Personal Website Tips for Scientists and Academics

Most departments maintain a standard, biographical webpage for faculty, staff, and graduate students. Typically this page includes your contact information and a photo, perhaps a CV and a link to a personal website. Do you need a personal website? What should you include? And how do you create and maintain it?

A personal website is a great way to showcase your work while providing information to collaborators, students in your classes, potential graduate students, and hiring/promotion committees. In the age of google, having a professional website devoted to your research and teaching is a great way to stand out.

Getting started
– Start with the basics. The homepage should include your contact information, perhaps a photo, a brief research or teaching statement, and links to in-depth information about your work.
– Professional photos are best, though you might also consider a photo in the field or lab.
– Keep any text on your homepage brief.  The intention is to draw people in, not turn them off with too many words or jargon.
– Keep the design simple and clean. Remember all of the standard advice for PowerPoint slides.

Ideas for links from the homepage
– CV: Your CV should be clean and updated regularly. You can post a text version that is visible within the webpage, but also be sure to have a printable, pdf version available.
– Teaching and research statements: If you choose to include teaching and research statements, they should be fairly general. Do not post the customized version that you used to apply to University X.  These should also be available as pdfs.
– Recent/current projects: Description of project, supporting agencies, collaborators, and a figure if it helps to describe the work.
– Publications: Again, link to pdf documents. You may need to contact journals to receive permission before posting them on your site.
– Links: Link to your lab, your students, your course pages, your university, your collaborators, your advisor. Do not link to your ultimate frisbee team page, your facebook page, political or religious pages, or anything overly personal.
– Personal information: Be careful here. It’s fine to talk about volunteer work or outreach projects. It’s not fine to discuss your obsession with your classic VW Bug (the obsession is fine, talking about it is not).  Do not post your creative writing or poetry.  Do not post pictures from your recent wedding, pictures of pets, or pictures from the department Halloween party. If you would put it on your facebook page, do not put it on your professional page.

How to create the page
– Start by contacting your IT department. Most universities give you hosting space and your site’s url will be attached to your university.  Also consider talking to someone in your department who has created a personal website to ask them about the process at your university. The following article from the Chronicle of Higher Education may also be helpful.

– No design skills? No problem. There are many free templates online.  Also consider using WordPress.  This guide from Design Sponge explains the basics.

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