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From students' perspective

Rui Huang's picture

I like to keep the mindset of being a student, learning from all sources on all topics I am interested. Recently I have learned quite a lot about mechanics and mechanicians from Applied Mechanics News and its sister blogs and now iMechanica.

With a job as an assistant professor, I always try to motivate my students to become future mechanicians. For this reason, I started Modeling Place as a group blog in January and gently forced my students to participate. Out of the five students I have, two actively participate by posting frequently, two occasionally post, and one dropped out quickly after one post. Together, the blog has been doing reasonably well, in terms of both quantity and quality of posts.

I learned a few tricks in handling images and got to know some interesting works in the general area of mechanics. How about the students? What benefits have they received? I have to ask them. For one, I awarded one student with a little gift as the best post of the semester. More importantly, I believe that they are reading more than they used to do, thus gaining broader knowledge and interest in mechanics and related science. They not only read the posts in the blog but also read from other sources (online or not) to find something to post. Furthermore, they have a place to practice writing. It is a big step from reading to writing, not only for foreign students I think.

It may be still too soon to tell how well this works, but the students themselves should be able to tell us more. If you are a student, I encourage you to comment on this to tell the professors what you like or don't like about iMechanica. At this stage of development, much more features and benefits can be accomodated. Your ideas could shape the future of iMechanica and benefit all students and those considering themselves as students of life.


Nanshu Lu's picture

I was not used to reading news on mechanics before. I was even not quite sure about the research topics of other group members. But it is professors like Zhigang and you who urge us to learn to be a scholar rather than just a worker. I do learn a lot from iMechanica. Thanks a lot.

Similar to many other students, my biggest concern when writing a new post is that it may be seen by hundreds of researchers worldwide even when the article is still immature. Therefore, I would like to "hide" my post in my own blog for a short while until I became confident enough to bring it out to the public.

One of my biggest concerns is the "popular content" on the left side bar of iMechanica. It is based on the times this post has been read -- unfortunately, the counter also counts how many times I click it by myself. When I write a new article and post it in my own blog, I may wish to edit it many times until I become confident with it, or sometimes I may just write part of the article and would like to finish it later when I have more time.However by doing so, I have also "read" my own immature article  many times and it is too easy for such an article to be promoted to the front page as a "popular content" -- that would make me feel more embarrassed and actually could prevent me from posting in the website.

I wonder if the "counter" could only count the times my article has been read by others, not myself. I think this could be a useful step to protect the "shy" and "conservative" students like me, and actually encourage the posting from the students and help their career development.

Xi Chen's picture

Thank you Yuye. This is a critical and very useful comment, and suggestions like such are always welcome. I have also noted this problem when editing my posts and in fact sometimes I may have to delete it and then post a new article to reset the counter, otherwise it would become today's popular content too easily.

Another issue which I wish could be improved is the sequence of articles within one's blog -- right now all posts are sorted by the time it was posted with the most recent ones appearing on the top. However, sometimes I may want to "lock" a particular post (e.g. the overview of my group) on top of my blog for a while, or to rearrange the sequence of the posts such that the more interesting articles could be more visible to the visitors (instead of scrolling all the way down). I think this is also useful for the students. Is it possible to realize this function (e.g. assign a weight factor to each post)?

Zhigang Suo's picture

Xi:  I'm sure what you want can be done.  And it should be done, for reasons that you have articulated.  The readers should have multiple ways to look at an author's content.  In this configuration, iMech offers many ways.  Let me check with Lesley Lam, our technical support, and see if she can help us. 

Meanwhile, please use the existing features to their full advantage, and keep pushing the limit if iMech.  

Zhigang Suo's picture

Thank you for pointing out the problem with "popular content".  We'll look into it if we can change its behavior. 

Meanwhile, you can first edit a post offline, using a desktop word processor, such as MS Word.  When you feel comfortable with what you write, you can past into iMech.  In addition to overcome your concern, this approach has two other advantges.

  1. You can check spelling.
  2. You will always have a desktop copy, so that you will not lose your work by hitting a wrong button. 

Hope this helps. 

Xi Chen's picture

Zhigang: Your suggestion is very useful. Meanwhile, I note that on BBS the "popular content" is determined by the number of replies following the original article. So perhaps we could use that as a new counter to determine the ranking of "popular content" in iMechanica. In addition, probably it is not too hard to obtain the IP address of the visitor and the counter could filter out repetitive clicks from a certain IP address during a certain time frame. These are just my thoughts based on other BBS structures.

Zhigang Suo's picture

I suppose each ranking system has its own merits and flaws, including the current one.  We'll have a similar discussion like that of ISI for ever. 

If software engineers think like mechanicians, they will offer 100 different ranking methods, and let users pick their own.  When that happens, we'll stop arguing.

At this point, it perhaps is helpful for people to understand how the current popularity counter works.  It is at least transparent.  In fact, you can track who has read a post by clicking the title of the post, and then click the tab "track".

For Rui's post about motivating students, this is its track.

