1. Richard Williams said:

    Aside from the usual (and very informal) 5-10 min lab meeting pitches, and presenting at Departmental PhD seminars (when my turn comes around), I’ve found being a Science Schools Ambassador incredibly useful in honing my communication skills. In the UK this is administered by STEMNet. I’ve found that 7 year old school pupils cut straight to the chase – If they don’t understand an explanation they’ll tell you, and indeed keep telling you until you’ve found a way to clearly explain your reasoning/argument/opinion.

    A couple of months ago I attended a Careers Day at a local primary school (7 to 11 year olds) and tried to explain what I do in my PhD – I’m a Computational Immunologist. It took a good few cycles of being asked to explain what I do, until I could finally pitch to their level – not too low, not too high. I’ll never forget this experience.

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  2. Phoebe Cohen said:

     Great advice! I ended up doing a lot of the above during graduate school just because it was interesting to me. Nice to know it might help my future job prospects as well! For help on getting more involved in meaningful outreach activities, check out a recent blog post I wrote for the AGU’s communicating science blog on partnering with other groups to get the most out of your broader impacts / outreach activities. 

  3. Akin Olagoke Ogunleye said:

    Thank you Rachel for this post.I think communication skills can also be improved by constant and continuous practice. For instance you can take up a part-time appointment as a teacher or an instructor even as a PhD student. This among other activities like publications in magazines and journals  on a regular and consistent basis will go along way in improving your communication skills. 

  4. Akin Olagoke Ogunleye said:

    This is a correction of my last comment . The last sentence should read thus: This, among other activities like publications in magazines and journals on a regular and consistent basis will go a long way in improving your communication skills.