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Improving your public speaking skills - insights and advice

Posted By Connections Editor, Thursday, October 30, 2014
Updated: Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Eugenia (Kena) Flores-Figueroa - New Investigator Committee

“All good communicators put a lot of effort into communicating clearly. I think a lot of young people make the mistake of thinking that people are born either good or bad communicators. The reality is that the good ones really work at it." Sean Morrison.

There is no doubt that we all agree on the importance of public speaking; we all enjoy a great talk and suffer and count the minutes until a bad one is over. We recognize that public speaking is one of the most important tools to communicate our science, yet, we usually do not know how or where to look for resources to improve our public speaking skills. According to Sean Morrison, Director of the Children's Medical Center Research Institute at UT Southwestern and Investigator of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, “young people make the mistake of thinking that people are born either good or bad communicators”, he stated, “good ones really work at it”. The purpose of this article is to discuss and provide resources and tools to master good communication skills and to raise the awareness that becoming a great public speaker is in your hands.

Changing paradigms on Public speaking

Do you experience stress and anxiety before speaking in public? You can improve your performance by realizing that a modest level of stress will work for you and not against you. Jeremy Jamieson, Ph.D., assistant professor of social psychology at the University of Rochester, published in Psychology Today (1) that reframing how we think about stress improved public speaking performance, even in individuals suffering from Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD). His research group asked individuals to perform a stressful public speaking task. One group was informed about the sympathetic nervous system and how acute stress responses help us perform well, to encourage them to reassess what stress meant to them. The control group did not receive any information. The experimental group performed better than the control group in both individuals with and without SAD.

Do not try to stay calm, get excited!

We often try to stay calm before a presentation. In a recent paper published by Dr. Wood Brooks in the Journal of Experimental Psychology (2), she found that individuals who reappraise their anxiety as excitement performed better at public speaking compared to individuals who attempt to calm down. His strategy was quite simple: individuals only had to say “I am excited” out loud or received messages to get excited. Her paper suggests that we have a profound control and influence over our emotions, and we can turn this to our advantage to perform better during public speaking.

The thought is that feeling excited will focus you more on your presentation and less on your fear of being judged. It is a common mistake of graduate students to worry about the questions that the audience might raise, rather than focusing on their presentation. It is not about knowing all the answers; unanswered questions may translate into a new experiment or a reinterpretation of our data.

Resources for Public Speaking

There are many resources to improve your public speaking skills. You can research ebooks or take courses. There are also instructive videos. If you recognize the importance of giving a good impression of yourself and your science during presentations, we encourage you to invest some time in exploring these resources. A few examples that can guide you where to start:

Books: Talk like TED: The 9 public speaking secrets of the World’s Top Minds. Carmine Gallo. This book from a public speaking coach will give you the secrets behind the most popular TED talk presenters.

Courses: There is a great course on called “Introduction to public speaking”. The instructor, Dr. Matt McGarrity, a senior lecturer at the University of Washington Department of Communication, will focus on understanding the key parts of an argument by studying the principles of argumentation and arrangement. You will have the opportunity to practice through speech assignments that are reviewed by your peers.

Videos: TED and TEDx talks. TED -which stands for technology, entertainment and design- is a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas, in the form of short but powerful talks (usually less than 20 minutes). TEDx talks are independently organized TED talks. This is a great way to learn from experienced speakers. We recommend starting with a TEDx talk by one our ISEH leaders, Dr. Leonard Zon, Professor of Pediatric Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital of Harvard Medical School.

Toastmasters International: Toastmasters International is a world leader in communication and leadership development, with 313,000 members worldwide. These members improve their speaking and leadership skills by attending one of the 14,650 clubs in 126 countries. You can probably find a Toastmasters club in your University or near your home. Toastmasters meeting is a learn-by-doing workshop in which participants hone their speaking and leadership skills in a no-pressure atmosphere. There is no instructor in a Toastmasters meeting. Instead, members evaluate one another’s presentations. This feedback process is a key part of the program’s success. Meeting participants also give impromptu talks on assigned topics, conduct meetings and develop skills related to timekeeping, grammar and parliamentary procedure (

Other resources: At the 2013 ISEH Meeting held in Vienna, the New Investigator Committee hosted a session on “Effectively presenting your science and yourself”, the session was recorded and you can access it at the ISEH website (free for ISEH members). We recommend Dr. Margaret Goodell’s (Former ISEH president and Associate Professor at the Baylor College of Medicine) talk which has many good tips that will help you design your slides.

Advice on Public Speaking

We gathered tips and advice from the perspective of new investigators, to give situations you may relate to and describe common mistakes that you should avoid.

Plan your speech

The first step in planning your talk is to decide what message you want to convey. Remember that in any speech, three or more topics are hard to remember and follow. Your research can be described in many ways: consider different ideas, write an outline of your talk, or discuss it with a colleague. Spend some time on planning before you start gathering or creating your slides.

