Meet the Blogger: Deepshikha Mishra

Hello iJOBS community,

My name is Deepshikha Mishra. I recently joined iJOBS blog as a writer and I am very excited to be a part of it. I am a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Pharmacology at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. After completing my Ph.D. in India, I moved to US to pursue my postdoctoral research.

Biology has always fascinated me since my school days. Driven by my interest, I obtained a bachelor’s degree in Biology followed by a master’s degree in Biotechnology -the foundation for a career in research was set when I was very young. During my master’s program, I learned a lot about the basics of research work.  After that, pursuing a Ph.D. degree to gain an in-depth knowledge about biology came naturally to me. I got my Ph.D. in Cancer Biology from Banaras Hindu University, India, where I studied molecular interactions playing a key role in development of acute leukemia; a type of blood cancer mainly affecting children below the age 10. Further, I also investigated novel molecular targets for effective drug development. I performed my thesis research in a wonderful environment with a great team of academicians and clinicians that helped me do my research effectively and played major roles as mentors. However, the greatest motivator for my research career were the chance encounters I had with patients in events organized by the hospital. So, when I got the opportunity for a postdoctoral position in the department of pharmacology, I quickly grabbed it. I am working with Dr. Debabrata Banerjee studying tumor stroma interaction in cancer microenvironment. Under his excellent mentorship, I aim to develop a better understanding of stromal factors playing role in cancer progression and to exploit it for clinical importance.

Apart from research work, I am passionate about science communication and love to write about different aspects of science, STEM and scientific events in general. In the past, I have volunteered to write blog articles for PLOS: The student blog and news articles for IndiaBioscience, a not-for-profit science outreach initiative. I was very excited when I got the opportunity to write for Rutgers iJOBS blog. Rutgers iJOBS Blog, as the name suggests is a blog for biomedical scientists, providing interdisciplinary opportunities for Job at different levels. It is a collection of versatile posts, events and opportunities intended to prepare PhD students and postdoctoral fellows to enter the job market within their field of interest.

I hope to write some good and informative blog posts in the future and learn some great things from the blog. Different activities and a broad range of career development events organized by the Rutgers iJOBS community are commendable and helpful for a student/ researcher at any stage of their career. IMG-3807I am looking forward to attending as many events as possible and learn from them. I hope my blog posts in the future will be of interest to you and will help you in some way. Thank you!

This article was edited by Helena Mello and Aminat Saliu Musah.


Meet The Blogger – Andrew Petryna

Meet the Bloggers

By Andrew Petryna

How many melancholy short biographies have you read that were written by academically confused undergrad students still fumbling through the world of Organic Chemistry and Physics? Add another tally to the count because you’re about to meet Andrew Petryna. I am a second year student in the Rutgers School of Arts and Sciences. Like many students on the pre-med track, I am double majoring in two things that I was told would help me on the MCATs— Psychology and Biological Sciences. My life, both academically and personally, has been rather unremarkable and free of any serious adversity, but I will do my best to present myself as the interesting person I would like you to believe I am.

I grew up in the town of Bridgewater in Central New Jersey, where the schools are excellent, the fences are nice and picketed, and the pressure to succeed socio-economically is only slightly above-average. Like many AP-class students before me, I graduated with decent grades and a formidable SAT score. Having grown up in New Jersey, and my sister having attended before me, I was all but destined to land at Rutgers University. On the first day of classes in September 2017, I set foot on campus as a commuter, having never visited the place before. Eventually, I found my way to a General Psychology class, where the professor posted an application for a research opportunity in the Rutgers Graduate School of Applied Psychology. Despite my lack of previous research experience, I was accepted into the lab of Dr. Elisa Shernoff, who is working on the creation of a professional development program for teachers in high poverty schools. I am fortunate enough to be working in her lab and I hope to for as long as I can!

