Skip to main content

Career Advice: d00d, get a webpage!

The internet is a series of tubes where you should have a presence in order to promote yourself and your work.
Would you like to increase your profile in the astronomy academic community? Get a webpage. Seriously, if you are anywhere beyond your freshman year studying physics or astronomy with plans of staying in academia, there's no excuse for not having a web presence. Applying to grad school? Get a webpage. About to publish your first paper? Get a webpage and link the paper's arXiv listing.

Looking to live a life of anonymity and unemployment? Stay off the interwebs: does not necessarily support the views of But the pictures make us giggle from time to time.
European astronomers, I'm looking right at you. Let's talk one-on-one for a sec. Why do European scientists eschew web presence? I loved your paper and I'd like to know what you look like so I can find you at the upcoming conference. Or I'd like to suggest you for our open postdoc position but I don't know your career stage. Or invite you for a talk and I need your bio. But I can't find you! This is not good for you. I'm sure you have a noble explanation for this phenomenon related to modesty or some such, but the end result is no one can see you or your outstanding work.

Okay, sorry about that. I had to talk to my European friends for a moment. Now that I'm back, here are the basic ingredients of a webpage:

  • A short, professional biography. Where'd you start your career and where'd you go after that? What are your research interests and how do you pursue them? Here's a really good example of a concise yet complete web bio by Selma de Mink, who I recently looked up after seeing her light up the Rumor Mill last year.
  • A photo. This is optional, I suppose, but handy if you like to meet people at conferences or around campus. Here's Phil Murihead's photo, which shows you what he looks like and provides some nice context of what he works on (instrumentation, Project Minerva). Also, note how he uses very simple HTML to good effect, providing everything you'd need to know about him: NIR and optical instrumentation, Kepler-42 and spectroscopy of M dwarfs. In a similar vein, here's Peter Plavchan's photo and straight-forward yet very effective web page. It's all right there up-front.
  • A statement of research interests. Here's Heather Knutson's very professional research page and research summaries. I like this style of general heading followed by a one-paragraph summary. The exercise of coming up with these summaries is handy for helping you remember what exactly you're doing, and just as importantly, how to communicate it concisely to others. Here's Julie Comerford's similarly professional web site, which inspired me to get my web act together 4 years ago.
  • If your personal web page contains one thing, make it your CV (but seriously, have more than one thing). Here's Andrew Youdin's CV which is on the long side, but in no way too long. Here's a shorter CV by Phil Hopkins (I'm sure he has a long version given that he publishes ~10 papers/year). And here's the CV of Sara Seager, a highly accomplished astronomer. We should all strive to have our CVs as long as impressive as Sara's! Note what these and other CVs have in common (contact info, educational history, research interests, list of publications and other academic activities). After you publish your first paper (even Nth author) you should create and post your first CV.
  • A list of publications. NASA ADS can hook you up with a personal library. Link to that library from your web page. Here's my personal library containing my first-author publications.
  • Your email address. There are ways of protecting your addy from teh evil bots. 
  • Optional: Nifty simulations! Check out Ben Brown's award-winning simulations of stellar magnetic fields. Full of awes.
  • Optional: You in the news. Did you discover Y dwarfs, like Mike Cushing? Of course you didn't (that is, unless you are Davy Kirkpatrick, who needs a better webpage :) ). But maybe you made the news in a similar fashion. Promote it!
Did I forget anything? Sound off in the comments and on the FaceTwitBlags.


Jeff said…
Don't forget to update your webpage occasionally, at the very least if you change positions/locations/discover Y dwarfs.

Popular posts from this blog

An annual note to all the (NSF) haters

It's that time of year again: students have recently been notified about whether they received the prestigious NSF Graduate Student Research Fellowship. Known in the STEM community as "The NSF," the fellowship provides a student with three years of graduate school tuition and stipend, with the latter typically 5-10% above the standard institutional support for first- and second-year students. It's a sweet deal, and a real accellerant for young students to get their research career humming along smoothly because they don't need to restrict themselves to only advisors who have funding: the students fund themselves!
This is also the time of year that many a white dude executes what I call the "academic soccer flop." It looks kinda like this:

It typically sounds like this: "Congrats! Of course it's easier for you to win the NSF because you're, you know, the right demographic." Or worse: "She only won because she's Hispanic."…

On the Height of J.J. Barea

Dallas Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea standing between two very tall people (from: Picassa user photoasisphoto).

Congrats to the Dallas Mavericks, who beat the Miami Heat tonight in game six to win the NBA championship.

Okay, with that out of the way, just how tall is the busy-footed Maverick point guard J.J. Barea? He's listed as 6-foot on, but no one, not even the sports casters, believes that he can possibly be that tall. He looks like a super-fast Hobbit out there. But could that just be relative scaling, with him standing next to a bunch of extremely tall people? People on Yahoo! Answers think so---I know because I've been Google searching "J.J. Barea Height" for the past 15 minutes.

So I decided to find a photo and settle the issue once and for all.

I started by downloading a stock photo of J.J. from, which I then loaded into OpenOffice Draw:

I then used the basketball as my metric. Wikipedia states that an NBA basketball is 29.5 inches in circumfe…

Finding Blissful Clarity by Tuning Out

It's been a minute since I've posted here. My last post was back in April, so it has actually been something like 193,000 minutes, but I like how the kids say "it's been a minute," so I'll stick with that.
As I've said before, I use this space to work out the truths in my life. Writing is a valuable way of taking the non-linear jumble of thoughts in my head and linearizing them by putting them down on the page. In short, writing helps me figure things out. However, logical thinking is not the only way of knowing the world. Another way is to recognize, listen to, and trust one's emotions. Yes, emotions are important for figuring things out.
Back in April, when I last posted here, my emotions were largely characterized by fear, sadness, anger, frustration, confusion and despair. I say largely, because this is what I was feeling on large scales; the world outside of my immediate influence. On smaller scales, where my wife, children and friends reside, I…