Present your Ph.D. Thesis to a 12 year-old Project

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The Graduate School at The University of Texas at Austin recognizes the importance of supporting graduate students' outreach efforts. The 'Present your Ph.D. Thesis to a 12 year-old' project is one example of graduate students making an extraordinary impact on society. What Starts Here, Changes the World.

About the Project

The UT Graduate Science Outreach student group was founded by a group of doctoral students, at the Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology at The University of Texas at Austin, who were looking for new ways to make a difference in science education at the local level.

Science Doctoral students at UT Austin have conducted this new outreach program in which they present a simplified version of their Ph.D. thesis in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms.

The outcome is a process for emerging scientists to relate their discoveries with K-12 students, while providing real-world examples that will complement science topics covered in a classroom.

Present your PhD group photo
(Click to enlarge) Graduate students who participate in the outreach project (left to right): Apollo Stacy, Dr. Greg Clark, Aimee Wessel, Inga Jarmoskaite, Brandon DeKosky, Peter Enyeart, Josh Russell, Marisa Miller, Gabriel Wu, Stephanie Taylor, Damon Polioudakis, Brant Gracia. Photo by Marsha Miller.

The Goals

Volunteers | A volunteer organization of graduate students, run by graduate students.
Increasing Participation | Following a success presenting the theses in middle school classrooms during the 2010-2011 school year, the number of graduate students presenting and the number of participating schools, have increased.
Expanding | Expansion, which encompasses any Ph.D. thesis, is on the horizon for this project. Posters of the outreach program have been presented to graduate students and scientists at two scientific meetings in an effort to find people who would like to initiate a similar program at their school.

Organization Structure

In this program there are two types of volunteers.
Presenters | Enliven the discovery of how to introduce their Ph.D. thesis to a broad audience.
Organizers | Initiate and facilitate Ph.D.-thesis lecture series within
their communities.

Organizers are Autonomous

Community Relations | Each organizer is free to develop a lecture series at any school who is interested in the program and to any age group they feel most comfortable. A key component of this outreach program is to give organizers experience in initiating and developing ongoing relationships in their community.

Recruit Lecturers | Another feature of an organizer is to be able create enthusiasm for educational outreach among their peers. Therefore organizers should recruit some new graduate students for their lecture series.

Each organizer will initially introduce their series at the school by giving a presentation relating the concepts of what a Ph.D. thesis is as well as what a being a graduate student in their specialty undergoes.

This video is an overview of the Present your PhD thesis to a 12-year-old Science outreach project


Josh Russell presents the overview of the outreach program to Martin Middle School students

There is one presentation monthly, given to two separate classes. Therefore, in the course of a typical school year the organizer could give two personal presentations and arrange for about 6 other presenters.

Programs

Josh Russell Jack Jones
Josh Russell and Jack Jones

Travis High School Program

Fall 2012 - Spring 2013
Teacher: Jack Jones
Grad Student: Josh Russell





Dr. Greg Clark Tania Tasneem
Dr. Clark and Tania Tasneem

Kealing Middle School Program

Spring 2012 - Spring 2013
Teacher: Tania Tasneem
Research Scientist: Greg Clark





Peter Enyeart Thomas Rice
Peter Enyeart and Thomas Rice

Boys and Girls Clubs Program

Fall 2012 - Spring 2013
Teacher: Thomas Rice
Grad Student: Peter Enyeart





Presenters

The Presentation | Presenters develop a talk on their Ph.D. thesis.
Each presentation should last approximately 20 minutes long, including 5 minutes for questions. Presenters are encouraged to view past presentations and work with their organizer and other members of their lecture series to help develop an effective and age appropriate talk.

Scorecards are used as a means to gauge the presenter's clarity and accessible functionality with the group. Before a classroom presentation Presenters should hand these out to the students and collect them at the end of their talk.

Scorecard samples

Sample scorecards from Nicholas Meyerson's presentation


Some Ph.D. thesis topics presented include virus fossils, what makes
cells grow, genome editing, talking bacteria, molecular machines, how
worms sense humidity, and how our bodies defend themselves against
viruses. Here are a few profiles of the presenters:

Josh RussellJosh Russell | Humidity Sensation
All forms of life on Earth need water. Because life arose in water many life processes are customized to work only in water. Later, when plants and animals began to live on dry land they had to carry this needed water with them as body fluid. Read more >>

Greg ClarkDr. Greg Clark | Plant Communication
All organisms have developed the ability to receive information about their environment and respond to this information appropriately.  Plants, unlike animals, do not have the option of moving to change their location in response to their... Read more >>

Peter EnyeartPeter Enyeart | Genome Editing
In my research I take living things apart and put them together in new ways.  Though you might imagine me as Dr. Frankenstein when I say that, in reality we don't have to go to the trouble of sewing together dead bodies. Read more >>

Inga JarmoskaiteInga Jarmoskaite | Microscopic Mechanics
My PhD thesis research focuses on the assembly processes that lead from a newly made, unstructured RNA molecule to its final functional structure. Read more >>

Aimee WesselAimee Wessel | I'm a Bacterial Zookeeper
Bacteria “talk” and interact with one another. How they talk and interact affects how they behave, which is particularly important in the context of a bacterial infection. A single tiny cluster of bacteria is often what starts many bacterial infections... Read more >>

Nick MeyersonNicholas Meyerson | Virus Fossils
Viruses have exerted an incredible evolutionary pressure on humans and our ancestors that dates back many millions of years. This ancient battle with viruses still rages on inside all of us and leaves a unique mark in our DNA. Read more >>

Marsha LewisMarsha Lewis | Creating a "Designer" Protein
Protein are specialized microscopic machines. Proteins in our body have many functions including enzymes, structural support, signaling, storage. Scientists can design a protein with a specific function in mind. Read more >>

Marisa MillerMarisa Miller | Hybrid Vigor
Hybrid vigor is the improvement of any biological quality in hybrid offspring. For example, hybrid plants like corn grow larger and more vigorously than their parents. Hybrid vigor is a widespread phenomenon that has intrigued... Read more >>

Brant GraciaBrant Gracia | Cutting RNA Molecules
Ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules canonically function in the process of genetic transduction. More specifically, production of proteins, the cells primary molecules, is carried out by different RNA molecules including... Read more >>

Damon PolioudakisDamon Polioudakis | What makes cells grow?
Cell growth, the process of one cell dividing into two new cells, is involved in many important processes in our body, such as wound healing, development, and hair growth, as well as maintaining our immune system and digestive tract. Read more >>

Brandon DeKoskyBrandon DeKosky
Our immune systems are simply amazing:  we can fight off invaders of countless types, and our immune system even has memory to help prevent getting sick from the same disease twice. Read more >>

Apollo StacyApollo Stacy | Bacterial Interactions
My research focuses on how communities of different species of bacteria work together. In almost any environment, bacteria are found in mixed groups of hundreds of unique species - a true melting pot!
Read more >>

News

October | Josh Russell will present a poster on the outreach program at the 2012 Society of Neuroscience in New Orleans

October | GradNews blog post

July | Dr. Clark presented a poster (pdf) on the outreach program at the Annual Meeting of the American Society of Plant Biologists

June | Josh Russell, Peter Enyeart, and Dr. Greg Clark appeared on They Blinded me with Science radio show

March | Stephanie Taylor's Shelling the stigma of a science education column in The Daily Texan

 

More Outreach Programs

Shadow a Scientist Program
Summer program pairs Middle School students with a Research Scientist at UT Austin for a tour of the scientist’s lab and experiments in progress.

 

Contact

For more information email jcrussell@utexas.edu



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