Among my many vices is a desire to write prolifically and didactically. I have always loved to play a part in the spreading of information to as many people as possible, since I (and many other nerds) subscribe to the notion of “knowledge being power”. This desire has manifested itself in a position as a Correspondent Writer for the Daily Targum student newspaper at Rutgers. Though I do not intend to make a career out of journalism, writing serves as one of the few sources of taking pride in what I create.

I spent my first year rather dazed and confused about the whole college experience, but now I think I’m getting the hang of it. I have a steady position in the lab of a respected Professor, I am, despite my best efforts, making friends, and I have convinced myself that I have my academic and degree plans all figured out. A few life lessons learned in 9 months of college schooling include: just like me, most people aren’t 100% sure of what they’re doing or why they’re doing it; that the professional world is not nearly as intimidating as it seems; and that there is an amount of opportunity beyond what I could have imagined to lead a successful and fulfilling career in science.

Despite my college career taking root in psychology and journalism, I hope to eventually pursue an MD/MBA through a dual degree med-school program. In my opinion, a medical doctor is in the most optimal position to help those around them and make a positive net-change on the world. At the same time, a businessperson is in the best position to achieve whatever it is they seek. What I seek is the ability to effect change. Medicine is an admirable profession, but healthcare is a ruthless business. I see many issues in the healthcare system and hope to one day be able to tackle some of the issues and injustices that plague people and their health. After practicing for some years, I hope to move onto a more administrative role; directorships in hospitals, positions on boards, and entrepreneurship opportunities are all paths that become available with an MD/MBA. Business and Medicine are two incredibly powerful fields that when combined, can serve as the basis for an impressive legacy that I hope will make me worth mentioning even when I’m gone.

iJOBS allows students to explore many aspects of medicine and science, including the business involved in both. Being able to learn from industry veterans with years of knowledge and experience would be incredibly rewarding for my future career goals. This program is a great way to get my foot in the door in the world of professional science and will also allow me to see the role that PhDs play. Going forward, I hope to be able to share my own experiences with others in the field of medicine. Though I am almost comically underqualified to do such a thing at this point, I hope that the effort  that I put into iJOBS can provide insight to those on a career path similar to mine, and that we might all revel in the mysterious and exhilarating world of medicine and research.

Edits and contributions to this post were made by Paulina Krzyszczyk and Aminat Saliu Musah

Andrew Face

Meet the blogger – Madhuri Bhagavathula

Meet the blogger – Madhuri Bhagavathula

Hello Readers, Welcome to my Blog!!!

I am Madhuri Bhagavathula, a fourth year PhD. candidate at Rutgers -School of Graduate Studies (SGS), Newark campus.

The stellar role of microbes on this planet has always been undeniable. Microbes and their interaction with their host, especially humans, have always been my subject of interest. I pursued a master’s degree in Biotechnology from the University of Pennsylvania following my bachelor’s degree in India. UPENN has served as an excellent place to gain knowledge and experience. Due to my interest in immunology and microbiology, I ended up taking a research position in Dr. Carolina Lopez’s lab. Dr. Lopez’s mentorship propelled my interest in infectious diseases. After my masters, I took up a full-time position at the Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, in the Protein Expression core facility. My responsibility as an employee was to plan and document experiments, executed independently. In this position, I became confident that I had the drive to persist in a doctoral program.

Currently, I am graduate student in Dr. Padmini Salgame’s lab in the field of tuberculosis (TB) at Rutgers SGS Newark. I am currently working on a project that involves modulating activated CD4+ T cell metabolism in the host during immunization to enhance memory T cell differentiation during TB infection. Dr. Salgame has guided me towards the right courses in order to improve my critical thinking, scientific writing and presentation skills. She continues to be a wonderful mentor despite her busy schedule.

