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Fellows 2019-2020

Beyond the Ivory Tower: Engaging the Public in the Social Sciences

Mayowa Adegboyega

Effective communication and public engagement are becoming increasingly important skills in academia, yet this remains an area that is often neglected in student training. In the current climate of rapidly proliferating misinformation and the wavering support for publicly funded institutions, it is critical that graduate students are equipped with the tools to cut through the noise and reach people where they are.

Support for science communication in STEM fields has risen in recent years yet the Social Sciences lag in these areas. My project will create a space for graduate student Social Scientists to learn how to best communicate our work to the public. I will do this by designing workshops to address topics such as, 1) creating fun and impactful K-12 outreach programs, 2) learning to create a narrative that the public can follow, 3) learning the do’s and don’ts of graphics and visuals in presentations, and 4) sustaining effective engagement on social media. Information developed from this workshop will be compiled online to serve as a manual for future students and departments who are interested in engaging in these topics.

Communication can dismantle the barriers separating the public from the scholars who work to serve them. This program will help create effective communicators who can draw in voices that have traditionally been excluded from the discourse and as a result, help build wider coalition of support for our research.


An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Team Science

Samantha Blair

This project, “An Interdisciplinary Introduction to Team Science”, will seek to provide an overview of team science principles, facilitate networking of trainees across varying disciplines, and encourage the use of team science over the course of a several month period. This project will be conducted in collaboration with the UC Davis Health Clinical and Translational Science Center (CTSC). It will consist of two workshops, one in the winter and one in the spring. Trainees from all fields will be invited and one workshop will be held in Davis and one in Sacramento to further encourage cross disciplinary collaboration. The first workshop will include an introduction led by a team science specialist that will provide an overview of team science, why it is important, how to implement it, and how to overcome potential challenges. The first workshop will also include breakout sessions to guide the learning and application of team science principles. The second workshop will bring trainees together again to review team science and reflect on their practice, as well as benefits and challenges they have encountered.

A website component and midpoint survey will be implemented to further facilitate the use of team science strategies. A brief online survey will be distributed at the midpoint between the two workshops to gather information about whether trainees were able to use the team science strategies they learned at the workshop and connect with others. A brief update including survey results will be sent to trainees in order to encourage reflection on the use of team science strategies and offer suggestions and resources for addressing potential barriers.

By participating in this introductory program to team science, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars will gain information about team science principles and how to incorporate these components into their current and future work. At the completion of the project, participants will be more prepared to effectively collaborate with experts from different backgrounds, have skills to proactively incorporate team science into their work, and be able to demonstrate how to use these skills in future projects.


I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends:  Developing Peer to Peer Mentorship Activities

Gwen Chodur

Access to adequate and appropriate mentorship may be a struggle for graduate students. Many graduate students do not get the mentorship that they need, whether because they are afraid to ask for it or their Major Professors are unprepared to offer it. Approximately half of the programs at UC Davis are graduate groups, rather than department-based programs. While there are certainly advantages to such a structure, their inherent flexibility can pose challenges for students who may be unsure of guidelines. Students whose major professors have memberships in multiple graduate groups or departments may not be as familiar with the navigation of programs outside their primary affiliation, leaving their students within those groups or programs at a disadvantage.

However, mentorship may also come from sources beyond a Major Professor. Many departments have student run groups which also undertake peer to peer mentorship activities. As these activities are primarily run through individual student groups, there is little uniformity in how they are administered, if groups engage in them at all. Peer to peer mentorship is an important resource to graduate students, as older students have the opportunity to share their experiences in the intricacies of a program. Such programs also help create bonds within a program, thereby building social cohesion. Finally, the opportunity to provide peer mentorship is an important opportunity to engage and form norms related to mentorship in the next generation of leaders.

My project will survey existing peer to peer mentorship programs that exist within graduate groups and departments throughout the University, with the goal of identifying best practices in delivery of mentorship programs, and solutions to challenges faced in implementing these activities so that student leaders will be empowered to build or improve peer to peer mentoring programs.


