Working on MARS: Collaborating to solve the problem of knowledge transfer in our research group
Earlier this month we spoke with Shri (Srinidhi Bheesette) who works in the MARS bio-imaging group at the University of Otago. His research group is using Overleaf for collaborative group work to support longer-term knowledge transfer, and in our short interview we find out more about the benefits a cloud-based collaboration platform brings to his group.
An interview with Srinidhi Bheesette
I am a PhD student in the University of Otago, working in the MARS bio-imaging group which specializes in spectral CT scanners. With around 30+ PhD students in our group it is difficult to manage the documentation work relating to the research each student is doing.
In order to make this easier, we wish to have an online common platform where students can document their stuff in real-time, and once the document is completed it is converted into a PDF. This will be useful not only for the current students or members of group but also for the future students as a guide to work carried out by previous students.
In order to facilitate having more than one student to work on the same document at the same time, we have proposed an online document collaboration frame using Overleaf.
Overleaf: Can you tell us a bit about yourself and what you do?
I am a PhD student at University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand working on cool pixel detectors which are currently used by the MARS bio-imaging group in spectral CT imaging, for high energy physics applications in collaboration with CERN, Switzerland where the God particle was discovered. My work will involve installing and using these detector 110m below the ground to assist the CMS experiment at CERN which is looking for answers of how we came into existence.
Overleaf: What are the biggest challenges you face in your work?
The group I am working in has 30+ members including staff and students and each person works on a different aspect of the project, thus it is difficult for the students within the group to know what their colleagues are working on. This issue of knowledge transfer has always been in a problem within our group.
Overleaf: How did you first find out about Overleaf?
In order to make document collaboration simple, I was made responsible to come up with a framework which could benefit the whole group and help students collaborate on the very large documents which would then be circulated within the group. These documents will not only be useful for the current students and staff but also for the future students. Thus while looking for such online latex collaboration tools I selected Overleaf out of several others which were available on the internet because of its awesome features.
Overleaf: How would you describe your experience of using Overleaf?
I have been using Overleaf for the past 6 months when I started my PhD. I had prior knowledge of LaTeX before using it, but I would say that Overleaf just made it much more simpler. With a very simple and user-friendly website and structure it makes documenting much more efficient and fun. The share feature is one of the best features of Overleaf which helps more than one author to read and edit a document. In addition to all the other features, the referencing and publish features are also quite useful.
Overleaf: What's next for you and your work?
I am writing a formal proposal which I will be put forward in the group describing how overleaf can be used as an online collaboration tool to solve the challenge we are currently facing. Currently I am designing a muon experiment using the pixel detector and then follow up with experiments to detect other particles like protons, neutrons, etc. I am definitely be writing them using Overleaf.
I also will encourage students in my group and others in the university to do so by conducting workshops with help of advisors from my university.
Overleaf: In summary, how would you describe Overleaf in a single sentence?
Overleaf is a user friendly organized LaTeX tool which makes online document collaboration seamless and hassle free!
I attended the workshop organized by one of the Overleaf advisors, Arin Basu from University of Canterbury on 10th November 2015. It was a very useful and interesting workshop in which he taught the participants to create a project and edit it by logging into Overleaf. Also Dr John Lees-Miller gave a tutorial on Overleaf and was kind to clear all my doubts. The participants were interested to learn more about Overleaf, hence Arin and I have planned to follow up on this workshop and conduct them on a regular basis.
We're delighted to welcome Shri as a new Overeaf advisor, and look forward to working with him and Arin on their next workshop.