Besides my thesis work, there are several programs and associations, including Alliance for Career Advancement, that helped to understand various careers that are available to biomedical scientists. In addition, the Rutgers IJOBs program run by Dr. Doreen Badheka on Newark campus has been a great platform to explore various career options available after a doctoral degree. While participating in various workshops such as Sci PhD, we are given the opportunity to assess our professional skills. These programs are quite helpful in building a professional network and understanding the inner workings of industry or corporate world. Last year, I came to a decision that a career in consulting or investment banking would be a good fit for me after completing my thesis. I am one of the founders of a consulting club through which I had an opportunity to attend various case competitions, including Hopkins Annual Healthcare case competition.

I have been successful in using the opportunities presented by iJOBS to understand my career options and decide on a specific career path, I hope other doctoral students can do the same in preparation for a better future.


Thank you!profile pic

Foray into the World of Project Management: The Course

By: Shekerah Primus

An important component of the iJOBS phase two program is to complete a course of your choice, which relates to your chosen career track. As an aspiring project manager, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I chose the Project Management course. This course is offered by the Rutgers Business School as part of their Master of Business Administration degree program. I would like to use this post to give an overview of the course as well as my first impressions.

The course is designed to help students develop the skills necessary to be successful project managers. The course provides the key concepts for initiating, planning, executing and effectively monitoring a project so that it is completed on time and on budget—the hallmarks of a successful project. It also prepares students for the Project Management Professional (PMP) exam. The PMP certificate is awarded by the Project Management Institute, a globally recognized nonprofit organization. Project managers with a PMP certification earn an average salary 20% higher than those without!

In Fall 2018 on the Newark campus, Introduction to Project Management is being taught by Dr. Irene Gerlovin. The class meets one evening per week for three hours. Grading for the course is conventional; marks are determined between four exams (40%), individual presentations (15%), a group project (35%), and attendance (10%). The material in the two required text books (Project Management Body of Knowledge and Project Management in Practice) is quite dense. Professor Gerlovin tries to mitigate this situation by using a less traditional teaching style. Instead of giving 3-hr lectures, she incorporates YouTube videos and other multimedia to explain the concepts using real-world examples.

Have you heard about “Google Glass”? If you haven’t, it’s an example of how a good idea can be affected by a myriad of project problems.

Have you ever wondered how large companies like Apple and Amazon stay ahead, consistently churning out updated models of our favorite gadgets? This requires highly skilled project management and global collaborations.

One key feature of the course is the high degree of student participation. This takes the form of individual presentations as well as group presentations. This is another way by which Professor Gerlovin has designed the class to be more interactive. Instead of simply teaching the material from the text, she has divided it into smaller topics of which each student presents two. There are between 4 to 7 individual presentations scheduled per class. This truly results in a more collaborative learning experience as individuals present their topics from a different point of view and based upon their own experiences (or lack thereof) in the business world. Moreover, these student-taught sections help to highlight important topics, and to reveal weaknesses in students’ understanding of the material that Professor Gerlovin can target for further discussion.

A major component of the course is the group project. The project runs throughout the course, from the first day when students select group members to the final day when groups present their project management plans. Groups of 3 to 5 students select their own projects, from planning a company picnic, to organizing a charity run, or even launching a new business, and apply the concepts learned throughout the course to properly manage their project. A single part of the project management plan is due every week, submitted as a well-prepared document as well as a short group presentation. These weekly deliverables keep our projects on track, but the real question is, if tasked to execute these projects, will we be on budget?

All in all, the Introduction to Project Management course offered at Rutgers, Newark provides a hands-on learning experience to becoming a project management professional. I look forward to experiencing the remainder of this course.

