PhD SOS Tasks

These are tasks that you may find helpful as part of your PhD studies.


Task 1: Science Communication

Science Communication is a skill that PhD students continuously work on. This could be at talks, poster presentations, speaking to friends and family, mentor meetings etc. The ability to convey what you mean in a jargon free language doesn’t come easily and can require a lot of practice.

Example Task:

1. Summarize your research in one sentence to a scientific audience (in your field)

Example: Characterizing the neural gain, i.e. brain activity, in normal hearing individuals using the acoustic reflex threshold, auditory brainstem response, and loudness measurements following short term changes in auditory input

2. Summarize your research in one sentence to a member of the public:

Example: Investigating changes in brain activity in normal hearing people after they have worn an earplug in one ear by measuring changes in the contraction of a ear muscle that tells us about lower brain activity, which we can also measure using electrodes, and finally a measure of how loud you perceive sounds, which may tell us about higher brain activity.



What do you think about these example sentences? They are not perfect, just working examples that we can use to discuss how we can improve our science communication, so please provide feedback and comments.

What would you improve?

What would you add?

Should some parts be elaborated? Should some parts be removed?

Feel free to provide example sentences of your own research which we can open up for discussion. We all use different techniques in science communication which I love to share and learn from 🙂


Task 2: Elevator Pitch

Imagine you bump into an invited guest speaker in the stairwell, or you have been suddenly asked at the beginning of a meeting to describe your research to new members of the research team, or perhaps an actual elevator ride with your peers at a conference. A short, informal, concise and organized short-piece about your research would come in mighty damn handy in situations such as these!

Well look no further, an elevator pitch will prepare you for such encounters. So this week’s task is to practice presenting your research in a concise, well presented manner that can reach a wider audience. Being able to convey your research informally in various contexts is a skill that all scientists should nurture.


What should the elevator pitch include? You should answer the following questions as you prepare your elevator pitch

What is your research?

What are the questions you are asking?

Why are you asking these questions? What is the gap in knowledge?

What is the bigger picture? What are the implications of your research?



Try starting off with a question that will engage your listeners e.g. Do you know how many people in the UK suffer from some sort of hearing loss?

Start off with a poignant statement about why your research is importance, which you should reiterate and refer to at the end of your elevator speech to convey once more the importance of your research. This should be the takeaway message of the elevator pitch.

Be informal! Stay away from scientific jargon. Imagine you are talking to friends in the pub (or someplace just as casual). This is the level at which you should pitch your talk…i.e. so everyone can understand it. No point talking about your research if no one understands the fancy words you use.

Smile and let your passion about your research shine through!


Task 3: Summarizing your methods

What are your main methods and how do they help answer your research questions?


Method 1
The acoustic reflex threshold

How does this method help answer my research question?
One of my research questions is where does a change in neural gain occur in the auditory system after short-term unilateral earplug use in normal hearing human adult listeners. The acoustic reflex reflects activity at the level of the lower brainstem. Therefore, if there is a change in the acoustic reflex after a normal hearing listener wears an earplug in one ear after 4 days, then this suggests that a change in neural gain occurs at the level of the auditory brainstem.




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