Dennis Eckmeier is a freelancing neuroscience PhD and science advocate. He founded Science for Progress, a project to support those who do science communication, work for a better academia, or other activities where academia meets society.
For this episode, Dennis talked to Dmitry Kopelyanskiy, a contest-winning science communicator who gives entertaining science talks on stage – mostly about his own research on tropical diseases. But here, Dmitry also talks about his academic career odyssey (from Russia to Switzerland via Israel and Germany), his path to science communication, and his involvement in “Skills for Scientists” – a career development program at the University of Lausanne. Over the past two years, Dmitry Kopelyanskiy has been quite successful at science communication contests. At FameLab he made it all the way to the international finals in the UK! But he also did rather well at a number of Science Slam events. Last year he had been involved with Pint of Science in Lausanne as an organizer, and he has become a moderator at FameLab. In the contests, the candidates must explain their science in a clear AND entertaining way. This is – as he says – a skill every scientist should have in order to defend their science; be it as a publishing academic, as a graduating Ph.D. student, or as a scientist who finds himself in a heated discussion with an antivax cab driver – as he once did. And if you can make it fun and interesting, even better! Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! But being a successful speaker did not come to Dmitry naturally. He remembers his first presentation as a Master’s student in Germany to be horrible! He mumbled while he was reading directly from his slides; his back turned to the class. When he finally turned around, he found the whole class holding their foreheads with their hands. His professor described the presentation as “not the worst” he had ever heard; which Dmitry thinks meant that it – indeed – had been the worst. Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. Fortunately, he overcame his disheartenment and decided to go out of his comfort zone. Dmitry joined the Toastmaster clubs where people from different backgrounds practice public speaking and learn about storytelling and leadership. He continued working on his presentation skills, and he is still taking every opportunity to go on a stage and demonstrate his growth. To Dmitry, training your skills is one of the most important aspects of developing your career. Thinking about his own career outside academia after graduation, Dmitry wants to combine his best skill (public speaking) with his passion: science. Resources Dmitry Kopelyanskiy’s Website Slap in the face: How pathogens trick your immune system (Dmitry Kopelyanskiy– Science Slam) Skills for Scientists, Uni Lausanne Pint of Science, Switzerland 15×4 Munich Toastmasters International Hugo Bettencourt talks about science communication and FameLab
During this season, once every 4 weeks, I pick one of the 13 most popular episodes from the first two years and post the original interview. These extended editions contain a couple of parts that didn’t make it into the final cut and give an insight into the underlying conversation. Supporters on Patreon have immediate access to these versions, btw. If you are one of them, thank you very much! If not, think about it! Find the final edition here! Academics are Spoiled. Right? The stereotype of academics is that they live a well-protected life in the ivory tower. But this is not the case for most of them. Maria Pinto from Portugal is a Ph.D. student in marine microbiology in Austria. With the final stages of her work approaching, Maria is beginning to think about the future. Forgoing Salaries, Benefits, and Life Planning Security in your Late 20s to 40s. We talk about the many uncertainties in academia, particularly for early career researchers. In general, the salaries are not good, but in poorer countries, where the salaries are particularly low and may not even include social security, there is also an expectation of students to pay fieldwork trips themselves. Traveling in order to present your work at conferences is important to researchers and their careers, but for many, this is not affordable. Ph.D. students and postdocs are in the typical age for founding families. The academic career, however, demands mobility. For many, this means that they need to move countries several times – a factor that greatly affects life planning security negatively. And all of this is happening in a climate of increasing Ph.D. graduations and stagnating long-term or permanent job openings. Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. Yet, leaving academia is often discouraged. Among early-career academics and their advisers it’s simply expected to try hard for an academic career. This often means that PhDs think about a possible transition outside of academia very late. And then there is always the gnawing question: Do I have any value on the private market? We don’t have an answer to the problems we highlight, but maybe we can work a little bit against the stereotype of the spoiled academic. And maybe we can push some early career researchers to think about plan B, earlier. sources: • YouTube Channel “Sea&me – Marine stuff with Maria”• The Stagnating Job Market for Young Scientists• Why a postdoc might not advance your career• These studies offer a realistic view of postdoc life—and guidance for making career decisions that work for you• How Ph.D.s Romanticize the ‘Regular’ Job Market