This article was edited by: Fatu Badiane Markey, Jennifer Casiano-Matos, Aminat Saliu-Musah and Paulina Krzyszczyk

How to Stay Focused

By: Huri Mücahit

Edited by: Paulina Krzyszczyk

The following blog post is a summary of the articles, “Turn off your email and social media to get more done” by John Tregoning and “15 ways to stay focused all day” by Jessica Orwig and Lydia Ramsey

With the advent Tips to Stay Focusedof smartphones, our ability to access information has dramatically increased. Our productivity and capabilities have quickly followed, such that, we can remain up-to-date on all news, emails, and activities within our professional and social networks. However, does this constant accessibility come at a cost? According to several experts, the answer is a resounding, yes!, and the cost is much greater than any of us have anticipated. The state of “hyper-connectedness” is so time-consuming that our efforts at productivity are often undermined by the myriad of distractions available to us. Attempts at focusing on papers, experimental time points, and any of the other number of tasks graduate students must focus on can be thwarted with message notifications and work emails, demanding our immediate attention and leaving very little of our ability to concentrate.

How can we then combat these distractions to reach our desired level of productivity and eventually reach the finish line? The answer, according to John Tregoning, is not to work harder, but to work smarter. Listed below are several tips and suggestions provided by Tregoning, Jessica Orwig, and Lydia Ramsey.

  1. Email productively
    • Given the role emails play within our work environments, it is impossible to disregard them completely. However, to ensure that it does not take away crucial time from other tasks, it is best to limit email time to specific bursts. All answered emails should also be kept concise and to-the-point to avoid the dreaded chains and “volley” of emails back and forth.
    • Flag emails that don’t require immediate attention and set them aside for later, to be completed during less productive times.
  1. Establish a to-do list and group non-essential tasks together to minimize distractions
    • Any thoughts that demand your attention can be jotted down for later, which can help drastically when planning experiments!
    • Multi-tasking may appear to increase efficiency, but it is often counter-productive.Our focus is a finite resource, and dividing it between multiple tasks results in a lower ability to focus on important tasks.
    • Additionally, allotting specific work hours can help train your brain to focus more consistently, while ensuring that tasks are completed at a reasonable hour. When work-life balance is achieved, graduate students, advisors, and the project itself all benefit.
  1. Take care of your body’s needs
    • Exercising has been shown to increase memory and focus.
    • Designating specific times to take breaks can help prevent burn-out and increase productivity in the long run.
    • Finally, although many graduate students are guilty of this, poor sleeping patterns have been shown to reduce concentration. If needed, a cup of coffee can boost your focus for a short time, but it is obviously not a long-term solution. Ultimately, you must ensure that you get enough sleep!
  1. Provide an environment that allows you to focus and minimizes distractions
    • Whether it’s ensuring that the space has the right temperature, the ideal lighting, etc.; find a corner that is comfortable so that you’re not looking for a reason to leave. These factors are especially important when performing more difficult tasks like writing a fellowship application or your thesis!
    • While we need to remain connected, for short periods of time….put away your phone, turn on the “Do Not Disturb” feature, and eliminate the online distractions that eat up so much of our time!
  1. Aspire to be bored.
    • In today’s world, we are constantly being bombarded by news and advertisements which can do more than distract—they may also reduce our sense of creativity. Allotting time to sit and think, without any additional stimuli, can serve as an incredible opportunity to explore avenues you may not be able to otherwise.
    • Additionally, the constant overload of information can genuinely exhaust our minds and bodies. Taking a break from all technology and letting yourself live in the moment can provide crucial rest.

Ultimately, while technology and other distractions are pervasive, there are tools to minimize their impact so that we can all be more productive and healthier in the long run.


Tips on How to Survive Graduate School

Written By: Emily Kelly-Castro

Edited by: Paulina Krzyszczyk

The following is an article review of  Three reminders to help you thrive-not merely survive-in grad school by Neil A. Lewis Jr.

Survival Tips

You’ve made it to your next step in your life, graduate school! This is where to start building your professional career. The following years will be filled with new experiences and knowledge. You will meet new friends, peers, and future collaborators. You will also lose friends, meet bad mentors, and have stressful and discouraging experiences, but don’t give up! Always remember what drove you to make the decision of going to grad school.

