attend (on the basis of subject). Remember that students benefit from your presence and experience even if you do not work on the subject of their talk.

Student Questions
  In 2013 we introduced five minutes of student-only questions after each talk. This very successful move ensured that students had a chance to ask questions without the stress (or potential embarrassment) of professors usurping them. Please keep to this policy!

  Grades for the talks are assessed on the same basis as the undergraduate (Bachelor) seminars (the proseminar). These have an average grade, on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is best, of 1.3. We can award grades 1.0, 1.3, 1.7, 2.0, 2.3, 2.7 3.0 etc. What this means is that we have very little room to move. A 1.0 is a very good or excellent talk, 1.3 is an average talk, 1.7 is below average, 2.0 is below this, 3.0 is bad, 4.0 is worse and 5.0 is barely passable. However, the average standard of talks in the last few years has been very good, so awarding such grades is reasonable.
  The supervisors meet for a few minutes after each session to discuss the grades for the students of that week. An extended meeting after week four or five allows us to review grades in the light of performances of all the students (in my experience no significant review has been necessary). The students are informed of their grade at the end of the term when the grades are entered into the beloved basis system.

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