The initial statement of Scientists for Future in support of Fridays for Future came out just at the right time. In the public debate, it was a swift response to politicians who were trying to mute the student strikes by telling them to “leave it to the experts”. In reality, scientists who had been concerned about the climate and the ecological damages human activities for decades had been working on the statement for a while. Among the authors was our guest Thomas Loew. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Thomas Loew is a German researcher who started his own Institute for Sustainability. He studies how companies can and should respond to the risks posed by ecological damages – on a management level. These studies are usually for the German federal government. Besides academic articles, the outcomes of his research are published in the shape of guidelines or recommendations to company managers. Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. He finds that companies are ready for a change in order to address climate change. What is holding them back is that regulators hesitate to create market conditions to incentivize change and to decrease the economical risks of investing in new products and production lines. Understanding that climate action is too slow due to lacking regulation is what brought Scientists for Future together. And they quickly outgrew the initial statement. While not planned as such, some of the more than 26 000 signatories decided to continue and become more active for the cause. Today, Scientists for Future consists of many local groups that are loosely organized. Although Thomas Loew is officially an organizer of the movement across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Northern Italy, he usually learns about the activities of local groups through the news. However, to uphold consistency across the movement, Scientists for Future set up a kind of “Carta” that regulates which types of activities conform with the agreed-upon role of science in society: to research, to inform, and to consult. Resources Scientists for Future (international) Scientists for Future (German-speaking countries) Thomas Loew’s Institute for Sustainability YouTube video “The Destruction of the CDU” by Rezo (GER)
In this episode, Bart and I invited PhD candidate Daniela Buchwald from the German Primate Center – a private research institute. We compare how the University of Göttingen and the German Primate Center (GPC) responded to the impending shutdown of most research activities – with a focus on how the animals are being cared for. The conversation was recorded on Tuesday, March 17, just after the German local government began to take serious action to reduce public life to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Remember that when we talk about news reaching us on Monday, we mean “yesterday” at the time of recording. Listen to the Full Conversation on Patreon! Daniela studies the planning of grasping movements in monkeys‘ brains at the GPC. Currently, a thousand monkeys are hosted in the facility and Daniela’s group is working with 12 of them. Daniela had just defended her PhD thesis  – two weeks earlier than planned to avoid delays due to the lockdown. Other students weren’t so lucky. Their graduation will certainly be delayed. We do hope that potential future employers will take this into account. But Daniela, too, is facing career difficulties: She had planned to visit different conferences to talk to Principal Investigators about postdoc opportunities. But everything is canceled or postponed.  Hopefully, she will be able to connect with PIs online. The GPC responded relatively early. They began preparing for a possible lockdown and sent general notices (wash hands, social distancing, home working…). Most importantly: they began planning for the continued care of the monkeys. The institute divided the animal caregiver into 2 teams. These teams will alternate biweekly. So, if one team member becomes sick, the institute will know whom he or she had been in contact with. Do you have questions, comments or suggestion? Email, write us on facebook or twitter, or leave us a video message on Skype for dennis.eckmeier. Monkeys can get the virus, too. So – although the monkeys get back on their feet and build an immunity quickly – the researchers decided to halt almost all experiments. Only monkeys with brain implants will still be trained and tested. That is because the implants are very sensitive and, once implanted, can only be used for a limited time. To stop these experiments would mean to lose enormous investments – including the monkey. At the University of Göttingen, where Bart works with flies and keeps zebrafish for demonstration purposes, things are a bit easier. The flies don’t need any attention for 2 weeks at a time, and the fish can be cared for by just two people. Bart and a colleague freed the students from these duties entirely. Resources Daniela Buchwald on Twitter
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