This is Dr. Neil A. Lewis Juniors’ first tip in his article, Three reminders to help you thrive-not merely survive-in grad school. Lewis is an Assistant Professor of Communication and Social Behavior. His research focuses on examining how and why people’s identities and social context interact to influence their motivation to pursue goals and their success in achieving them. In this article, he discusses  the bad reputation that graduate school sometimes gets—for being underpaid, for lack of support from family members, and for how different it is from a “normal job”. He affirms that these arguments are not too far from reality and may contribute to the fact that graduate students around the world have a higher rate of depression and anxiety than the general public. There are many things that need to change to make graduate school a better environment, but in the meantime you have to keep going. Dr. Lewis Jr. gives three tips to survive, which are:

1) Remember your reason for pursuing this path-and write it down

2) Remember the people who support you and stay connected with them

3) Remember to give yourself a break

 For the first tip, he suggests writing down your reasons for going to graduate school. They may evolve with time, but that is okay! Always keep them in mind, especially in the moments when you doubt your decision. This will make you remember why you are pursuing this path and the end goal.

For the second tip, remember the people who helped you, never gave up on you, and motivated you to get this far. You are not alone, and you don’t have to go through graduate school alone. There will be really difficult times when you want to give up but remember these people and reach out. You will also meet new people along the way who want to support you—let them! Having someone in your corner cheering for you and willing to pick you up in your low moments is always important. Going through graduate school alone can be difficult, both emotionally and mentally, so take advantage of your support group!

The last tip from Dr. Lewis Jr. is to “give yourself a break”—which he provides two perspectives on. The first one is to recognize how graduate school is very different from undergraduate studies, when you were trained to find the correct answer. In graduate school, however, there are NO correct answers! You are responsible for asking the questions and looking for answers. You are going to make many mistakes and have many failed experiments along the way. This is normal, so do not beat yourself up about this! Step back and try to look at the problem from a different point of view. Consult with your peers and your advisor and do not assume that you should get the correct answer entirely on your own. The second way to give yourself a break is to literally take time off— trust me you are going to need it! Don’t bury yourself in work just because that is what you “should be doing”. Take some time for yourself as well!

PhdComic 2As I reflect on Dr. Lewis Jr.’s advice, particularly the second one about support networks, I remember the mentors I had while I was an undergraduate student. These people constantly motivated and urged me to set higher goals than the ones I thought I was capable of doing. Thanks to their advice and motivation, I’ve made it to graduate school! This is why I strive to be a good mentor. I work towards this through sharing my experiences and guiding others on their paths to graduate school. I try to be someone who motivates younger students to keep going and give it their best efforts. I want to be part of the support group that Dr. Lewis Jr. recognizes as a necessity for success in graduate school!

Overall, the best graduate school advice that I have received so far is to make the most of it, and build strong connections with the people that you meet.


Lessons from my Internship in Industry

By: Jennifer Casiano-Matos

Edited By: Eileen Oni and Paulina Krzyszczyk

This summer I had the opportunity to complete an internship at Novavax; a vaccine development company in Montgomery County, Maryland.  My position was Analytical Development Intern and the experience was everything I imagined it was going to be! I learned new techniques that were outside of my existing skill set, such as reverse-phase high-performance liquid chromatography (RP-HPLC), drug product quality control, how to work in a Current Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP) setting and so many lessons that I will apply in the future. The key lessons that I learned during the course of the internship are summarized below.

