“All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
– Galileo Galilei
New From TheCOM™
TheCOM™ is officially TheCOM™LLC! We began the move earlier this year to formalize what had always been true. TheCOM™ was something formed outside of my “official” career to seek and supply support for myself and the “Community” around me. Now that I have moved out of the “Education” phase of my career and into the “Professional,” I am continuing this Extra-Curricular activity to build and work with “The Community of Minds” that has become such a valuable part of my life. Registering as an LLC simply makes it easier to pursue our goals.
The above video is a peak into our Fall 2018 – Spring 2019 pilot Educative Research™ project, BIOME (Biological Investigations of Multi-level Ecosystems). It was created by one of our undergraduate research teams at Calvin College in Fall 2018. Students were given 30 – 45 min to plan, record and compile a 3 – 5 min video explaining the BIOME project in their own words to develop their communication skills and assess their working knowledge of the project goals and approach. This group was one that went above and beyond with their effort and creativity! (Yes, we gave them a few extra hours to edit and compile.) Enjoy!
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Posts From TheCOM™
Science is Communication (Part 1) – A Time to R.O.A.R.
By Bethany Huot – July 20, 2017
This year at The Pub Club we have been focusing on one of the most important aspects of doing science – Communication! While we may view conducting experiments as the “doing” of science, without convincing others to fund our research, no experiments are possible; no science will get “done.” That experiment may be what enables us to move science forward with a breakthrough finding, but how can science be advanced without sharing our findings? Looking through this lens for a second, let’s make a list. We first must come up with an idea, which always involves seeking out and reading literature to guide us in defining important research questions. We often reach out to others in the field for their insights on our ideas. Reading work others have published is receiving communication, and talking to peers is active, two-way communication. We’ve already clarified that once you have a research question you must communicate it well in order to get funded to do the research. Now that you are funded, does the communication stop? Can you get or maintain collaborators without both verbal and written communication? Can you report your progress or brainstorm a problem in lab meeting without communicating? Can you recruit others to your lab if you don’t communicate to them the value of joining? Finally, as we have already said, can your findings advance anything if they are not clearly communicated to those who would use them? Viewed this way we realize that, in fact, Science Is Communication! (READ MORE)
Science is Communication (Part 2) – How The Story’s Told
By Bethany Huot – January 15, 2018
You may have heard the saying that how well you understand something is evidenced by how well you can explain or teach it to someone else. There are many things we think we know until we try to express them clearly and concisely to someone else! Even if we are experts on a subject, it is important to take time to think about how to best communicate it.
In part 1 of Science is Communication – A Time to R.O.A.R., we defined Communication as “the successful exchange of ideas or information between two or more people.” We then focused on Why Communication is Important, How to Communicate with a R.O.A.R., and How to Develop Communication as a skill. In part 2, Science is Communication – How the Story’s Told, we will zoom in closer and, as promised, talk about our M.A.D. skills. Message, Audience, and Delivery are the essential elements of using your R.O.A.R. to construct an individual story to effectively communicate specific information. (READ MORE)
Here is an example of how your story can be told with a R.O.A.R. and how no communication is too small to apply this method. This is a PodCast I did with Max Johnson of The Food Fix communicating the Science I did as a Ph.D. student.
Guest Posts From TheCOM™
Should I stay or should I go? Reflections of a New PI
By Christian Danve M. Castroverde (Guest Contributor to TheCOM) December 3, 2019
“Should I stay or should I go?” belts The Clash in their classic punk rock hit from 1982. Although this song was released before I was born, it appropriately served as one of my mental anthems during my postdoc, which was a period of creative independence but also of uncertainty about my career’s future. This year – in what I consider just short of miraculous – I finally landed a tenure-track Assistant Professor position.
After a fantastic postdoc experience in the laboratory of Sheng Yang He at Michigan State University, I am now based in the Department of Biology at Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Canada. I have always wanted to be an academic in an institution that balances its research and teaching priorities, especially one located in Ontario so that I could reunite with my partner and be close to my family. That is why it felt like winning the lottery when I received the email offer on that fateful morning! This is no hyperbole, as getting offered a faculty position had held an almost mythical status for me. Although I don’t think I am merely “chopped liver,” the increasing number of Ph.D. graduates combined with the relatively stagnant number of available openings has made it extremely difficult and competitive to make that elusive transition forward.
It is and will always be an absolute honor to have this opportunity. As I reflect upon this, I thought to myself, “I must have done something right.” But which “something” is still a source of contemplation for me. Turns out, this “something” is not one magic factor. In a recent preprint just posted on bioRxiv, the authors conducted a detailed survey of faculty job applicants and found that “there is no single clear path to a faculty job offer.” They also found that traditional metrics (i.e. independent funding and papers) were not completely able to delineate successful and unsuccessful applicants.
So, what gives? I have known since I was a graduate student that...(READ MORE)
Reflections on the Academic Job Market
Like many others, I went on the job market for two years before landing in my current position. The first year on the job market I thought I was ready, but wow – I was completely unprepared. One major problem (of several) was that my future research plan lacked a clear vision, and I was not doing a great job of distinguishing myself from others in the field. Another mistake that I made was trying to make my research plan fit into the job ad – this led to me proposing research that I had very little interest in doing and was unexcited about. I strongly advise against this approach! How miserable would it be to do research that you are unexcited about just to get a tenure-track job??? So, I chalk year 1 up to a learning experience.
After this, I got a puppy (seriously), I reassessed, I got feedback from senior faculty at other institutions, and I asked myself what I wanted to do. This soul-searching led to a new and different research plan that I was excited to talk about. I wrote up the new plan and I asked anyone and everyone that was willing to read it and provide feedback. I asked the lab, my advisor, newly hired assistant professors, my friends who do not work in science, my family, etc. I wanted this research statement to communicate my plan to a wide audience and convey a clear message. Here is my first bit of advice: Use your community to get feedback on your research plan! Second, do not get upset if they provide critical feedback; they are working to help you become a better scientist and a better communicator. One resource that was extremely helpful for me is a repository of successful research statements curated by Jeff Ross-Ibarra at UC Davis https://github.com/RILAB/statements. After reading through these statements, I realized … (READ MORE)
Do It Anyway!
By Tiffany Lucas (Guest Contributor to TheCOM) August 21, 2017
Your path isn’t going to be a straight one and you’re not going to be handed a map. I had a highly varied path in my research exposing me to many areas of biology, and I’m comfortable taking a deep dive into the primary literature. I enjoy identifying patterns and connections in science and between people, I am a strong scientific writer, and like presenting ideas to both experts and non-experts. It’s engaging for me to talk with talented scientists, business people, lawyers and patent agents, large industry, academia, and small biotech. Into my postdoc, I worked on developing my grant writing, presenting, and interdisciplinary science skills. I made connections in the biotech community and helped others who needed my expertise in grant writing and due diligence projects. I was very fortunate to be selected for a 6-month full-time position as a Technology Transfer Trainee at Washington University Office of Technology. This was an amazing program developed by Nichole Mercier, PhD, as she recognized the need to transition PhDs out of the lab and into exciting careers. That was a huge turning point for me; I discovered the early-stage biotech community and the passion that the scientists had here. My position as an Investment Analyst with a not-for-profit company, which is focused on supporting and developing early-stage biotech, is perfect for my interests and I’ll continue to grow in skills and abilities.
After leaving my 3.5-year postdoc lab for the technology transfer training program, my former PhD adviser asked skeptically, “Are you ok?” My response was… (READ MORE)
The Mind of The Founder… Not really, however here are a few articles written about and a few written by TheCOM’s founder Bethany Huot.
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