Posted on 11 February 2013.
Many graduate students will one day go on to be professors in their own right. Gaining knowledge in the realm of teaching can be acquired through classes and overall graduate school experience. However, one skill that graduate students may not acquire during their studies is the ability to manage a successful lab. The Department of Microbiology and Immunology’s Professor George O’Toole discussed some helpful points related to lab management as a part of the “Becoming a Faculty Member” series on January 25.
Professor O’Toole made the comparison that “running a lab is like running a small business.” The revenue is your grant money, your products are papers, posters, and seminars, and it is important that your employees are happy. He stressed that in managing a successful lab, you need successful people. Don’t be afraid to choose students who will work well with your teaching and management style and that you know will be successful under your guidance. If conflict should arise or a student is not accomplishing what you think he or she should be, it is wise to clearly go over your lab expectations with that student and discuss how he or she can improve his or her performance to meet those expectations. Obtaining constant feedback from your students helps to improve your management of their graduate student careers.
Professor O’Toole warned seminar attendees that it is necessary to seek out training in lab management. There are no formal training courses, nor will someone explicitly sit you down and advise you on how to accomplish this task. He remarked that he was fortunate to have both graduate and postdoctoral advisors who taught him about lab management, but this is hardly the case for everyone. Professor O’Toole advised attendees to use their experiences now as graduate students to start planning how they would run their labs in the future. It is never too early to start thinking about the details—taking note of good and bad management strategies now will aid you in making better decisions later on.
Professor O’Toole finished his talk by emphasizing the importance of seeking help when it’s needed. He stressed how important it is to ask for advice as a young professor. Colleagues, as well as those in human resources and other university support services, can help you in managing your lab or even in writing grants to run a successful lab. You do not have to try to attempt a new and somewhat scary feat on your own; you just have to know how to ask for help!
by Molly Croteau
Posted in Happenings, People
Posted on 01 February 2013.
Dean Kull’s presentation, “A Bad Talk about Giving Good Talks,” was hardly a bad talk. Instead, it was a well-organized presentation that provided helpful tips for successfully planning and giving a talk in any field. It was the first in a series of talks entitled, “Becoming a Faculty Member,” organized by the Graduate Studies Office here at Dartmouth. Dean Kull shared his experiences giving talks, and other audience members also shared, creating a relaxed and open environment.
Dean Kull stressed the importance of planning for your presentation. This preparation involves not only starting in advance, but also making sure that you have your presentation backed up in more than one place. He also stressed the importance of knowing your audience, which may become an issue when presenting across departments or fields of interest. Planning ahead allows time for practice. If possible, it may be helpful to practice in the same room in which you’ll be presenting—this provides a feeling of familiarity the day of the talk. Questions are a large part of giving a talk, and you should think about possible questions beforehand and prepare for them as much as possible.
Aesthetic considerations are also central. Dean Kull discussed slide design, advising that black text on a white background is generally a safe combination. It is often not a good idea to put too much text on a slide, but pictures may be useful. Also, be sensitive to the fact that someone in the audience may have color blindness, so try to use blue and yellow instead of red and green in figures and text. Animation is an option, and it can be very helpful if, for example, you want to show the steps of a process. Dean Kull also added that using the blackboard for demonstrations during a presentation could be very important, depending on the nature of the talk, and may give a job candidate an edge in some departments.
Dean Kull concluded with a discussion of what one should do after giving a talk. The main take-away message was to note what you can do better the next time and to consider others’ feedback on your presentation, always taking into account the particularities of context and audience, which may influence that feedback.
The ease with which he delivered his talk exemplifies that following the steps that Dean Kull provided will likely aid in preparing a successful presentation. Dean Kull and audience members also observed that “practice makes perfect,” and everyone agreed that the more you practice and give talks, the easier it will become. Overall it was a great experience for everyone who attended!
by Britney Tappen
Posted in Happenings, People