Ay 141: Research Conference in Astronomy
a.k.a. ``Journal Club"
(Spring Term 2017)

Class Logistics

Instructors: Lynne Hillenbrand (lah@astro) and Gregg Hallinan (lah@astro)
Meetings: 16:00-17:00 Fridays, in 370 Cahill


Every astronomy graduate student beyond the first year is expected to give two journal club presentations over the academic year. Undergraduates signed up for the course are expected to do the same, or if signed up for less than all three terms, one presentation per term enrolled. On occasion there may be talks by postdocs, staff, or faculty. Attendance and participation by all parties interested in astrophysics is strongly encouraged.

Talks (ideally more like discussions) are generally 1/2 hour, and each session is followed by refreshments out-of-doors, retreating to indoors during the middle of winter term.

The first journal club talk of the year should be based on a paper chosen from the recent literature (including preprints). The paper must be a refereed journal or review article (no short conference proceedings). The goal of this presentation is to have the student speak on a topic outside of his/her main research area. The second of the two talks can be on another paper or it may be a report on the presenter's own research. Senior graduate students close to completion of the PhD are strongly encouraged to give a talk summarizing the thesis work.


Please discuss your intended paper with either your advisor or one of the course organizers -- after you have read it, but before you start preparing your presentation materials. There may be advice or other considerations that arise during such a discussion.

In order to sufficiently publicize each week's journal club, we ask that each presenter email the talk title *and* an html-formatted link to the work being presented to gh@astro.

A good speaker will:

  • give sufficient (but not too much) background material
  • motivate the new work and indicate why the paper was deemed interesting
  • describe techniques/methods and results
  • evaluate rigorousness of conclusions
  • put the present paper into the context of other work.

    Here are the criteria for evaluation of speaking presentations by the Caltech undergrad SURF students. The list contains many items you might want to consider as you prepare your talk.

    Here is some other professional advice:

  • The Craft of Scientific Presentation, by Alley, 1996 (3rd edition) text and website
  • Advice To Beginning Physics Speakers by J. Garland, Physics Today, July 1999, p. 42
  • Technical presentations: basic rules for success by R. Gaughan, from OE Reports, July, Aug., Nov. 1995 and Jan. 1996 issues
  • Presentation Skills by J. Knezovich
  • The Truth is, You Gave a Lousy Talk by T DeFoe


    In order to pass the "communications" class each term you must do the following:

  • attend talks by your fellow students
  • ask questions and/or make appropriate comments
  • present two quality talks according to the rules outlined above
  • consider producing a public-level representation of the topic of your talk for posting to our astronomy outreach website

    The journal club organizers will provide constructive feedback after your talk, including suggestions for improving future talks.

    Schedule of Presenters

    Spring Term 2017

    (Record of Previous Years)
    Winter Term 2015
    Winter Term 2011
    Fall Term 2010

    Last Revised: 27 March 2017 by LAH