1. Know your audience

“Know your audience so that your talk is at the right level”, was Sofie Singbrant’s, researcher at the Lund Stem Cell Center, Lund University, Lund, Sweden, first advice. Your talk should be tailor made for each event. Consider the expertise of the audience, the formality (job position / conference / lab meeting), the cultural background and the country you are in. Try to relate to your audience by thinking of commonalities and including that information.

2. Timing is key

Keep up with your timing and plan ahead, do not try to compensate your bad planning with rushing your talk. As Michael Milssom, Group Leader, Experimental Hematology, Heidelberg Institute for Stem Cell Technology and Experimental Medicine, advices “Make a conscious effort not to rush what you are saying as you will lose the audience. If you have to talk fast to cover everything in your slides then you have too much material in them. Better to take some data out and clearly get across the key points than to cram every experiment you ever did into a talk." Running over time is disrespectful to your fellow speakers and annoys your audience.

3. Speech Flow

Start with an introduction according to your audience, “explain why your problem is important and properly frame the questions that you are asking”, Daniel Lucas-Alcaraz, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and Organogenesis Scholar at the Center of Organogenesis at the University of Michigan School, advised. Even if you are not a native english speaker, do not read your presentation, Ayako Nakamura-Ishizu, Senior Research Scientist National University of Singapore, Cancer Science Institute, warns that “the worst mistake is only reading out your presentation on paper, power point presenter or directly whatever is on the slide. It is quite obvious when you see this from the audience and it is not really natural”.

4. Pay attention to your slides

Peter van Galen, Post doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts General Hospital, highlighted the importance of the slides design and content. “Do not present too many panels per slide. Explain everything that is in the slide. The audience needs to be able to understand the rationale for the experiment, the actual results and your interpretation. Make your slides easy to read for your audience. One of the worst mistakes is to have chaotic slides and look like you haven’t seen them before. The audience will appreciate someone who is prepared to convey their message to be best of their abilities”, he commented.

5. Practice

Some of the experts advise that you have to practice your speech at least 10 times, but this may vary. Practice out loud. Use technology, you can record yourself to look back or send it to colleagues for feedback. Sofie Singbrant advices to concentrate not only on your message, but the way you send it, so it is in a clear and more relaxed way. By recording your speech you can also notice your body language. Your body language could send a massage of being confident or shy. As Ayako Nakamura remembers, Dr. Len Zon’s first advice at ISEH in Vienna was “Be confident and face the audience, don’t be shy”.

6. Be polite when you answer questions

How you answer your questions can tell a lot about you. For Teresa Bowman, Assistant Professor at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine), when answering questions, “don't be defensive or aggressive. Be confident, but don't put off your audience with an antagonistic tone. How you say things is as important as what you say to keep your audience engaged in your presentation." If for some questions you don’t know the answer, that is not a problem. For example, you can say “Thank you for your interest. You bring up a good point to consider for future directions, but I do not have an answer for that question yet.”


We asked our interviewees if they consider public speaking a skill or an art, and they all believe it is a skill that you can nurture and master through practice and hard work. There are of course gifted speakers who seem to have a natural ability for delivering enjoyable speeches, but be aware that those speakers work hard for this. Practice is key, and we mentioned starting points to use some of the many available resources and techniques that can help you. Our message for you is not resign yourself with what you have, but to work for it; do not suffer through your speech, enjoy it.

A successful speech begins with great science and results from your daily hard work , as Dr. Morrison says “"champions are made in the pre-season".


2. Wood Brooks A. Get excited: reappraising pre-performance anxiety as excitment. 2014. Journal of Experimental Psychology. 143(3): 1144-1158.

I want to thank Peter van Galen for editing this article, and Sean Morrison, Teresa Bowman, Michael Milssom, Sophie Singbrant, Ayako Nakarmura-Ishizu and Daniel Lucas-Alcaraz for their contribution and time.

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Another great year of New Investigator Sessions at the ISEH Annual Meeting

Posted By Connections Editor , Friday, September 5, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, September 3, 2014

We are excited to report that the New Investigator program for ISEH 2014 has been a success. As per ISEH's mission statement, our meetings have a significant focus on new investigators and networking opportunities. These year's sessions created the opportunity to meet established investigators and students, to get to know various career pathways (yes, there is a lot more than academia), and to discuss cutting-edge methods.



Meet the Expert Breakfast

Friday, 22 August 2014


This was again one of our most popular sessions; attendees had the chance to have breakfast with one of our top ISEH members. This year we had the privilege to have breakfast with Sean Morrison, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Texas, Scott Armstrong, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York,  George Daley, Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Boston Children’s Hospital and Connie Eaves, Terry Fox Laboratory, Vancouver. In this session we also met other young investigators, and together discussed different topics related to science or career.


Alternative Careers

Friday, 22 August 2014


This session was for those interested in learning more about alternative careers in hematology and stem cells. This year, we met experts in scientific funding, science editing, biotech, and pharma. Our outstanding panel included Steve Szilvassy from Stem Cell Technologies, Nicolay Ferrari from the CCCTG, Sheila Chari from Cell Stem Cell, and Aleksandra Rizo from Janssen. They shared their experiences transitioning through a variety of career tracks to reach their current non-academic positions. The session was highly interactive and informative,  and allowed attendees to ask everything they wanted to know about life outside of academia. 