Industry internship

  • Plan your career development strategy. As graduate students, our main priority is to successfully complete a research project. Therefore, taking a break to participate in a career development opportunity, such as an internship, can be challenging. First, discuss your plans with your mentor and committee members, and keep them updated. Second, plan ahead for future experiments; prioritize what needs to be done before your internship and what can wait until you return. Some mentors may not be supportive of your decision; however, it is important that you present a solid plan for the upcoming months and demonstrate how much you will benefit from an opportunity like this. Remember that you are working towards your future beyond the Ph.D., so it is important to take advantage of career development opportunities, despite barriers and obstacles that may arise.
  • Apply to anything that interests YOU. It is common to receive a piece of career advice from peers, mentors, and family; however, you are the one who is going to benefit from it! My suggestion is to go for anything that interests YOU. Even if you are hesitant about a certain opportunity, you should apply! If not, you will never even have the chance to learn if you are truly interested in working in that field. Internships are perfect opportunities to try things that you are not familiar with and expose yourself to different people and work environments.
  • Once you have decided that you want to explore a certain career path, it is a good idea to join local professional networking groups. Meeting new professionals is a good way to identify opportunities within their companies. Also, share your career plans with friends and peers; they may know someone that can help you! In my own experience, it was a friend that helped me during my internship search and recommended me to the hiring manager!
  • Practice and study. If you are lucky enough to receive an interview for an internship you have applied for, you should practice your answers to common questions that can come up. Some examples are: “What are you expecting from this internship opportunity?”, “How do you handle pressure during difficult situations?”, and, “How do you ensure that deadlines are met?”. In addition, studying the company and the position that you applied for will give you confidence and help you develop questions for the interviewer.
  • Be specific. As a graduate student, the time you spend in an internship is time that you will have to pause your thesis work. It is important that this time is well spent and that you learn new things that were not previously on your CV/Resume. Be specific to your mentor about the duration of the internship. Also, be clear with the company about your expectations in terms of what you want to learn and accomplish within that time frame. At the same time, ask the hiring manager what he or she expects from you. Keep in mind that time flies during a brief summer internship, so you should focus on one project at a time and find a practical method to achieve your goals. Also, remember that measurable goals are highly valuable in an industry setting.
  • Prepare for deadlines, timelines, and goals. In our current positions as graduate students and postdocs, we sometimes have full control of our own time; we come in late some days, early others, or work on the weekends. As an intern, you will find that you need to manage your time more efficiently because you often have fixed work hours or a collaborative project that have sensitive timelines. It is common to work with other scientists on collaborative projects, so keep in mind that they have a busy schedule and possibly different work hours, too. Keep in mind that internships usually last between 10-12 weeks. Divide your time wisely! The first two weeks are usually for orientation, introductions, training, and planning. During the last two weeks, you start wrapping up your work and talking to the manager about the future steps of the project. This leaves you with 6-8 productive weeks. Be sure that you plan those weeks wisely and that you have the materials to work on the assigned project.
  • When in doubt, ask. In the pharmaceutical industry, it is preferred that you take time to clarify any doubts and ask questions, rather than wasting your time working on things that are already known, understood, and well-established. Don’t waste your time on things that are known or changing the way they work. The goal of an internship is to understand the field that you are exploring better, work in teams, network and collaborate for a more productive company setting.
  • Be confident. Take advantage of meetings to talk to other professionals about the project you are working on. Confidently speaking about your work can help you network with people from other groups. Sometimes at the end of the internship, you even have to present a poster or a section. This is the time to sell yourself and your project. Explain why the work that you completed during the internship was important to the company!
  • Participate in activities beyond the internship. Many companies have additional training courses, journal clubs, and learning sections; take advantage of those opportunities. Communicate with company leaders during networking events and social lunches about your future plans. If you are interested in returning as a full-time employee do not be afraid to mention it.
  • Completing the internship is not the end. When you are constantly learning and actively participating in events, you will notice that time flies by fast. Be sure that at the end you store all the data gathered and communicate where all the materials and notes are located. Be sure to make contacts that will be beneficial in the future and reach out to them! You should also let them know that you are looking for future opportunities. More importantly, an internship is the best opportunity to expand your network to include professional colleagues. Take time to ensure that the connections you made last beyond that summer!

As a graduate student, I understand how challenging it can be to take a break from thesis work for a summer and try something outside of your daily laboratory routine. Despite these hesitations, it was worth it! My summer internship at Novavax Inc. was an opportunity that gave me a boost of confidence and allowed me to get a glimpse of the great things that I can accomplish in a career in industry research after earning my Ph.D.

