Fall is in the air. The frosh are back on campus, chanting, screaming, causing general havoc and every so often it’s like you’re crossing the Bruinen, and next thing you know, you’ve been swept up and now you’re suddenly climbing up a football upright covered in grease and surrounded by engineers when you just were trying to head home.
Note: This is a factual representation of how frosh groups move.
In the spirit of Frosh week, I thought I’d share some facts with you. Since this will be the Class of 2017, here are 17 things that happened the year the frosh were born – 1995!
1. The Prime Minister of Canada was Jean Chrétien
2. TLC released their most successful single: Waterfalls. It spent seven weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was their second #1 hit following 1994’s Creep. It still remains very sound advice for life, especially if you’re a salmon.
3. Daniel Alfredsson played his first season with the Ottawa Senators, winning the Calder for the 95-96 season and scoring 61 points in 82 games. He went on to play 1178 games with Ottawa over 17 seasons, 14 of those as Captain, making him the longest serving European captain in NHL history. He then retired. Yes. He didn’t sign with another team in the same division. He retired.
4. Deep Blue Something release “Breakfast at Tiffany’s!” The song is now known as the thing everyone says when asked “What do you want to do for breakfast?”
5. Oasis releases their most recognizable hit, Wonderwall in 1995. By 1996, every guy ever has learnt how to play it on guitar, and now if you’re ever in a group of more than 4 guys and a guitar, The Oasis Law ™ states that at least one will try and play Wonderwall and encourage you all to join in.
Public speaking is something that terrifies many people, and is one of the most common fears people have. The combination of nervousness, wondering if people will understand you and finally just having everyone focused on you is not a relaxing experience.
As adults who have passed their early twenties, there are two places you’ll be invited to speak: At a wedding, or at conferences. Both are high stress situations. In both cases, you’ve been selected to talk to a group of people you’re unfamiliar with. But, despite their superficial differences, they have a lot in common. To aid you with your next wedding toast/academic presentation, I’ve come up with the following five tips.
Wedding/Presentation Tip #1: Be brief
How much time do you have? 10 minutes? Cut off two minutes. Always aim to be shorter rather than longer. Three key reasons why: 1) This gives you a few minutes as a cushion in case you lose your train of thought/start crying, 2 ) if the moderator holds up signs when you have 2 minutes to go, you know that you’ll be done before then (wedding analogue: when the MC starts edging towards you slowly) and 3) you’re less likely to lose people’s attention if you’re short. Keep things short, keep things precise. Get up, make your point, sit down.
Wedding/Presentation Tip #2: Be prepared
I once heard that the best public speakers aren’t naturally gifted; they’re the best prepared. Run through your talk multiple times before to ensure that you have your timing down. Be comfortable with your talk. Present to your friends and get them to critique you – does your talk make sense? Is the pacing okay? Read it out loud to yourself to see how it flows. These are all structural problems that can be fixed before your talk and will help you wow your audience.
Now, there are exceptions to this. Bill Clinton adlibbed a large chunk of his speech at the 2012 Democratic National Convention, and it was well recieved. However, not only is he a talented speaker, he has also spent years perfecting this skill. Your best friend’s wedding is not the place to practice. Practice takes time and effort. You may have to start working on your presentation further in advance to ensure you have it done and have enough time to rehearse. No more last minute presentations. But that’s the difference between the presenter who gets up there and looks professional, in control, and organized and the presenter who gets up there and says “Oh. I didn’t know this slide was coming up next.”
Wedding/Presentation Tip #3: Know your audience
If your talking at a wedding and you know the in-laws are very conservative/religious, you have to tone down your jokes to be appropriate. Similarly, if you’re giving a talk to a room full of students, or researchers in your field, or the general public, you have to change your talk accordingly. Know your audience and what their background is when preparing your talk. For weddings this means introduce yourself and your relationship with the couple as not everyone knows you and ensuring you add enough backstory to your speech so that you don’t lose your audience. For academic presentations, take a step back and start by explaining your research in broad terms, rather than jumping directly into the nuts and bolts of what you’re doing.
Wedding/Presentation Tip #4: Inside jokes/Jargon
One of the worst things to hear at a wedding is 10 minutes of insides jokes that no one else in understands. No one wants to hear you drone on about that one time you guys had a burrito at 3am. Analogously, no one wants to hear a sentence full of acronyms at a presentation. However, this does play into point #3 – if the audience is one that knows the jargon in your field (at which it’s no longer jargon), then you’re fine. But if the audience is not, then avoid any unnecessary technical language, or if you do use it, make sure you define it clearly up front. KISS. Keep It Simple Stupid.