Addressing Critical Feedback:  An Emphasis on Peer Review and Collaboration

Kyle Fletcher

Graduate students and early career researchers face a competitive environment which can often lead to feelings of anxiety, isolation and impostorism. A portion of this is due to critical feedback one receives from their peers, be it anonymous or direct, through mediums like peer reviews, presentation Q&As, and face to face meetings.

This project seeks to provide budding professionals firstly, with a strategy for accepting and responding to critical feedback and secondly, how to provide helpful critical feedback. These are key skills that academics require and are among the foundations of academia yet may be overlooked in training. Increased awareness and an ability to react to critical feedback will help professionals to move forward with their career. Academics should also be aware of how they communicate their criticisms to peers, realizing the effects that they may have on the personal development of individuals with whom they collaborate and teach.


A Guide to IRB Review for Humanities and Social Science Researchers

Gillian Irwin

When developing my proposal for dissertation fieldwork in ethnomusicology, I found myself not only overwhelmed with the task of creating an important and manageable project, but also with ensuring that my project would be approved by the Institutional Review Board. I found this process tiresome and confusing, as much of the language of the IRB is better formulated for projects in the sciences and I wasn’t sure how it applied to the extremely flexible and unquantifiable nature of qualitative ethnographic research. Upon speaking with other researchers in the humanities and social sciences, I realized that confusion over IRB approval was a common experience.

To address ethnographic researchers’ need for targeted IRB assistance, my PFTF project will create a handbook in collaboration with the IRB. The handbook will include information on constructing protocol, writing flexible interviews and surveys, and thinking through ethical issues that are unique to ethnographic fieldwork. The goal of this handbook is to help “translate” IRB language geared towards STEM projects into guidelines applicable to proposals in the arts, humanities, and social sciences. The handbook will ideally be made available through the UC Davis IRB website so that future researchers will have access to it on demand. Ideally, my project will help other researchers use the IRB review process to dig into ethical questions related to their projects and ultimately create stronger proposals that prepare them for the realities of their field sites.


There's An App For That! Using Digital Tools to Build Community and Ease Academic Workflow

Meghan Klasic

As graduate students and postdocs we find ourselves performing a balancing act among demands for researching and writing, teaching, our personal lives, and networking and building our brand. The digital world provides an amazing opportunity for simplifying our complex lives. But not all digital “apps” are created equal and rarely are they created with the graduate student and postdoc in mind. When we’re constantly trying to manage our time and maximize our output, how can we also be expected to navigate the thousands of apps that exist to determine which can actually make our lives easier? Which apps are the best mix of both usability and power? Our time is too valuable to waste on apps that will not contribute to our success.

There are useful digital tools and apps out there, but many of us don’t know where to begin in identifying the best, nor do we have the time. This project will help graduate students and postdocs to navigate the plethora of digital applications to select the best ones for their academic workflows. The project will focus on three key topic areas: 1) finding/building out your digital community; 2) time management/organization; and 3) research, writing, and publishing. Each topic will be the subject of an in-person workshop, supplemented by a digital tips/tricks newsletter.


Lights, Camera, Science:  A Television Media Training Workshop

Sarah Klopatek

Gene-editing, animal agriculture, and climate change are just a few areas of research studied at UC Davis that are deemed controversial by the public and media outlets.  Although, these topics are viewed as controversial, it should not deter graduate students researching these subjects form using their academic voice. In fact, it is imperative that emerging scientists, discuss their research with the public through the media to ensure the sanctity of science. One of the most effective ways to communicate their science is through radio and television.  Through these forms of media, graduate students have the ability to commandeer the scientific narrative and make positive impacts for the University, for policy, and for science. The first step to have an effective and memorable interview with the media is to partake in media training.  Therefore, the Professors for the Future in conjunction with the UC Davis Strategic Communications department will host a formal media training workshop in order to aid our graduate students (Masters and Ph.D.) conducting scientific interviews on the radio and television.