Meet the Blogger: Helena Mello

Hello iJOBS blog readers, my name is Helena Mello! I am a 4th year Ph.D. student at Rutgers Biomedical and Health Sciences Newark Campus, working with Dr. David Lukac. My research focuses on autophagy and herpesvirus reactivation from latency. In 2014, I received my undergraduate degree in Biological Sciences from the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil, where I am originally from. Prior to my research career at Rutgers, I also spent one year as here as an exchange student.

Even though my undergraduate degree covered a broad range of biology-related topics (from plant systematics to cell signaling networks), I have always been interested in biomedicine. Therefore, during my second year of college, I joined the Embryology and Cell Differentiation laboratory under the supervision of Dr. Ana Helena Paz. There, I was exposed to scientific research for the first time. I learned not only hard skills, such as cell culture, but also many important soft skills. The masters and doctoral students shared their experimental designs and hypotheses and taught me how to critically read a paper. Most importantly, they showed me how rewarding it is to work in a collaborative environment with a supportive mentor.

After that experience, I moved to New Jersey for my exchange program. At Rutgers, I focused my curriculum on courses that are not available back home. I also had a wonderful TA in my Lab in Immunology class, who opened my eyes to the Ph.D. process in the U.S., and also taught me a great deal about immunology. In addition to my experience at Rutgers, I worked as a summer intern at AbbVie, a large scale pharma company outside of Chicago. My time at AbbVie was an invaluable opportunity to learn how research is done outside of academia, and how results are translated into final products. Like my time at Rutgers, I had the opportunity to work with a great mentor who had been in the company for 20+ years, and not only supported me in my research, but also in my desire to learn more about a career in that area.

Fast-forward to 2018, I am starting my 4th year of graduate school and starting to look back on the path I have walked. Of course, scientific research is an essential aspect of my excitement for the future, but the fact that I have worked with inspiring people who challenge me intellectually is a highlight. When I think about my path after completing my Ph.D., I envision careers that include teamwork in a collaborative environment. I have attended several iJOBS events since my 1st year as a Ph.D. student. These events have helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses, identify my interests, and develop a plan towards a career goal. I am considering careers in informal education, science communication, and science policy. You will read a lot about those topics in my blog posts, and I hope they will help you make informed decisions about your professional life as well!

Written by Helena Mello, with contributions and edits from Eileen Oni and Paulina Krzyszczyk.

Meet The Blogger: Vicky Kanta

My name is Vicky Kanta, a Ph.D. candidate at the Center of Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers-Newark. I grew up in Athens, Greece, where I developed my passion for science and research.

Ever since I was in my first biology class in middle school, I knew I wanted to study neuroscience. I was fascinated by how neurons work and was amazed at how much we don’t know about our brain. I could already envision myself working in the lab and attempting to answer great questions. When I reached college, however, I learned that majoring in neuroscience is not offered in Greece. Instead, I chose to study biology at the University of Athens. This was actually a blessing in disguise, because studying organisms in their entirety made me appreciate the complexity of human and animal physiology.

In my junior year of college, I started doing neuroscience research for the first time. I worked at the Biomedical Research Foundation of the Academy of Athens, under the supervision of Dr. Irini Skaliora. My research focused on how cannabinoids interact with the brain to affect memory and anxiety, which was studied through the use of rodent models. During my two years in Dr. Skaliora’s lab, I learned how to design, perform, and analyze behavioral and pharmacological experiments. Most importantly, I became absolutely certain about my next step, which was to apply for Ph.D. programs in Neuroscience.

Although I was very lucky to have worked in a wonderful and engaging research environment in Greece, I always knew I wanted to experience research and education abroad. This is what brought me to Rutgers University-Newark, where I started my Ph.D. research in 2013. I currently work in the lab of Dr. Denis Pare, and my research focuses on neuronal oscillations and their role in memory consolidation. I still work with rodents, but I have learned many new skills since my previous research, such as how to perform electrophysiological recordings and how to code and analyze complex datasets.

