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TALENT: Training in Advanced Low Energy Nuclear Theory
Training the next generation of nuclear physicists
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TALENT Procedures and Best Practices for Organizers

Contents

Best practices and procedures for a Talent course

The aim of the TALENT initiative is to develop a set of courses which can be offered at various institutions in Europe and Northern America (and eventually beyond). This curriculum, together with the experiences made during the network, can provide the ground for a graduate program in low-energy Nuclear Theory. We expect that Master of Science, PhD students and early post-doctoral fellows in both theoretical and experimental nuclear physics will attend the courses. Our plan is to offer a curriculum which is broad enough and at the same catches the needs of the Nuclear Physics community. The Talent steering committee relies on input and proposals from our community and proposals for running new Talent courses are highly welcome. The content here offers a set of guidelines for organizing Talent courses as well as how to prepare a proposal.

If you plan to organize a course, please send a proposal to the one or more members of the steering committee (see under the Talent Charter link here for addresses).

Expectations

The TALENT board reviews and selects proposals for courses targeted at students and young researchers in Low Energy Nuclear Theory. The following criteria may serve as guidelines

  1. Motivation
  2. Timeliness - how it fits in with of recent courses
  3. Course structure – does it have the character of a graduate course
  4. Clear articulation of course objectives
  5. Preliminary syllabus
  6. Plan for problem sets and other type of student exercises
  7. Firm commitments of experienced teachers
  8. Plan for maintaining continuity between lecturers

Further criteria are

  1. Distribution of lecture notes
  2. Type of information available on course website
  3. Any other documenting of lectures
  4. Daily structure
  5. Possible contributions to the total budget

If a proposal is selected the TALENT board will provide assistance in finding a suitable site for the course and identify possible funding. The steering committee will also provide guidelines for advertising and selecting applicants.

Best Practices

Duration. The typical duration of a TALENT course is three weeks.

Credits and grades. The course content should correspond to about six or seven ECTS credits (ECTS=European Credit Transfer System). The standard conversion of one ECTS to credits at American universities is given by a factor of two, that is a six ECTS course in Europe corresponds a three credits course in Northern America. One ECTS credit corresponds to an average workload of 25 hours, of which 8-10 hours are devoted to learn from lectures and the rest from personal studies and from solving exercises. For European students, upon the completion of a final project, an attestation will be made by the university linked with the site where the course has been held. This attestation can then be used to include the Talent course as part of a Master thesis course requirement or, if applicable, as part of a PhD course curriculum.

For Master of Science students in Europe, the grades A (4.0), B (3.5), C (3.0), D(2.5), E (2.0) and F for failed will be used. For PhD students only passed/not passed will be used.

Schedule

A daily schedule with 3-4 lectures (45 min each) in the mornings and exercise sessions in the afternoons is recommended. An essential element of the course is the final project 
assignment. 
 The workload for the final project should include time for project preparation, for conduct of the research project, and for its reporting.

The nature of student projects will likely vary significantly from course to course and will also depend on the requirements of individual students to get credit for the course. In this case it should correspond to a couple of weeks additional work. Participants would spend some time performing a background study and an initial literature survey during the three-week residential component of the course to research/define their personal research project, the chosen methodology to be used and its aims. 
 Materials from previous courses

Materials from previous courses

The TALENT initiative would like to promote coherence between the different TALENT courses. Lecturers and teaching assistants are encouraged to use online TALENT material and lecture notes when appropriate. Developing new materials

Developing new materials

An online collaboration tool such as Dropbox or Github/bitbucket can be used to share developing materials among the lecturers, to enhance communication and coherence. Access to materials from the ongoing course

Access to materials from the ongoing course

Students should have access to lecture notes and/or slides soon after the lecture is delivered (before is even better). Printing facilities may be limited, but students should have 
hardcopy versions of exercises.

Surveys of students found full preference for delivering the lectures by blackboard 
rather than Powerpoint slides, even if the lecture materials are available beforehand and even if the students are not taking notes. (Slides are necessary for figures, complicated diagrams, etc. and are appropriate for some types of material).

If the blackboard is replaced by projection of some kind, the positive features of the blackboard delivery should be emulated if possible. For example, a projected tablet could be used. 
 Website

Website

A website for the delivery of course materials and other information during the program should be established as soon as possible after the course is approved. Be sure they are regularly backed up. Eventually the materials should be moved to a more permanent archival location.

Examples of webpages can be found by looking at the various courses on the links under the Courses menu item.

An internal part of the website, accessible only to the participants (i.e., password protected), should be available. Pictures and email addresses of the participants can be kept here. 
 Best practices for exercises

Best practices for exercises

Allow enough time for exercise work. At least four hours each afternoon. Most exercises should have a computational character. One might provide a shorter core set of exercises that are a mix of formal and computational work, and a broader, extended set of exercises that participants can select from, leaving the flexibility for participants of different background.

