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Fall 2014 Faculty/Staff Edition

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Faculty/Staff Edition Fall 2014

New Workshop Series Builds Awareness of Campus Research Resources

A group of 30 Northwestern graduate students eager to expand their knowledge of the latest in research tools and resources available gathered in Mudd Library last month to attend a new lunchtime workshop series—The Researcher’s Toolkit.

Researcher's Toolkit workshop session

Increasing research productivity by broadening researchers’ skillsets and comprehension of relevant resources is the motivation behind the effort. The one-hour tutorials are designed to provide an introduction to specific skills including, but not limited to, version control, employing research databases, and managing scholarly identity that will supplement their research careers at Northwestern and beyond.

“Research, and especially modern day research, has many facets to it; it isn’t just lab experiments and data anymore,” said Pradeep Sivakumar, senior computational specialist, NUIT Research Computing Services. “It is much more collaborative. Students need access to, and knowledge of, a lot of tools to be successful in their research.”

A Natural Collaboration

The lunchtime learning series is the brainchild of Mudd Library research librarians and computational specialists in NUIT Research Computing Services. The two groups have been meeting regularly to discuss their roles in fulfilling the needs of campus researchers in areas such as research computing, research data management, and assistance with grant work since NUIT Research Computing Services moved to Mudd Library in the summer of 2013.

“In this age, people think of the Internet as their library, but not everything is accessible via Google and what is may be behind a pay wall,” said Steven Adams, Life Sciences Librarian Environmental Studies Liaison, Seeley G. Mudd Library. “Finding research resources can be more complex than some scholars anticipate and we have tools and tips that help simplify the process. We also want researchers to know that we are here to help them deal with a wide range of issues and challenges beyond just getting the PDF they need.”

By joining forces they discovered that they could point researchers to the right resources.

“As we continued to talk about workshops that we are interested in hosting, we came to the realization that our audiences were similar,” said Jackie Milhans, lead computational specialist, NUIT Computing Research Services. “Each of us meet with University student and faculty researchers on a regular basis. It was a natural collaboration.”

“Our intent for the Researcher’s Toolkit Series is to introduce a topic that maybe some have heard about and are curious to know how it can be used for their research activities,” said Elsa Alvaro, PhD, librarian for Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy, Seeley G. Mudd Library. “And for others, to serve as a way to get them up to speed on a tool that they may be required to use.”

Right Tools for the Job

Although the series is open to all Northwestern researchers, the overwhelming majority of those who attend are research graduate students eager to expand their knowledge of the latest tools to increase their research potential.

Namu Patel (MEAS ’16), a PhD Candidate in Engineering Science and Applied Mathematics, attended the first workshop on Git, a version control system that integrates with project workflows. She says that in her study of neuromechanically driven locomotion using computational fluid dynamics, version control is a valuable resource.

“I have experienced the anxiety of modifying working code and not being able to restore it when something went wrong,” said Patel. “I have always wanted to learn more about the Git version control software, and the workshop served as a great starting point. I have already begun to implement Git in my daily work. Thus, I no longer stress about managing numerous revisions.”​

Yiqi Zhang (MEAS ‘14) a graduate student in Environmental Engineering and Science agrees. “I think it’s good to attend this type of workshop to learn about some software or skills that can be useful to me now in my research related to life cycle analysis and when I begin my career in this area. I’m looking forward to attending Introduction to GIS and Strategies and Tools for Managing Your Scholarly Identity.

Register Early and Often

All students and researchers are welcome to attend, and there are plans for future topics, including data collection, data visualization, and writing grant proposals. Early registration is suggested since space is limited and workshops tend to fill up fast.

Have a Research Topic to Suggest?

If you have a suggestion for future workshop topics, please send an email to Jackie Milhans or Pradeep Sivakumar.

The Researcher’s Toolkit runs through December 4, with plans to continue the series in winter quarter.

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