It’s no secret that being a Ph.D. student is hard work, but I try to maintain a healthy work-life balance and keep up with my favorite activities. I enjoy watching movies and TV shows and love listening to podcasts, as well as spending time with my family and friends.

Now that I am close to the finish line, it is time to think about my next steps. During my time at Rutgers, I have realized how important it is to share experiences with other graduate students and postdocs and learn from other people’s career trajectories. This is what led me to participate in iJOBS events and volunteer to write for the iJOBS blog. I am really looking forward to being part of this team and hope that I can encourage other young scientists to explore the wide variety of opportunities that a Ph.D. can give us!

Edits and contributions to this post were made by Eileen Oni and Paulina Krzyszczyk.


Promoting the Art of Communicating Science to Non-scientists

by Talia M. Planas-Fontánez

The following is an opinion article about science communication, adapted from the “Communicating Science” class offered at Rutgers University.

Have you ever tried to give your parents, or any family member, a clear explanation of what you do as a research scientist? How many unfamiliar technical format and jargon did you use? Science communication and public outreach is one of the biggest challenges in any field of research. Science journalism is expected to disseminate scientific knowledge; the goal is to make this knowledge widely accessible for audiences outside the scientific community. The media helps to secure social support and public legitimacy, and contribute to the transformation of scientific knowledge by relating it to concerns outside of science. However, despite the growing influence of science and technology in the economic, social and political domain, the communications gap between scientists and the public is wide.

The relationship between science and the public or the environment is characterized as “distance”, “gap”, and “creative tension”. Scientists and journalists are like strangers to each other, not able to understand each other’s language, and driven by different agendas. These difficulties are due, in part, to the lack of institutional support, work pressures and lack of communication training. For example, as part of our scientific training, we present our work at national and/or international meetings to other scientists and experts in specific field. However, participation is much more limited in other types of interaction with the public, such as talks, interviews with journalists, and publications of popular articles.

Let’s take action!

There are three critical components that can help us to improve science communication: (1) focus on key scientific questions; (2) know the expectations and needs of your audience; and (3) focus the message on the effect you want to achieve. Taking these components into consideration for any presentation or talk will make your message clear and effective. Always remembering that “the height of sophistication is simplicity” so the speaker should try to put himself in the audience’s frame of mind and then deliver the simplest, and strongest message. The audience will appreciate it and reward you for it.

Key scientific questions is about engaging your audience – it’s about the ‘so what?’ and ‘why does it matter?’ and ‘why should people care?’ of your message. Each scientific question is designed to answer important issues. The goal, after the interpretation of the data, is to communicate both the strengths and the risks of your data.

Target your audience. Who is in my audience and what do they need to know to understand my work? The statements should be clear, vivid, and use conversational language that your audience understands. Narratives are easier to comprehend and audiences find them more engaging than traditional logical-scientific communication. The use of examples, anecdotes, and analogies are ways to engage your audience and make them care about what you are telling them. The goal is to make your audience want to know what happens next in your story.

Know your goal. Your message should be focused on what matters most. For example, if you are working with a promising therapy for a specific disease talk about the background of this disease and the benefits of this new therapy. Avoid “the curse of knowledge”, a cognitive bias that assumes your audience knows the background, and connect with your public.

Finally, as modern scientists we can take advantage of the social media to reach more people and share our knowledge. It is an important medium that policymakers, media and other scholars follow. Many people don’t read primary scientific literature, perhaps because of a paywall or because of the unfamiliar technical format and language. However, if we train ourselves to write about our research in a simple and concise way it can be made into a video or shared on social media, such as a blogs, and Facebook. Re-defining science communication and making it available to everybody is still a work in progress in our society, but the scientific community is improving, step by step.

This article was edited by Maryam Alapa.