Today, I have the pleasure of inviting Gaia Cantelli, one of the authors of a collaborative blog at her university, to share her experiences. Gaia is a fourth-year PhD student in the Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics at King's College London. Her research focusses on cancer cell motility and the molecular biology of melanoma progression. Before starting her PhD, she studied for her undergraduate degree in Genetics at the University of Cambridge. Here are her top 3 reasons for starting a PhD blog:
1. You get to engage the public about something you love!
You’re a PhD student. You love your subject so much you chose to dedicate four to six years of your life to it. It’s only natural for you to want to tell everybody about what you love! Engaging the public with your research is both really difficult and incredibly rewarding. Breaking down a complicated concept into a set of smaller, simpler ideas is a challenge both for your writing skills and for your understanding of your own subject. Explain what your field is all about and how your research is making a difference (or at least trying to)! Debunk some myths about your subject or talk about how it is perceived in the media. As long as you are passionate about it, other people will relate to you!
2. You get to practice your writing skills!
As an academic, your life probably revolves around writing. Writing your thesis is undoubtedly looming at the horizon and you are probably involved in writing papers, reviews, conference abstracts, applications for funding and all sorts of smaller sized nightmares. Plus, after you graduate and get a “real job” you are probably going to be writing even more. Whether you choose to stay in academia or escape to the private sector, most of the jobs open to PhD graduates are heavily writing-based. In conclusion, practicing your writing is almost definitely going to give you a great advantage! On a related note, employers for those “real jobs” value writing experience!
3. You get to be creative!
PhD life is all about working hard and playing hard. It might be difficult for you to find a creative outlet. A blog is the perfect space for letting your creative juices flow! Have you always wanted to experiment with a video-camera? Do interviews? Do you want to replicate your favourite web-series basing it on your field? This is the Internet – there are no bad ideas!
Are you convinced yet? We at the Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics certainly were! Our excellent PhD student reps came up with the idea and set up a collaborative PhD student blog for all PhD students in the Division to work on. We now post every week – everybody is pitching in to discuss their lives, their projects, science in the news and much more! Here are the 3 steps that helped us get started.
1. Talk to your student representatives!
Your school or division almost definitely has PhD student representatives. If you want to start a collaborative PhD student blog, they are the best people to get this organised. If you’re keen to get involved, offer to help! PhD student reps are busy people and will definitely be happy to let you help.
2. Get in touch with your school administration
Our PhD reps wanted our blog to be officially linked to our Division. If you also want to have an “officially endorsed” blog, get in touch with the administration office of your division/department/school. Once you get them on your side, they might even include a link to your blog onto their website, which will help put you on the map and get more people to discover your blog!
3. Let everybody know!
If you want to start a collaborative blog, you are going to want other people to collaborate with. Let everybody in your school/department know a while before the blog goes live so you can get some content lined up and keep reminding people after the blog is live! Emails are of course a good way of doing it, but try scattering a few posters along the corridors as well! If PhD students in your school have regular meetups (pizza nights, PhD student talks etc.), that’s a great chance to remind people regularly about the blog without spamming everyone. Once your blog is live, let everybody know every time you get a new idea or start a new series so you can maximise the number of PhD students in your school that are getting involved!