If you want to get a bunch of scientists to nod approvingly, walk up to a group of them and say “What we really need is to be better about communicating our science.” It’s the perennial problem that scientists love to complain about but don’t always act upon. Many agree that a lack of good scientific communication is a problem, but few follow through to improve that skill, and for understandable reasons: Research is demanding, grad school takes up time, and opportunities to hone those skills simply don’t present themselves. Present Your PhD is a graduate student-run organization that seeks to address this problem by empowering graduate students to interact with their community and teach people about research at Baylor. Now more than ever it is important for people in the STEM fields to be able to effectively communicate to the public. We find ourselves in a historical moment when it is critically important for the public, particularly young people, to get involved in STEM education. PYPhD tackles these issues by getting graduate students out into the Waco community to talk about their research. Our goal is to get young learners to envision themselves as future scientists and to inspire our community to see themselves as partners in the STEM research going on at Baylor. We believe research in Waco shouldn’t be just a thing that lives hidden behind the brick walls of Baylor, but something that engages the community. Because of this we send presenters all over Waco to places such as middle school classrooms, the Mayborn Museum, and the Waco Farmer’s Market to give fun and engaging presentations about the research going on at Baylor. We work to tailor these presentations to their audiences, which could be young as first grade students all the way to high school students preparing for college.
There is a second prong of our approach however, and that is to benefit the individual graduate student. It’s wonderful to talk about all the good things we can do for Waco, but we also recognize that graduate students have limited time. The other major goal of our organization is to help graduate students develop communication skills and be ready to talk about their thesis or dissertation to anyone. We work together to craft engaging presentations and make presenters comfortable talking about their research. Our thought is that if you can break down high-concept math or physics to a middle schooler, your committee will be a breeze. Often our presenters find getting a slide deck or two from participating in PYPhD sets them up for success in other presentations. Apart from this, we also offer some tangible career benefits as well. Increasingly, grant writing requires a broader impacts statement, which can be fulfilled by presenting your research through PYPhD (some of our partners know this and even keep records of presentations for that purpose). We’re always looking for opportunities to use our organization to improve our members’ CVs. Lastly, it’s just fun getting to do science experiments with kids!
So what does this really look like in practice? We know graduate students are busy, so we only ask for two presentations a semester, which typically includes about 6 hours of presentation time. Not feeling the public speaking thing just yet? We have roles available as organizers who coordinate via email with our collaborators at places like schools and museums. Worried that you don’t have enough research to talk about? You probably have enough background knowledge of your field for a great presentation, and even if you’re a totally brand new grad student we have some pre-made presentations for younger audiences on generic concepts like “What is a Scientist?” Worried your field doesn’t apply? We’re open to all STEM and STEM-adjacent fields. If you have STEM-related research, we want Waco to hear about it! If you’ve ever felt frustrated about a lack of communication between STEM and the public over the last couple years, or have ever wondered if anyone outside your research niche cares about what you do, I highly encourage you to act on it and take a look at PYPhD.
- Website: https://blogs.baylor.edu/presentyourphd/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/presentyourphd/
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/presentyourphd
- Twitter: https://twitter.com/PresentYourPhD
- Email: Presentyourphd@baylor.edu
Patrick Ortiz is a 5th year graduate student at Baylor studying molecular biology in the Kearney Lab. He has been a member of PYPhD since its beginning in 2017 and serves on its board of directors as the Director of Presenters (Which is just a fancy way of saying he helps members write presentations and improve public speaking skills). Patrick has had a passion for public speaking and teaching, and ultimately wants to utilize these skills in the biotech industry.