Los Investigadores del Mañana

English: British Library (modern building in f...
English: British Library and St Pancras station with Euston Road on the right, London.

Parece ser que pocos estudiantes de doctorado exploran nuevas tecnologías en sus investigaciones o entienden la variedad de información disponible para ellos, de acuerdo a un reporte encargado por la British Library y JISC (un cuerpo para la tecnología en la educación superior en el Reino Unido). El reporte puede ser visto aqui (en inglés).

“Los investigadores del mañana” publicado el 28 de junio, encuestó a más de 17,000 estudiantes de doctorado (en el Reino Unido) en un período de tres años, siguientdo 60 a profundidad y en particular a los nacidos entre 1982 y 1994, la llamada Generación Y.

El reporte afirma que a pesar de ser conocedores de la tecnología, la Generación Y de estudiantes de doctorado saben muy poco sobre la variedad y la autenticidad de la información de investigación disponible en nuevos formatos, como bases de datos en línea, revistas electrónicas y depósitos, y pocos saben cómo acceder a esta información.

También tienen poca comprensión acerca del tema de acceso abierto y los derechos de autor. Muchos creen que los supervisores no aprobarían el citar documentos acceso abierto o libre y sólo el 26 por ciento saben que los donantes y fundaciones están empezando a esperar el acceso abierto a la investigación que apoyan.

Julie Carpenter, una de las co-autoras del reporte y directora de la consultora Education for Change afirma que los resultados sugieren un descuido hacia los estudiantes de doctorado, los cuales han experimentado una sensación de aislamiento.

Apoyo institucional – en términos de oferta de bibliotecas, información sobre el entorno de la investigación y de formación – no está funcionando y tiene que haber un “cambio de paradigma” en la forma en que el sector da ayuda y se compromete con los estudiantes de doctorado, dijo.

“Hay una desconexión entre las organizaciones estratégicas como JISC, [que] se han empeñado en decir que se deben utilizar estas herramientas maravillosas, promover el intercambio y mover a la investigación a la era electrónica dentro de las propias instituciones”, agregó Carpenter.

La aversión al riesgo

Esto se refleja en otro de los hallazgos del estudio: que aunque los estudiantes de la Generación Y utilizan algunas herramientas en línea tales como marcadores (bookmarks) y RSS, muy pocos emplean tecnologías de colaboración como los wikis, los blogs y Twitter en sus investigaciones, a pesar de utilizar estas herramientas en su vida personal.

Debbie McVitty, representante de investigación y políticas para postgraduados en la National Union of Students (Reino Unido) y miembro del grupo asesor de estudios, atribuye en parte la aversión al riesgo a la presión sobre los estudiantes de doctorado para completar sus estudios en lugar de crear una buena investigación.

“La gente que va a adoptar [tecnologías] tempranamente son probablemente las personas, tales como profesores, que están más establecidas en su posición y pueden permitirse el lujo de ser más experimentales”, dijo.

“El acceso a un trabajo académico puede ser un tanto difícil – y por tanto no se quiere correr ningún riesgo.”

Junto a personal de biblioteca y administradores de universidades, los supervisores tienen que desempeñar un mejor papel en informar a los estudiantes, con apoyo de la medida de sus campos de estudio, e dijo McVitty.

El informe también encontró una “dependencia sorprendente” por los estudiantes de doctorado en las conclusiones de otras personas en lugar de las fuentes originales.

Según la encuesta, en cuatro de cada cinco casos, los estudiantes de doctorado busca los libros y documentos publicados durante su búsqueda de información para apoyar su investigación, en lugar de material “primario” como muestras, archivos y bases de datos.

Los estudiantes también deben recopilar datos y hacer investigación original además de explorar esas fuentes secundarias, comentó Carpenter, pero este hallazgo puede identificar una tendencia que, si se verifica, tendría “consecuencias muy graves”.

I’m not a scientist, but I had a go… Student during work experience


medicine-2007-visualisationDuring the last few days Daniel Zheng was visiting me and had a chance at working on some problems using graph theory and networks. Here is what he has to say about this week…

I’m now coming to the end of my placement, having finished writing the (surprisingly complicated) Octave/Gnuplot script to plot a graph of collaboration networks for Medicine during the year 2007. I’ve definitely learned a few things, such as not to be afraid of command-line software, basic operations in Octave and MATLAB® and that it is much more satisfying creating a graphic diagram completely from scratch, especially when it involves hours of typing repeated commands. Computers are very interesting when you can interact with their underlying, fundamental workings, and I can now see how lucky we are today to have beautifully polished operating systems that don’t spit out pages of error messages when you forget that the file name begins with a capital.

I’ve actually really enjoyed the last few days, and I think it’s given me a taste of what university maths & physics might be like; hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing for four years so its nice to be sure I’ll like it! Learning these sorts of computer skills is also likely to strengthen my application for those exact courses, and I do feel like I’ve stretched the boundaries of my own knowledge (if not, as correctly predicted, that of the wider scientific community). Most of all, though, I’m incredibly grateful to Dr Rogel-Salazar for giving up his time and his office space to teach me all of this, for troubleshooting my computer when things went wrong, and (of course) for getting me free food at the faculty barbeque. It’s been a very intriguing and different experience to what I’m used to at school, and hopefully he’ll continue to provide this great opportunity for others like me; anyone who can, should definitely give it a go.

