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EB2017: ASPET Graduate Student-Postdoctoral Colloquium

April 24, 2017
By Tamara Escajadillo

This year’s colloquium provided attendees with an in depth look at a subject that has the power to strike fear into the hearts of many (including this writer) and yet is an essential part of being a member of the scientific community. This subject, dear readers, is the art of effective science communication. The colloquium featured presentations from three speakers, along with a short Q&A session followed by an interactive session after each speaker, meant to engage the audience and cement the points that the speakers were there to make.

The first speaker was Matt Carter PhD, from the Department of Biology at Williams College, whose presentation focused on strategies for designing and delivering a scientific talk. Key advice was that the best way to make an effective presentation is to think about what format it will be, a poster, a paper, or a talk. Once that is figured out, the next step is to think about the end-user experience, think about your target audience. The best target audience you can think of is no one other than yourself! Think about designing something that YOU want to see. As for the visual part of presentations, he gave eight solid tips on how to have a better visual design, with some of the highlights being: chose background and foreground colors carefully (black and white combinations always do best), break up busy slides into multiple slides, be picky about your graphics (don’t over-do it), and my personal favorite, don’t say what you are doing, SHOW it (with pictures, etc) and it will last longer in people’s minds.

The second speaker was Myron Toews PhD, from the University of Nebraska Medical Center, with a play on David Letterman’s Top Ten lists with his own entitled Toews Grammar Hammer Guidelines for Scientific Writing-Top ten only! This was a good exercise in fine-tuning our grammar skills, including when to hyphenate and the correct ways to use commas. In addition, he talked about something we might have all been guilty of at least once, and that is the need to use a space in between a simple number and its units, such as 10 mL, not 10mL. You can find MANY more rules and tips at

The last speaker was Scott Morgan from The Morgan Group, who gave a good overview of how to effectively answer the ten most common questions asked during an interview. Some of the most common questions include asking about early scientific motivation, personal strengths and weaknesses, five year plans, and the always daunting Why You? A good way to overcome the fear of being asked questions we might not be prepared for is to imagine what your response would be if that situation would occur, even if it hasn’t. Another very important take away was that when you are asked questions, instead of giving a very generalized answer, tell something about yourself that summarizes it all into one single vivid thought and it will make you more memorable to them in the future.

A big thank you to all the speakers and to those who helped put this event together, as well as to all of those who attended! We hope everyone had a great experience at the colloquium and we hope you will consider coming back next year!

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Last Updated: September 6, 2017

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