“The best way to become acquainted with a subject is to write about it.” –Benjamin Disraeli
Rediscovering the Lost Art of Thinking in Science
By Bethany Huot & Miranda Haus
One of the most difficult tasks regarding science communication occurs at the start: identifying the Big Question. On March 10, 2017, Doug Schemske visited The Pub Club to discuss and advise us on this important topic. Due to an unavoidable conflict that had Doug in Florida, we utilized our Aquosboard technology to span the 1,200-mile gap and bring him to our living room via Zoom.
Doug started us off with a 2005 issue of Science listing the top 125 Big Questions in science, including “Why do humans have so few genes?” “How does a single somatic cell become a whole plant?” and “What determines species diversity?” He challenged us to consider how close or far removed our own research was from these “Big Questions.” He then recommended four guidelines to help identify Big Questions: 1) Question authority, 2) Be ambitious, 3) Follow your instincts, and 4) Think broadly. He cited both Charles Darwin and H. Allen Orr – two of the most cited scientists – as those who followed these four guidelines. While we want to be somewhat respectful in our questioning, paradigm shifts only occur when someone is willing to question the status quo.
Doug also described –READ MORE–
Writing That Standout Research Statement!
By Bethany Huot
Here at The Pub Club we are actively working to “Stay on the Edge of Science” and “Fill the Void.” Our reason for pursuing these objectives is to best position ourselves as the scientists who can tackle and provide solutions for the Big Questions and effectively communicate the relevance of our Key Findings to Diverse Audiences. For those of us hoping to achieve this goal within academe, one of the most critical elements of a successful application package is our Research Statement. On February 24, 2017, The Pub Club sat down with our three PIs – Sheng Yang He, Brad Day and Gregg Howe – to discuss the topic of “How to Write a Standout Research Statement?” Two TPC members, Kyaw (Joe) Aung and Xiufang Xin, who are both actively applying and interviewing for tenure track faculty positions, shared their Research Statements for critical evaluation to facilitate our conversation. This post is a summary of the feedback and discussion that resulted.
Q: What makes a “good” or “bad” research statement (RS)?
Miranda Haus got us rolling with this simple question: What makes a RS “good” or “bad”? Our PIs were in agreement that poor grammar and spelling are automatic turn-offs as they indicate laziness. If you did not take the time to edit your written thoughts, why should anyone else take the time to read them? In regards to what takes a RS from being just OK to standing out in the pile (which Sheng Yang mentioned can be >50 at a time!)? Gregg said he wants to read something new and exciting. He is looking for someone who sounds like a potential colleague. Brad agreed, saying we should start with a hook. Make the reader curious to know more.
Q: What is the relative importance of the RS within the application package?
The Pub Club: Who, What & Why…
The Pub Club (TPC) meets every week to provide both an opportunity and a resource all members can count on. The “task” is to be available to each member when their schedule allows and their needs require. The structure, meetings and special events are all designed to enable members through active participation to build and hone the “Diverse Skills” necessary to not only be accomplished scientists and do better science, but to also turn that into a successful career of their choosing. Whether that science career is a dedicated academic, industrial, science communication or any of the other options available to us, the “COM” concept supported and utilized by The Pub Club only strengthens these goals. No one can argue against the fact that even the most brilliant technical scientist is made better by a practiced and refined ability to communicate that science to others. Likewise, everyone has experience with “writer’s block” or what we in experimental design might call a “mental log jam.” TPC has shown that engaging in casual conversations about issues with peers helps us identify problems and restore the flow of a project more quickly and effectively than going it alone.
It is our belief and experience that what are often discouraged or completely discarded as “peripheral” skills are actually invaluable tools to achieving better results (see: Diverse Skill post). One of the many sources referenced in this post is an article and corresponding study in BioScience Magazine that shows those who would separate career from education or “professional skills” from technical skills – as if they are opposing paths – do a disservice to themselves and science in general. For example… –READ MORE–
Top Posts From The COM
UG Career Workshop Outcomes
By Bethany Huot
The last two semesters The Pub Club organized and held two Undergraduate Career Workshops to help the UGs on our research floor learn about and apply a Community of Minds approach to Strategically Manage the next phase of their careers. The idea arose from the fact that we have many UGs nearing graduation and beginning to ask the question, “What’s Next?”