Given the time constraints of a TALENT course, one should avoid the type of problems that require students to struggle (except if they are assigned for completion after the course is over).

An alternative for more difficult exercises is to point the way rather explicitly and let the student fill in details. To further aid this process one can develop a sequence of hints that can be revealed to those who are stuck on an exercise.

Working in groups has proven to be effective. For discussion questions, students should not always talk to the same group members. This may need to be enforced by the lecturers.

It is strongly encouraged to have several assistant lecturers during the course for helping with the exercises. The presence of the lecturers during exercise sessions is strongly recommended and very much appreciated by the students. A central feedback at every TALENT course is the possibility for the students to meet and discuss with world-leading experts in their fields of research.

An effort should be done to record the lectures using different 
technologies (the optimal solution may vary with time and the 
nature of the local facilities.) 
 One possibility is to use a software like Adobe Connect, a software which many universities offer to their employees and students.

Mailing list

An email list of the participants should be made as soon as the selection process is complete. Feedback before the course

Feedback before the course

An email or online survey of the students should be made well in advance of the program to help gauge the range of backgrounds and to suggest readings for the participants.

Possible survey questions and requests:

  1. Have you taken a course on nuclear physics? If so, what textbook did you use?
  2. Will you be bringing a laptop? If so, what kind of computing software is installed (e.g., Mathematica, MATLAB, Python, C++, Fortran, other)?
  3. Please send a short one-line description of your current or planned research specialty, suitable for posting on the website.

Feedback during the course

To enable instructors to make adjustments during the course, lecturers are encouraged to implement mechanisms to obtain early feedback from the student. Student performance on problem sets, and meetings with students and teaching assistants in small groups can provide this feedback if properly scheduled.

Feedback after the course

It is important to get feedback from the participants soon after the program is complete, while the memory of the experience is still fresh.

Here is an example of letter to send to the students after the course:


<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<

Thank you for your hard work during the recent TALENT course. Here we ask you
to complete one more task to help us learn from this experience what works
well and what can be improved. Please answer the following specific questions
and add any other comments. Thanks in advance for your thoughtful responses.

Experience (Master, PhD, Postdoc): __________________________

Experimenter or theorist: ___________________________________

Please fill in this form and send it to: ___________________________________

Comments on the structure of having lectures in the morning and exercises and
discussion sessions in the afternoon:

We limited the number of different lecturers on purpose in the hope of having
a high level of coherence. How do you think that worked out?

Comments on the pace of the course (too slow/fast, not enough details vs.
learning about more physics topics, etc.):

We chose to present most of the lectures by blackboard to reduce the pace and
allow more interaction. Do you prefer blackboard or slides for the lectures?

Comments on the usefulness of the exercises and what you would change. Do you
think you will go back and work on problems you didn't have time for during
the course?

Would you have preferred more analytical and/or computational problems vs.
discussion questions?

Was the website useful? How would you improve it?

Comments on lodging and food (and cookies!):

Comments on logistics at XXX:

What was the best thing about the course?

What would you change?

Have you attended other TALENT courses?

Comparisons to other schools you have attended:

Topics covered on the different days of the course: Please edit to show your
option of the value of the different

topics of the course:

topic 1: very useful - somewhat useful - not useful

topic 2: very useful - somewhat useful - not useful...

etc.

Other comments:

<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<< 

Other issues

A group picture should be taken early in the program. Provide some form of refreshments, such as morning and 
afternoon coffee, during which participants can take a break. Facilitate and/or organize some participant outings. Give 
information about local activities so that students can self- 
organize. If the course takes place in a large experimental laboratory, 
facilitate the visit of the experimental area and a presentation of the science program.


Description of courses

We have singled out five main scientific themes to be covered by the network:

  1. Advanced few- and many-body methods
  2. Theoretical modeling of nuclear phenomena
  3. Nuclear astrophysics
  4. Physics of weakly-bound and open quantum systems
  5. Advanced high-performance computing topics and numerical algorithms.

The courses are project based and linked up with actual research topics. This means that if the topic is well-defined, the outcome of a course could be a scientific article, if not all students have to hand in a final report which is as close as possible to a scientific report, including thereby proper referencing, handling of scientific ethical results, etc.

We describe here the content of the main themes, broken down in nine different and possible courses. These courses can be offered on a biennial basis both in Europe and Northern America. The first theme (advanced few- and many-body methods) is covered by the first four courses described below. The second theme (theoretical modeling of nuclear phenomena) is covered by the fifth course and the sixth course. The third theme (nuclear astrophysics) is covered by the seventh course, and the fourth theme (physics of weakly-bound and open quantum systems) is covered by course eight. The last theme (advanced high- performance computing topics and numerical algorithms) is covered by the ninth course. By clicking on each course below, a detailed exposition of a projected content is available. Note well that number of courses and their possibility is only a suggestion. The courses are:

This document was approved by the Steering committee on May 15, 2014 and published here on May 29, 2014.