Rui Huang's picture

The link does not work for me.


I'm sorry. I can see "track" at as an admin. Let me look into it...

As a principle, if we offer popularity counter, we ought to make it transparent.

Teng Li's picture

You can also use online word processors, such as, to write, edit and store your posts.

Your posts will be stored online, thus you can access anywhere with internet connection.

If you want, you can also make any file in your writely account open to public access. Such a file will have a permalink for you and others to make hyperlink. For example, you can use this way to publish your personal webpage or CV. See here for an example.

Xi Chen's picture

Teng, thanks for pointing out the online editor. I agree with what Zhigang said the other day that we should make the barrier of iMechanica low. That is, everybody should feel comfortable of posting on iMechanica and such process should be made easy -- once they register on iMechanica they could start to write. Many users may not know the small bug of the counter and if we ask them to only post well-written articles, that could make the user to have the feeling that the barrier of iMechanica is "high", even if they just want to write something within their own blog and does not want other people to see at this moment. is an excellent resource but could this confuse some of the iMechanica users? 

Rui Huang's picture

Hey students, don't be afraid to be popular! I am happy to see my post becoming today's most popular and climbing up in the all-time popular ranking. In general, I like to see people commenting on my post. If no comments, I am disappoitned and blame myself for the not-so-interesting post, whatever the counting means. As long as we keep a friendly atmosphere, there is no need to be shy. Remember, a group of moderators could help you revise the posts. Positioning yourself as a student, you won't feel embarassed if one of your professors kindly correct some of your errors. So, challenge yourself to make to the popular rankings! 


Recently, a lot of blogs and comments regarding to the students’ concerns are posted on iMechanica. As a senior graduate student, I think at least we can benefit from iMech in the following aspects:

1. Resources of mechanics. We are students of mechanics, so we want to access the resources of mechanics as easy as possible, as fast as possible, and as much as possible. Traditionally, we go to the library, search for the books and borrow them out to study. But now internet has already prevailed in the world and will replace all of the information carriers based on paper. Books and journals will become digital. Moreover, university libraries do not buy all of the books or journals we need, and we have to go through the interlibrary loan to access the resource we need. It is a waste of time. If not lucky, we even cannot obtain what we need. However, iMechanica supplies the possibility in the era of internet. More and more useful information will be accessible in iMechanica. The only tool you need is the computer. Log on iMechanica, and search, then you are done. What you need just appears in front of you, no hassle. Of course, it needs everybody's contribution, including students, no matter big or small, it counts, as Xi Chen said. Everybody contributes one drop, meanwhile he/she benefits from the whole sea.

2. Pool of research topics. As a graduate student, I not only want to learn, but also want to do something new. What topic attracts me, what is the current stage of the hot topics, and what can I do? These are common questions researchers ask, both faculty and students. Usually, students just do what their advisor tells them to do. But what if you graduate? You need to find your own topics. The students are lack of enough knowledge and experience, so the horizon is usually narrow. But iMechanica will supply this pool. Within this pool, you can not only keep up with the current stage of your own topic/topics, but also hunt the new hot topics.

3. Brain storms of the whole world. Brain storm generates great ideas, and is adopted by many groups. Now the in-group brain storm can be extended to the mechanics community in the whole world. Channels are open and don’t be shy to make up ideas.

4. Social network. This is a very good platform for you to know other people, make new friends, and develop careers, as Xi Chen pointed out. Self-advertising and job hunting are both realized in iMechanica. You can design your own homepage in iMech now, put up your resume and research papers. Let others know you. Meanwhile, more and more relevant jobs will be posted here. You need not to search by Google or agencies in the non-relevant areas.

5. Immediate help. Maybe you have a question, but cannot find out the answer, even your advisor does not have time to meet you, then do not wait, come up here and ask. iMechanica have a channel for you to ask the whole community. Click “ask a question” and submit your question. People will answer that. Maybe you get many answers. Don’t be shy to ask a question. Hey, we are students. Of course, we don’t know everything. That’s why we go to the school to learn. Asking question means that you don’t know something and want to know. Lots of warm-hearted people would like to help you. But not asking does not means that you know it. Be brave. You will benefit.

Teng zhang's picture

I am junior graduate student now, and have benefited a lot via imechanica. I like mechanics and will try my best to do nice work about this in the future. However, When I was ungraduated, many of my classmates lost heart about the future of mechanics: We have known little information about what the mechanics can do, which kind of job we can find when graduated... Confused with these kinds of questions, many gave up and then may fail in the job finding, which let some chose graduate just for diploma and some have nothing.

Admittedly, the condition I know is just what I know which is certainly one-sided. And doing research should not be the only choice for all. Everyone here should have the experience of students, some have erver been, some are now. I think it will be better that the profs and the senior students share your experience and  suggestion with us. The ungraduate will be more interested in the background and the application of mechanics, especially for such students like in our school.

Anyway, thanks for this excellent Platform which makes students closed of the whole world development on mechanics.

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