So, what exactly did we do and what were the outcomes of our Workshop Events?
Our main objectives for these events were to introduce our UGs to the concept of strategic career management and demonstrate the value of a Community of Minds approach towards doing this. Co-coordinators, Bethany Huot and Miranda Haus, came up with the following activities to achieve these goals:
- Use TheCOMonline.net as a Career Management resource
- Create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) to identify their skills, interests, and values
- Write a…
As always, I am available and excited to discuss and teach the “Community of Minds” concept on which The Pub Club is founded. Feel free to contact me by email, contact form or just stop by my desk.
Founder/Director The Community of Minds & The Pub Club
Congratulations to Gregg Howe (posted 04/24/17): One of our TPC PIs, Gregg Howe, has recently been awarded both the Innovation Center Award from MSU and a Fellow of ASPB award. Check out the video below to hear Gregg describe the research led by Marcelo Campos, a former PhD student in his lab, that resulted in a discovery of plants that can both grow and defend. You can also read about it on the PRL’s website.
This semester at The Pub Club…
Within the framework of The Pub Club we have the unique opportunity to develop the Diverse skills needed to become the next generation of world renown scientists – the ones who set the bar by providing innovative solutions to the world’s most challenging problems.
While our main Mission objectives – 1) Meeting on the Edge of Science and 2) Filling the Void – may not seem to be connected, they are integrally linked. “Meeting on the Edge” is about more than just talking about the science breakthroughs done by others; we want our research to be the cutting edge that others are talking about. In order to be the ones Providing Solutions to the world’s greatest challenges, we first need to develop our ability to Identify the Big Challenges, determine which of these challenges our research addresses and Communicate the Relevance of our work to the world (public, media, policymakers, other scientists, etc.). Of course, in this evaluation process, we may discover a need to re-position our work to better address the Big Challenges and increase the real-world impact of our findings.
This semester at The Pub Club we will be applying a teaching approach called backwards design to help us maximize the time we spend in our Friday Gatherings towards meeting this Mission. The process utilized in this approach is 1) Define objectives (what are the desired results?) 2) Determine acceptable evidence (have the objectives been met?) and 3) Select activities and instruction (what will be done to achieve objectives?).
Our main objective this semester is to be able to Identify the Big Idea or Challenge our research addresses and Communicate the Relevance of our work to diverse audiences.
The evidence we will use to demonstrate this ability is verbal (Elevator Pitch), written (abstract) and graphical (graphical abstract) depiction of our research highlighting the 1) Main Challenge our research addresses and 2) How our Key Findings (may be anticipated findings) help provide Solutions to this challenge.
The activities we have selected for this semester will help us towards achieving this evidence.
In addition to helping us develop essential skills needed to position us as the “scientists on the edge,” we will be able to use our evidence to communicate the impact of our research for professional profiles (LinkedIn, personal websites), Publication, Funding new Research, Scientific Meetings, Research Statements for Job Applications, Public Education, Policy Making and more.
As Joe can testify (click here to read about Joe’s Job Interview Chalk Talk), even with the publications and the funding, you still need to be prepared to effectively communicate your research to others – especially when on the job market! Rather than wait until the interviews are lined up or your grant proposal deadline looms, why not begin filling your Void by learning to identify and communicate the relevance of your research today!
New From “The Void” (Quotes/Excerpts posted here are pulled from current job postings.)
Assistant / Associate Professor (tenure track)
(75% Research/25% Teaching)
● Ability to integrate basic and applied research
● Previous substantive contribution to cultivar development and release
● Demonstrated excellence in written and oral communication
● Evidence of interest and ability to form collaborative partnerships – within and across university disciplines, across national/international institutions, and with private industry
● Evidence of teaching effectiveness
● Evidence of excellence in teaching scholarship
● Evidence of ability and willingness to effectively teach and mentor students from a variety of cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds at the undergraduate and/or graduate level
● Evidence of ability to secure extramural funding from public and/or private sources
The Pub Club
If you are interested in more information on The Pub Club or the possibility of “Meeting on The Edge of Science” by gathering with those in your lab community please contact Bethany by clicking here & filling out the form.