Anyway that’s enough from me, so I’ll be off now…

I’m not a scientist, but let me have a go… Student during work experience

Graph, created in Neato
Image via Wikipedia

This week, yet another enthusiastic student is doing a bit of work experience with me. This time it is about graph theory, network analysis and their applications. You never know, he might even help me overcome the deafening silence of the Quantum Tunnel Podcast!

My name is Daniel Zheng and I am a sixth form student at Camden School for Girls. I am about to begin studying for my A2s, and by the end of next year I should have full A-levels in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry, and an AS in English Literature. I am hoping to study Maths and Physics at university, and would like to have a career in some sort of science-based industry or field. As well as a keen interest in science and maths, in my spare time I play the French Horn, go rock climbing, play squash and as much more as I can fit in!

Having read many books and articles about scientific progress and advancement, I have always wondered what it’s actually like to work in an active research centre. This work experience is a very good opportunity for me to do that (even if my tasks aren’t likely to change the course of science as we know it…) and get a feeling of how universities operate. I already feel like I’ve learnt a few things about the diverse and interlinked nature of supposedly ‘separate’ fields, and hopefully there will be much more to find out…

I’m not a scientist, but I had a go… Students during work experience

During the last five days Adam Bekele and Oscar Price were visiting the Photonics Group at Imperial College, where they had a go a understanding some laser theory. Here is what they have to say about this week… Ah, and please check out the Quantum Tunnel Podcast, where Oscar and Adam will tell us more about lasers! (I will let you all know when the podcast is actually available)

Adam Bekele

After a week’s work at Imperial College I have gained a lot of understanding about the works of researching physicists and high level PhD students. Dr Jesús Rogel- Salazar has introduced us to both theoretical and experimental physicists. The students showed us what they were currently researching and what their day to day work entails. It has been immensely inspiring.

We have especially been working on explaining certain behaviours of LASERs. Amongst many other things, we used methods of differential equation to solve the rate of emitted photons through stimulated emission, therefore showing how lasers are created. It has been really useful as it has really accentuated my perception of how interrelated mathematics and physics are. The week has certainly lived up to my expectations and beyond, and I thank Imperial College and especially Dr Jesus Rogel-Salazar.

oscar2Oscar Price
As expected, my week at imperial has taught me a lot; what was not so expected was the relaxed nature of the students and staff I was working with. The apprehension I had of Imperial College could not have been further from the truth, nowhere could I find the strict controlling lecturers I had so frequently depicted.

Aside from the College itself, I was also surprised by the high levels of physics I encountered, the surprising aspect being the uncertainty of it all. I used to think of physics as being one of the most black and white subjects there was, how wrong I was. My discovery of this uncertainty has only deepened my interest in the subject and added to the countless questions already in my head. I thank Imperial College and Dr Jesús Rogel-Salazar for these questions and I hope to show my appreciation by answering them in the years to come.

I’m not a scientist, but let me have a go… Students during work experience

This week I have the pleasure to have a couple of enthusiastic students doing a bit of work experience with me at Imperial College working on lasers and their applications. Keep an eye here as they might also feature in the Quantum Tunnel Podcast!

My name is Adam Bekele, a sixth form student at Camden School for Girls. I am doing my A levels and I have just finished my first year AS in Maths, Further Maths, Physics and History. I have always loved Maths and Physics. Maths is very intriguing as it exercises your problem solving skills, especially at A level and above, as we start looking at more complex mathematical ideas. Physics complements mathematics, it shows you the real life uses of mathematical ideas and that is what I find most interesting.

I am doing work experience with Dr. Jesus Rogel-Salazar at Imperial College London. I am really looking forward to this week as we will be working with Lasers, the uses, mechanism and the science behind it all. From this week, I would like to gain an understanding of how Laser behaviour can be explained mathematically, using graphs etc. It would also be interesting to find out about the types of mathematical equations that theoretical physicists have to solve in order to explain things such as Lasers. In doing this I would be able to also look at the use of computer programs within mathematics and physics. At school we have been studying energy levels and the nature of light so this work experience would better my understanding of this topic as they are very much related. It would also enable me to get a grasp of the type of things I would be doing as physics undergraduate and go beyond the school curriculum.

I have many hobbies. I play three instruments, saxophone, clarinet and bass guitar. I very much enjoy practising my instruments and playing in a band. I also row in a club, Royal Docks Rowing Club. Besides these things I also like running and doing art in my spare time.


My name is Oscar Price and I am a sixth form student at Camden School for Girls. The processes of GCSEs are what really sparked my interest for physics. I found that at GCSE many of the lessons endured are taught by teachers only aiming to guide you through the course you have chosen and not teach you the subject itself. They lacked passion. The result of this for me was boredom which gradually turned into a dislike of the subject, however this was not the case with physics. However tedious a certain topic would be made to seem, the fact that the principles I was learning were applicable to almost every aspect of daily life gripped me. I could find no other subject that could relate to or explain the World in quite the same way, I was inspired and remain to be so.

For the purpose of “broadening my horizons”, as my parents would say, and padding out my University application form, I took up the offer of a week’s work placement at the Physics Department in Imperial College London with Dr Jesus Rogel-Salazar working on the theory and applications of lasers. From it I hope to develop my understanding and interest of the subject while confirming it to be the right choice for me at university.