Wedding/Presentation Tip #5: Enjoy yourself
Have fun with it! If you know what you’re going to say, and if you have practiced that will go a long way to alleviating any stress you might be feeling leading up to the big day. Being prepared will allow you to have a presentation that feels comfortable and one that is true to you, and that confidence will come through in your demeanor, approach and body language. This isn’t something that will improve overnight, but with every talk you give, you’ll get better.
Good luck to you, and here’s hoping the lucky couple/your supervisors love your talk!
In a nutshell, I think science is awesome. But I also think that science is suffering a public relations crisis at the moment, with people having a hard time understanding what it is we do, and more important why scientific research matters. That idea is what fuelled my TEDx talk above.
For those wondering, TEDxQueens was a great experience. There were a range of people there, including fellow PhD candidate Heidi Penning, who spoke about her experiences raising a child with autism in her talk entitled “Discovering what lies beyond the bend.” I’d definitely recommend attending next year if this is the kind of thing you enjoy – and definitely audition if you have an idea worth spreading!
Thanks again to the TEDxQueensu team for such a great opportunity and for putting on such an awesome event.
Friend of the blog Travis has done regular thesisupdates, and I think that updates from those in their PhD can be helpful for those considering or starting out with their graduate education. It gives you a a bit of a roadmap of what to expect, and potential pitfalls you might encounter. Some of you will be half way through a Masters/PhD right now, and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments – anything you wish you knew before, or even things that went well that you would recommend others do as well.
And, to inject a little class into the proceedings, I’m going to highlight these points with famous quotes from books. I’m sure my English major readers will have a field day with this.
This is very exciting, and I’m looking forward to moving onto the PLoS network. For some perspective, I’m going from my blog (3-5k visits/month) to PLoS Blogs (>200k visits/month). I’ll be writing for their brand new Public Health blog and their Science Education blog, together with some incredible writers, including the very talented Viet Le and Beth Skwarecki on Public Health, as well Jean Flanagan and Cristina Russo on Science-Ed, as well as others (including frequent Mr Epidemiology guest, Lindsay Kobayashi!).
The blogs go live tonight (so if the links don’t work, check back later), and will be available at:
While the tradition of oral storytelling has been replaced by the email forward or Facebook message, the idea remains the same. We pass down stories from generation to generation, from postdocs to PhDs to Masters students and onwards. And now those stories take the form of websites, blogposts and cats doing silly things.
I’m going to end the year with some of my favourite funny reads. It’s a stressful time of the semester, and most people have exams and assignments and projects to finish. If you’re really lucky, you also have a bunch to mark before you can leave too! Yay!
And so, in the spirit of the season, I’m going to share some of my favourite links with you to try and lighten that load.
At some point in your graduate education you’ll have to ask for a letter of reference. It might be for a funding application (see my previous post) or it might be for another program (med school, law school, PhD programs etc). But you’ll need to ask people to write wonderful, glowing praise for you in their free time. Which is a daunting, and intimidating task.
But the good news is that your profs and supervisors are expecting this. They’ve done it before, and know the process. So don’t be afraid!
And of course, because it’s me, I’ll bringing in a friend to help with the post. So without further ado dear readers, Liz Lemon.
Applying for funding is a tough, but necessary, part of the graduate school experience. But luckily, I’m going to be writing about it in my post today, with GIFs from The Big Bang Theory!
If you hope to continue in academia, constantly applying for funding will be a reality you’ll face until retirement, so might as well start enjoying it. And if you’re in your Masters and thinking about a PhD, you’ll probably be applying for funding for that too, so this cycle never really ends. It’s tough, it sucks, but here are a few tricks you can use to make the whole process much more enjoyable. I’ll be talking mainly about my experiences with OGS and CIHR as those are the funding bodies I’m most familiar with, but if you have experience with NSERC or SSHRC (or any others), please feel free to comment below.
We’ve talked a lot about resources that are all available for new students, in terms of settling in, finances etc. What we haven’t talked about are things that might affect returning students or those who are approaching the end of the degree. Given that we all hope to be at that point in the near future it’s worth discussing it here.
About half way through your degree you might realize that you put in a long time and effort but have very little to show for it. In marathon running this point is known as “hitting the wall” – the point where when you run out of energy to continue your race.