5 Software Tools to Make Grad School Better

Published January 02, 2016 · Estimated reading time: 7 minutes · Share your thoughts
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*Originally published in Healthy Inference (Dec 2015).

As epidemiology and public health graduate students, a good number of us spend almost more time on computers crunching data than watching youtube. We all have our favorite data analysis tools installed: R, Stata, SPSS, SAS, JMP, WinBUGS, Matlab… we use Dropbox to sync and backup files, Google Docs to collaborate, Endnote or Papers to manage our PDFs and citations, and Evernote to manage our notes.

But aside from the famous  tools we all know and love, there are a lot of awesome software tools and plugins out there that can make our lives just a little easier. You want to search for 50 different keywords in 50 different windows at the same time? there’s a plugin for that (Chrome). You want to download citations on-the-go? this button is mandatory (Chrome, Firefox).  You want to force that window to stay on top so you don’t have to flip back and forth? download a little utility software (Win, Mac).

Here are 5 software tools that have made my life just a little bit better:

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Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi
  • Aug 30, 2015 » Sabbath
    oliversackssabbathYears ago after stumbling on one of Oliver Sacks’ books and the rest… I became, like many people, so inspired that I shifted my whole studies to anatomy & neuroscience. Times changed and my passions changed but that candle still burns. Today this great writer, scientist and physician has passed on leaving us with these words: “I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.” Thank you Dr. Sacks. Shabbat shalom.
  • Operational research: bridging theory and practice

    Published May 17, 2015 · Estimated reading time: 2 minutes · Share your thoughts
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    This is an excerpt from a longer Healthy Inference (Epidemiology student blog) to which I contributed, reflecting on a week-long Operational Research Methods course at McGill University.

    The importance and challenges of publication in operational research – Marzieh Ghiasi (Epidemiology)

    One of the interesting topics covered in the course was the important role that publication can play in operational research. In academia, for better or worse, the mantra ‘publish or perish’ exists in part because publications are a measure of productivity. In implementation settings, the objectives and pressures are different and publication is not a priority. In fact, projects are often are implemented by governments and agencies, without a strong empirical framework or post-hoc analysis– and the people doing the implementation may or may not be trained in constructing scientific publications. The course instructors highlighted how conducting operational research and publishing can play the role of providing an evidence-based road-map and dissemination tool. Consequently, the capacity to conduct operational research is built by not only by training people how to develop protocols, collect data, but also how to publish and do it well. The presenters gave the example of a course by The Union/MSF focused on developing these skills.

    We had a hands-on overview of how to use EpiData, a free open software for systematic data entry ideal for use in constrained settings. As well, an overview of how the publication process works: for example, the often overlooked but important task of actually looking at and adhering to author guidelines before submitting a manuscript to a journal! One of the most interesting things I took away from the workshops was the idea of ‘inclusive authorship’ in operational research, which is critical in projects that involve dozens and dozens of people in design, implementation, data collection and analysis. The instructors recalled their own experiences of trying to chase authors and contributors down by email versus bringing dozens of people in a room over the course of a couple of days to get them to write a paper together (the latter works better!). Bringing 30-something people to write a paper is, of course, in itself an operational challenge. But, as this paper showcases, it is possible and should be done to ensure fairness and engagement.

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    Permanent linkMarzieh Ghiasi