The Chemist: Receiving Feedback
Hey Everyone! I hope you all are having a great week! This week’s topic is about receiving feedback and what to do with that feedback. I just came back from a conference two weeks ago and in preparing for my talk and then giving my talk, I was constantly receiving feedback, so this post was right on time.
Grad school is a constant cycle of planning out an experiment, doing it, presenting/talking about it, hearing other people's’ opinions and then starting all over again. You never get out of receiving, or even giving, feedback from your advisor and your group members. It’s all a part of making you a better graduate student. You just have to make sure you’re receptive to it. Some things people tell you to try may work and sometimes people propose something you know won’t work. Either way, you have to receive it and then pick and choose for yourself whether or not it’s worth it. You don’t just want to do everything everyone says you should do because at the end of the day, it’s your project that you’re the expert of. Regardless, feedback is always helpful as long as it’s constructive. I know my advisor and group members are in my field (so they know what's happening) and have my best interest in mind so I’m more likely to think about the things they suggest. At the end of the day, I’m just starting out and they have more experience, so I value the things they tell me. It’s a constant learning experience in graduate school.
But onto the conference and my talk. Preparing to give any kind of presentation is a lot of work and when you’re doing research and presenting it on a local/regional/national platform, you’re representing both your university and your research group. You and your advisor are going to go back and forth talking about things you should say and making sure it makes sense. That’s what happened in making my talk. I have all this data and I had to find a way to concisely talk about the main points of my work and tell a coherent story with it in 15 minutes. What ended up happening was that I would make a draft, send it to my advisor, he’d mark it all up with comments, I’d fix them/change some stuff around, and start all over again. I think I ended up making three drafts and met with him about it before finally sending my presentation for conference. I also talked to other people in my group about how the presentation looked, if it made sense in its order, etc. I was open and willing to hear all comments and concerns about my talk because I wanted to do well.
When it came down to giving my talk, it came together well, and I was secretly excited to get my first oral presentation out of the way. Then it came time for questions. Now if anyone has presented a poster or a talk at a conference before, you know that when people start asking questions it can go in any direction and they could make any comment. Typically, these are people you don’t know on a personal level, so you may or may not be comfortable getting feedback from them. But nonetheless, in that type of setting you have to let it happen. I didn’t get any crazy questions during my session, they were mostly research related, which was good, but I did get someone to tell me one of the figures I cited was incorrect. It was something no one had noticed in prepping for the talk and when things like that happen, you must stay calm and field that statement. So, I acknowledged the mistake and the fact we didn’t catch it and then moved on to his follow up question, no harm done and I was all in one piece. It was after I was done that other people came up to me and started talking to me about my presentation informally. It was all positive this time, but who’s to say at my next presentation someone won’t agree with what I’m doing or think a piece of data I present doesn’t make sense and want to argue. It's just something to be mindful of and prepared to handle. Other than my talk, the conference was amazing as always! NOBCChE is a great place to network and meet other scientists that look like you. It’s a great time.
I say all this to say that you never know when someone is going to volunteer an opinion on what you’re doing, called for or not. It’s how you respond in those types of situations that makes all the difference. You have to stay calm and respond to the best of your ability. You decide whether to listen and use the feedback you’ve been given. I will say, initially take it and truly think about what was said and if it’s helpful. If not, keep it pushing, but if so, create a game plan to implement that piece of advice into future endeavors.
Until next week!