"Lights, Camera, Science: A Media Training Workshop" will be a 2 day media training workshop in collaboration with the Strategic Communications department.  Prior to the workshop students will send in their research topics to the Strategic Communication Center enabling the communicators to have time to formulate questions curtailed specifically for each graduate student. The workshop will consist of one-on-one camera interview sessions (conducted with a professional camera crew) and in-depth training sessions on interview preparation and message development. Upon completion of the program, students will receive a certificate of completion, a copy of their interview video recordings, and a binder full of media training aids.  In addition, once the program is completed, students will be able to sign up for other advanced media training programs hosted by the Strategic Communications Department (i.e. Social Media Training).

 Specific interview topics will include:

  1. Connecting with the audience
  2. Dealing with nerves/anxiety on camera
  3. On camera demeanor
  4. Understanding your audience
  5. How to avoid being misquoted
  6. Words or phrases to avoid/use
  7. Staying calm when asked difficult or belligerent questions
  8. Live vs. on tape interviews

Overall, the goal of this unique program will help prepare students to become more informed students, effective future educators, and one day leaders in their field.  


The HUM Portal:  Leveling the Playing Field for Graduate Student Success

Jessica Krzeminski

Have you ever felt that there were fellowships and funding opportunities, teaching and career development programs and courses, mentorship resources, and other support systems that would help you better navigate graduate school, but that you were missing out because it seemed nearly impossible to know where to look for and how to consolidate this information?

The system of doctoral programs writ large requires prior knowledge of conventions in order to achieve success, and I desire to equip graduate students from a range of backgrounds and experiences—first generation doctoral students, women, and other historically underrepresented groups in the humanities and social sciences—with the information necessary to parlay our skills into a wide-range of careers and to confidently tackle any application and hiring process. To that end, for my Professors for the Future project, I am creating a Humanities Portal. The Humanities, or HUM, Portal will help to level the playing field. I have partnered with the UC Davis Humanities Institute to make more understandable and navigable the many wonderful, existing resources available at UC Davis, particularly information about fellowships internal and external and career development. 


Student Engagement in Higher Education:  Bridging the Gap Between Academic Affairs and Academic Professionalism

Deserea Langley

My Professors For The Future project will be on balancing your roles as a faculty member. In many instances, faculty members are responsible for managing a variety of roles and responsibilities, much of which is left out of the job description.  My project will introduce graduate students to the diverse set of responsibilities that faculty members take on such as balancing mentorships, service, academic affairs and teaching.  My workshops will invite academic professional from the University to provide graduate students with the tools and knowledge that will create well rounded faculty and staff for the job market.

This opportunity will increase the ability of graduate students to negotiate space on the campus that bridges student affairs, mentorship, community service and academic teaching. Additionally, it will increase graduate students' ability to create networks across campus that encourage graduate student growth and academic professionalism.


How to Explain Your Research to the Public: Informal Science Communication

  • Nichole Lewis

  • Rebecca Schomer


Graduate education and training focus a significant amount on how to formally communicate our work to peers and other scientists. However, knowing how to communicate with a lay audience is just as important as knowing how to communicate with fellow scientists who are not experts in one’s own field, yet there usually is little to no training dedicated to these informal skills. To that end, our workshop series aims to provide graduate students and postdoctoral scholars with the tools and resources to confidently and effectively inform the general public about scientific ideas and facts.

The workshop series “How to Explain Your Research to the Public: Informal Science Communication” will addresses several important issues: 1) understanding diverse audiences 2) synthesizing complex ideas into concise, engaging explanations by developing short “elevator talks” about research projects or a related scientific concepts in lay terms, and 3) effectively producing and implementing educational products including visual and hands-on ways to demonstrate scientific concepts from drawings on the whiteboard to utilizing everyday household objects or children’s toys. Using activities from the Portal to the Public, Implementation Manual, Pacific Science Center and Institute for Learning Innovation (2018), graduate students and postdoctoral scholars will have the opportunity to discuss the design and improvement of educational products focused on their own research. While training and preparation are helpful, the best training is practice, therefore resources about various opportunities for outreach in the Sacramento and Davis areas will be shared with attendees so that they may apply these skills in presenting their research to lay audiences in the community.

At the end of this series, attendees will have greater confidence and have developed “go to” explanations or demonstrations when engaging and communicating with non-scientists about scientific concepts.


