If you decide to embark on the graduate studies journey, you may find yourself telling stories. Stories about ideas, stories about science, stories about stories. You will focus and research until late hours of the night to find that piece of information, to fill that gap in the narrative. You will crumple a whole chapter that isn’t working and restart from scratch. And one day, you’ll have in your hand the final version, and you will share it with the world, placing one more tile in the ever-growing mural that is scientific knowledge. This week, we’ll be hearing from Kirsten Sanford, whose central passion in life is to take this constantly evolving patchwork of questions, results and publications and make it understandable to an audience as vast as possible.

Kirsten (Dr. Kiki) Sanford is a science communicator with over 15 years of experience in media, science journalism, and informal science education. She received a BS degree in Wildlife, Fisheries, and Conservation Biology, and a PhD in Neurophysiology from UC Davis before transitioning into a career focused on translating scientific research to various audiences and helping scientists in their communications efforts. In 2015, Dr. Kiki founded Broader Impacts Productions, a boutique production agency dedicated to science storytelling. Additionally, she founded, produces, and hosts the This Week in Science (TWIS) podcast, a weekly live show that covers a multitude of science topics in a talk-show format, and is also the VP of Public Relations for Science Talk, a non-profit science communication organization.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The value of investing time on your broader interests while staying focused on your research subject
  • How internships can jump-start your career transition through networking and opportunities, but also as a platform to learn new, specialized skills organically
  • The importance of observing, listening, and asking questions when you have the chance, when surrounded by people who work in your domain of interest
  • How your graduate research project management and learning skills translate into your post-MSc or Post-PhD career
  • How starting a student club or group can set you up for your professional future

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“I was able to pick things up and still try to pick new things up even though technology keeps moving forward – “Oh, I have to learn this new skill, I have to do this new thing…” – that is grad school! Every time you want to add a new technique to your studies to be able to ask a certain question, you learn something new. This mindset, you learn as a student – that you can always learn something.”

“Impostor syndrome is something that we are hearing about a lot these days. Just know that if you are in graduate school, you have gotten there for a very good reason, and you are a capable, intelligent human being.”

“Find other people that you can connect with. I think that number 1 – humans are social beings, and if we keep all these things to ourselves, it’s damaging, in the end, and we need to be able to connect with other people about these thoughts of this thing we’re attempting, you know? Graduate school is a long and arduous adventure and you’re not always going to feel like you’re winning. It’s not always winning – there’s a lot of losing, there’s a lot of failure, and it makes you feel really bad, and it makes you doubt yourself. So find other people. If you don’t have a great relationship with your PI, find other grad students, find other advisors – you need to search for those people. Sometimes they come to you, but you need to be willing to open your eyes and see them as a possible connection.”

“Pay attention to opportunities, pay attention to the world around you so you see the opportunities and are able to act on them if it’s something that you want.”

“Don’t be afraid to try – try a new thing. It doesn’t mean take a job, fully jump into it all the way. Try it – take a taste, right? See if you like writing, see if you like doing podcasting, see if you like making videos. Take a class, do a weekend workshop, find some little way to learn about the thing that you want to do and find out if it really is what you like. Don’t be afraid to try.”

Dr. Kiki’s links: TWIS.org; Twitter: @drkiki@jacksonfly@blairsmenagerie; AAAS mass media fellowship; Facebook.com/ThisWeekinScience, Facebook.com/DrKiki, Facebook.com/broaderimpactspro; LinkedIn.com/in/kirstensanford/.

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