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035: Making Time for Outreach

Do you like to share your passion for science with others? Do you mentor undergrads or visit your local middle school to do scientific demonstrations?

If so, stop it.  Your PI is going to hate you.

Is It Safe to Go Outside?

Okay, so that’s not exactly true, but it can feel risky to explore any opportunities away from the bench while you’re a grad student or postdoc.  Your PI is paying you to do research, right?

In truth, you are in training, and that training should prepare you for the work you’d like to do.  For many of us, that includes science outreach, mentorship and teaching.

How do you balance your personal growth with your PI’s research goals and schedule?  That’s exactly what Shawn wanted to know:

One of the many things I want to continue to do during grad school is to volunteer and become part of outreach programs. I acknowledge I am going to have a lot on my plate very soon , but I still want to volunteer and continue doing some form of work that likens the after-school teaching I was doing [during my undergrad]. Is it feasible to find time for outreach while in graduate school?

lab dummies by soulmanjam87
There’s a fatal flaw in your escape plan: the PI would never believe in a grad student who is smiling and wearing all the correct protective gear.

Escape Plan

You could try the old ‘lab-bench-Doppelgänger’ trick and hope that the boss doesn’t notice that you’re missing, or you could talk to your mentor about your long term goals.  Remind the PI that communicating our research makes it more relevant, and improves public support for science funding.  In fact, some grants actually require or reward labs when they do outreach.

At the end of the day, outreach can be a part of your training, but remember that your first goal is to hit the bench so that you can complete your departmental requirements and graduate.

There is time for outreach, but only if you take it.


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