Everywhere researchers go, be it a conference, a job interview, or simply meeting a colleague in the hallway, people ask the obvious question: “So tell me about your work?” It goes without saying that the ability of researchers to describe their research in lay language efficiently is one of the most important skills to be acquired, regardless of the field of research.
On Monday, April 29, assistant dean of Graduate Student Affairs, Kerry Landers, initiated a speed researching event aimed at developing students’ communication skills. In this event, students were expected to explain their research to their smart, but not expert, colleagues in only two minutes!
“We have received feedback from faculty who attended the recent Graduate Poster Session and were impressed with many of our graduate students’ ability to explain their research to non-experts,” notes Landers. “The goal of this speed researching event was to provide another opportunity for graduate students to continue to improve this essential skill.”
At the event, a total of 10 students explained their research to each other in pairs over lunch, followed by a two-minute constructive comments session. Students came from programs in biology, chemistry, engineering, genetics, MALS, and physics and astronomy. A wide range of research topics were discussed, including black holes, prion diseases, and the causes of the Arab Spring. Each student had the opportunity to present his or her research five times, providing plenty of practice.
“This event was great! I now know what other students in genetics, engineering, and chemistry do,” commented Daniel Durcan, a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies student, who also serves as the graduate student activities coordinator. Durcan continued, “The clarity for the presentations was very impressive. I thought it was a great opportunity to practice explaining my research to students from other disciplines.”
The event was somewhat similar to the Three-Minute Research Presentation sessions held by the Graduate Studies Office in the past. However, there is a subtle difference in emphasis between the two events. The Three-Minute Research Presentation sessions involve a single three-minute talk and aim to improve public speaking skills. On the other hand, “speed researching” aims to help students present their research swiftly to several people—a skill they will need at job fairs or conferences. Such a skill is crucial in a competitive academic environment.
Speed researching is, indeed, very helpful and from the looks of it, a very successful idea. Please keep your eyes open for the second speed researching event!
by Gilbert Rahme