After finishing my 6 years of postdoctoral training in Internal Medicine here at UT Southwestern, I was at a crossroads. My next step initially began as a research scientist, yet I was still unsure whether to pursue this career.
As a child I was very fascinated by the research my dad did as an endocrinologist. His work taught me that scientific research is of critical importance when trying to understand and treat a disease. As a basic scientist I have always loved my job and enjoyed doing research. A basic scientist tries to answer fundamental questions of biology and that often translates to how a disease impacts a living organism. By validating the underlying mechanism, one could possibly find a cure for a specific disease. I had many colleagues that worked directly with patients every day to save lives. I on the other hand, worked on genes involved in cellular pathways of a disease and was often questioned by friends and family if that would ever have an impact in medical field. I would simply explain that, “Basic science is the foundation for clinical research. Treating patients directly is more like building a house on that foundation.” In the absence of all the information obtained from basic research, it would be very difficult to predict any future in the treatment of a disease. Continue reading
History has shown us that often the difference between a useful tool and a deadly weapon lies not in the object itself, but the manner in which it is used. This was the case of Alfred Nobel, a Swedish chemist and engineer who figured out a way to turn nitroglycerin, an unstable and unpredictable explosive, into a safe and controllable compound: dynamite. While revolutionizing the mining, oil and railway industries, it also boosted the armament business into a new, more powerful era. In his last days, regretting the consequences of his invention and his own profit from it, Nobel decided to devote his fortune to a set of prizes for those people who “have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind”. That is how the Nobel Foundation was created, which, together with renown scientific institutions, nominate and award every year outstanding people from all over the world. In this article, we will take a look at the Nobel Laureates of 2016 and the work for which they are recognized.
Most graduate students I know have had a string of academic successes in their lives – they maintain good grades and are considered the ‘smart ones’ in the family. In fact, their hard-working nature has made them accustomed to being successful. Graduate school, however, tends to cause an abrupt end to their streak of success – a steep plunge into the abyss of failing scientific experiments. Scientific projects are infamously maligned by far too many reproducible failures. One can argue that it is the nature of scientific research – when you’re pushing the boundaries of the unknown, you are bound to encounter a few hurdles, right? Being a graduate student myself, I often wish I had been forewarned, so I could have equipped myself with the tools required to survive the storm.
Last week SPEaC held the second installment in our series of workshops: “Improvisation for Scientists”. This workshop series aims to help graduate students and postdocs improve their communication skills through fun and interactive improv-style games and activities. The focus of this workshop was to help our trainees recognize and eliminate complex scientific jargon and instead communicate in relatable stories and analogies. Continue reading
Communicating research findings to diverse audiences is essential not only to convey the impact of science to the general public and promote research funding, but also to inspire children and inform young students about career paths in science. That’s why being a good communicator is a skill that each of us, from grad student to professor, should seek to master. However, explaining the aim of a research project to a non-specialized audience can be a tricky task. Science needs to be made understandable without being oversimplified while avoiding technical jargon.