For Students

Importance of Learning to Code (Even for Experimentalists)

Nowadays, writing documents using Microsoft Word and handling tables using Excel is not a special skill. Most people would agree that these tools are worth learning, because it increases productivity compared to earlier alternatives, such as pen and paper or the calculator. I think coding and being somewhat familiar with the command line interface is also a similar "universal" skill, and that everyone would benefit from learning it. Why? Because it is virtually impossible to handle large volumes of data without some kind of automation. Would you like to add or subtract 100 numbers using the calculator? Probably not. It is slow, boring, and error prone. However, if you knew the "sum" function in Excel, it would only take several seconds. Even though Excel functions aren't really considered "programming", they still showcase how automation and programming tools help make data conversion and data analysis easier. Even if coding is not directly connected to your day-to-day research, here are some examples of how coding and automation can improve your productivity.

As a side note, many coding tools like Python, Javascript, and Latex are open source, meaning you won't have to buy expensive software again.

How to Conduct Literature Surveys

There are many papers being published every day and the number of papers you plan on reading can quickly become overwhelming. Here is a short article in Nature, which may help you stay on top of your literature survey.

How to Give a Scientific Presentation

Three easy steps on how to improve the quality of your scientific talk: Add titles to each slide, make eye contact, and how to respond to the QA session.

How to Write Papers

Writing papers is hard. You are expected to explain how your work is important and original, but it has to be done based on some kind of scientific evidence. Finding the right balance is hard, even after several years of practice. I recommend the articles here and here, which may help you find the right mindset when writing your paper.

Other Helpful Information

  • How to give poster Presentations
  • How to choose the author list
  • How to interact with your supervisor
  • How to do interdisciplinary research
  • Signs in Thermodynamics

    Upon conducting book reading sessions with students, I often see people confused about signs in thermodynamics and electrochemistry. For example, is the first law of thermodynamics U = Q+W? or is it U = Q-W? Actually, both may be correct depending on context. U = Q+W is correct if W is the work done to the system. The latter is correct if W is work done by the system. This means that it is a bad idea to just memorize a formula. Instead, try to understand the physical meaning and try to choose the right sign on the spot. U is internal energy, so if you are doing work to it, then it should increase (plus sign). If you are making it do work, then the internal energy U should decrease (minus sign). Similar ideas apply for the Nernst equation or the relationship between Gibbs free energies and the equilibrium constant.


    Nowadays, there is so much information on the internet that learning anything is possible if you have enough time and dedication. On top of that, much of the information, like Youtube lectures, are free. Here are several tutorials, textbooks, and lectures that I have found easy to understand and extremely well organized. I would recommend these to anyone wanting to study the relevant topic.

    Disclaimer: I am not affiliated nor have any commercial interests regarding the links above.