Pretty pictures! The Importance of Visually Stunning Images in Research

Carlos Ruvalcaba

Research communication has multiple levels: an expert communicating to a general public audience, a researcher giving a presentation to diverse subject-matter experts, or weekly meetings between a late-stage PhD student and their advisor. In all cases, students usually are taught to show all the information relevant to their message, and let the audience determine the quality and relevance of the information presented. However, as information becomes more specialized, and communication spans expert to general public audiences, effective use of time to convey a message is necessary.  

For the graduate student and/or postdoctoral scholar population, there is a multitude of time spent generating data, but little time is spent making sure that the data is conveyed with meaningful graphics. Meaningful graphics can aid in conveying a message that is quite complex in writing, but much more insightful with visual help. Some universities hire content creators on a departmental basis to aid researchers in preparation of visual graphics. Graduate students and postdoctoral scholars are expected to learn how to use many of these tools in specialized courses or online tutorials in their own time. These graphics tools can be daunting to the a new user, and many “tricks and tips” are better shown with interactive sessions.

The purpose of this project is to demonstrate how conveying complex subject specific information can be aided with the use of meaningful graphics. Additionally, participants will be introduced to several free and paid subscription tools that aid in the development of quality graphics.


I Thought I Knew How to Write – Overcoming Writing Anxiety and Advancing in Academic Composition

Leonardo de Oliveira Silva

Struggling with composing, reviewing, and expressing thoughts, as well as the anxiety triggered by the pressure of fulfilling a written task go far beyond affecting performance, grades, and general well-being. These challenges often influence heavily in dropouts during research proposal and dissertation-writing phases (Huerta et al., “Graduate students as academic writers”). Academia has become very effective in preparing graduate students to success, going far beyond specific areas of knowledge and helping them with employment, life-work balance, and connecting research to communities’ needs. However, there is still room for improvement in dealing with failure – or fear of it ­– is an integral part of student life, especially in what concerns writing.

A research paper that needs one more round of corrections; a bad review from a publisher; negative feedback from one’s advisor: these are all integral aspects of the graduate school life. For this reason, graduate students would benefit from resources and clearly defined practices to go beyond the “learn from your mistakes” advice and improve their writing productivity. My project aims to provide students with information about where to ask for help and how to avoid getting stuck in their composition work. I aim to improve graduate students’ writing skills by fostering a culture of assistance that covers both some of the psychological and a few technical aspects of writing.

Writing anxiety is, on the one hand, a common problem among students in general and, on the other, a fairly unknown concept to many university members (Arem, Conquering writing anxiety). Given this scenario, the UC Davis graduate students would benefit from a raise of awareness about this phenomenon and how to deal with it. In order to do so, I intend to host a workshop in two sections, about some of the challenges of writing.

1) “‘How do I start?’ – writing anxiety and how to deal with it.”
In this assembly, I aim to raise awareness about writing anxiety and share a few common difficulties found when starting an article as well as propose a few steps in dealing with these difficulties.

2) “‘When should I stop?’ – asking for help and moving towards a finalized work.”
In a competitive academic environment, it can be challenging for students to reach out for help and potentially exposing their difficulties. This session aims to incentive the participants to build support writing groups from which they can receive directed feedback and feel propelled by this process, rather than overwhelmed by unconstructive criticism.


Beyond the Podium:  Getting the Most Out of Academic Conferences

Charlotte Vorwald

Academic conferences are exciting venues for scholars to highlight their own research, share lab accomplishments, and network with academic peers and potential collaborators. For graduate students and postdocs alike, attending such conferences can be intimidating. Many require travel to new places, filled with unfamiliar faces and research backgrounds. While students have extensive training to learn techniques directly related to their research, many are not fully equipped to develop their professional skills for academic conferences. There is a current unmet need to provide the tools and resources to increase confidence in attending external, academic events. With preparation and an open mindset, students can make valuable connections and foster meaningful conversations among peers.

I seek to provide a setting where students can understand, prepare, and exhibit best practices for research conferences. For my PFTF project, I propose a seminar series designed to increase confidence and engagement in academic conference settings. This will be a three-part series with each seminar focusing on how to prepare before, during, and after conferences.