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104: How to Give a Perfect Poster Presentation

It’s a tragic fact: many jaw-dropping, eye-opening, and heart-pounding research results never makes an impact on the scientific community.

And it’s partly your fault.

By “your,” of course,  I mean all of us.  Because when we waste the opportunity to share our results in their best light at a scientific conference or poster session, our viewers may overlook this valuable insight.

But we can do better!  With a little planning, collaboration, and hard work, we can make even a humble poster presentation a vehicle for inspiring the next discovery and building our scientific network.

Let’s get started!

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mad scientist

103: Laboratory of Horrors!

“Hey, I won’t be able to make it over for movies tonight.  I’ve got to finish these timepoints…  Yeah, I know it’s the third time this week, but I promise I’ll leave a early tomorrow…  Okay, sorry.  Goodnight.”

Gary ends the phone call and sighs.  This is not the first time he’s had to cancel a date to finish up an experiment.   He’s starting to detect some resentment in his girlfriend’s voice.

As the minutes tick by on his timer, Gary sees lights flip off in the adjacent laboratory bays.  Even the postdocs have gone home.  Looks like it’ll be another long, lonely night – just him and an incubator full of cells.

He’s scrolling through his phone to find a playlist that can keep him awake for the next few hours when there’s a faint clink of glass somewhere in the darkened part of the lab.

He finds the playlist just as he hears a faint tap, tap, tap coming from the same direction.

“Maybe one of the postdocs left a cage of mice here by accident,” he thinks.  He pops out his ear buds and listens again… tap… tap… tap…

But the sound is too rhythmic to be mice. 

“They really need to fix that faucet.  That thing has been leaking for weeks.”

Tap… tap… tappity tappity tap.  Whatever is dripping seems to be coming faster now.

“Is someone there?” Gary asks, feeling stupid for the uncanny tightness now rising in his chest.  Tap… tappity tap tap… 

The sound that was just dripping is now streaming, a thin drizzle falling onto the soapstone bench.

Gary stands, and keeping his eyes toward the source of the sound, creeps carefully toward the light switch.  That’s when a nauseating wave of stench hits his nostrils.

His pupils constrict as he reaches the switch and the lights flash across a viscous puddle slowly growing larger on the bench to his right.  The pool has spilled over the edge, dripping foul, sticky liquid onto the floor. 

The odor is unmistakable and overpowering. He tears up, each breath a painful struggle to get enough air.

His eyes slowly follow the vile stream to its source…

“Dammit!  Who spilled that bottle of β-mercaptoethanol and didn’t clean it up!?”

Little Lab of Horrors

Life in grad school may not have many horror-movie freak-outs, but there are plenty of harrowing and traumatic experiences to thrill even the most stoic scientist.

In celebration of Halloween, we asked our listeners about their lab and grad school horror stories!

We heard chilling tales of fires, floods, and freezers on the fritz.  There are stories of dissertations delayed, pilfering PIs, and even explosions! Eeeek!

When you tune in, be sure to sample our new favorite pumpkin ale from Rogue Brewing.  It’s the Limited Edition Pumpkin Patch Ale, made from pumpkins they grow themselves!  

And here are a few of the resources we mentioned in the show:

Share your laboratory horror stories with us on Twitter (@hellophd) or via email.  Happy Halloween!

102: HelloPhD Guide to Grad School Applications – Crafting the Perfect Personal Statement with Dr. Brian Rybarczyk

Please recount your life story, all of your future plans, and why this graduate program is uniquely suited to fulfill those dreams.  Limit your answer to 140 characters.

Okay, okay, the typical “Personal Statement” prompt on your grad school application is probably not that outrageous, but they CAN feel both cryptic and overwhelming.

Here’s a real prompt from a real grad school application at a major university:

In 1-2 pages, describe your career goals, research interests, past and present research experience, and why you’ve chosen the [Name Redacted] Program for your graduate studies.

This prompt can induce instant writer’s block in even the most prepared applicants.  So where do you begin?

This week on the show, we share tips for crafting the perfect personal statement that will highlight your grad-school-readiness and potential for greatness in a career beyond the degree.

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student filling out grad school application

101: HelloPhD Guide to Grad School Applications – Knowing When, and Where, to Apply with Dr. Beth Bowman

You’ve studied hard, gotten good grades, and spent the last two years working in research labs on campus.  You’re feeling ready for that next, inevitable step: applying to graduate school.

In a perfect world, the next step would be easy.  You’d simply fill out an application, and submit it to every Genetics or Microbiology department in the country.  They’d review your application, and you could sort through your options based on which schools offered you an interview.

But of course, it’s not that simple.  Each school requires a different application form, and steep application fees can severely tax your meager bank account.

You need to do the hard work of screening up front, and only apply to a select group of programs where you can expect to be both successful and happy.

This can be overwhelming.  There are hundreds of graduate schools and thousands of individual programs and departments.  Where should you begin?

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100: The One Where We Celebrate

Graduate training has many milestones, but a few stand stronger in memory due to their importance.

You may remember the day you passed your comprehensive exams, officially becoming a ‘PhD Candidate.’ Or maybe you’ll remember the day you saw a paper you co-authored published in your favorite journal. 

And of course, every PhD remembers their defense – presenting years worth of work to an audience and receiving the committees’ blessing to graduate.

After each event, it’s important to take a moment to celebrate the achievement before pushing toward the next goal.  Maybe that means gathering with friends, popping a bottle of bubbly, and remembering the road that brought you to this point.

Well, at least that’s what we do with a milestone.  This week, we celebrate 100 Episodes of Hello PhD with a few of the friends we’ve met along the way.

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