New Investigator Networking Event

Friday, 22 August 2014


This is a session designed to network and meet other new investigators, as well as some established investigators, in a relaxed setting. New investigators had the opportunity to interact and meet new people with our BINGO game! Of course we all enjoyed a few drinks and the great opportunity to meet new people.



New Investigator Scientific Session

Saturday, 23 August 2014


The New Investigator Committee sponsored an invited speaker lecture featuring Dr. Simon Mendez-Ferrer from the National Cardiovascular Research Center (CNIC, Madrid, Spain). Simon Mendez-Ferrer’s research has connected the brain and signals that are released from the nervous system to the bone marrow stroma. Working with Dr. Paul Frenette, he showed that hematopoietic stem cell traffic is regulated by circadian oscillations. His work also identified nestin+ mesenchymal stem cells in the bone marrow and determined their crucial role in the hematopoietic niche


Following Dr. Mendez-Ferrer’s lecture, there were six abstract award presentations from new investigators. Their abstracts were deemed the best among all trainees. This session was filled with great talks and great science. This year’s talks feature work about HSC quiescence and proliferation controls, developmental HSC niche, leukemia, and epigenetics. Congratulations to the winners of the best graduate and postdoc awards: Albert D. Kim, University of California, San Diego, USA and Daniel D Lipka, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Germany, respectively.



Omics: A Practical Guide

Sunday, 24 August 2014



High-throughput next-generation sequencing analyses of rare cell populations are a major challenge for hematology and stem cell researchers. In this New Investigator session, we heard from three researchers at the cutting edge of “omics” research in hematology: Simon Haas - single cell RNA sequencing, Daniel Lipka - tagmentation and DNA methylation and Gerald de Haan - viral barcoding.  They talked about the perils, pitfalls and optimal strategies that can be applied for this technology in the study of hematopoietic stem cells, 

and left  ample of opportunity for general and technical questions.



The meeting is over, but most (if not all) of us, returned home with new colleagues’ e-mail addresses and great suggestions for our research. We invite all of you who attended and also those who could not attend this year, to keep connected with our society-participate in our social media, webinars, and visit ISEH's webpage. We hope to see you all next year in Japan.


It was very rewarding to meet many young scientists who attend to their first ISEH -or first scientific meeting- they are the future of our society and we are glad the meeting was the perfect scenario to present their work and network.

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Tools to collaborate in science: reference manager software

Posted By Connections Editor, Monday, June 30, 2014
Updated: Wednesday, June 25, 2014
Eugenia (Kena) Flores-Figueroa, Peter van Galen, Konstantinos Kokkaliaris, Sofie Singbrant and Teresa Bowman.

In our last issue of Connections, we discussed collaborative science and the importance of clear communication with your collaborator. Collaborations will not only include sharing samples, methods and ideas, but can also lead to co-authored grants, proposals or manuscripts. Without the proper technology, these collaborative writing projects could be a headache, leaving you with an inbox full of papers and drafts. Sharing and working on common documents is now much easier, thanks to a flurry of new technology. Here we will discuss some of the pros and cons of various reference managers and how best to utilize these tools for an effective collaboration.

Reference manager software is software for storing, organizing, sharing and using bibliographic citations. This kind of software allows multiple authors to add citations, download papers and add comments. Whether you are a pro or a newbie, the number of applications on the market can be intimidating, so we compared some of the reference manager applications to help you find the software that works best for you. When choosing the right software, you should consider cost, operating system compatibility, remote access, storage capacity, integration with your word processor (Word, Open Office…), reference styles and if it allows sharing and collaboration. It is also important to consider if it is user friendly or intuitive, as you do not want to spend too much time learning how to use it.

For a quick comparison, check out our comparison chart: 

MekentosjThomson Reuters
Operating systemPC, Mac and LinuxPC, Mac and LinuxPC and MacPC and MacPC and Mac
First public relase200820062007Late 1980's2014 for full version
Costfree (up to 2 Gb online storage)free (you can upgrade your storage capacity by a cost)$79 (students $45)$249.95 (students $113.95)free (pro version t.b.a.)
Application for smart phoneyesnot from Zotero but you can use Papershipyesno but there is an iPad appiPad app coming Jan. '14
Intuitive softwareyesyesyesyesyes
Citation styles43116770 +Many + add your own5000+Over 530
Sharing bibiographyyesyesnoyes (private groups)no
Best featureFull text search throughout papers / PDF annotation incorporated / Social networking allowing users to share librariesFriendly software, you add your citation with one mouse click. It is great for collabroation.Intuitive user interface yet many customization options / Remembers university proxyUser-friendly reference manager that allows you to attach and search full text PDFs Very slick, requires no setup time
Worst featureproblematic integration with academic databasesyou can not annotate your pdfs and it does not have an app on its ownMany issues with their latest update (Papers 3)The annotation features are not very good and the licence is expensive Some features are missing
Export file formats.bib .ris or Endnote .xml formatRDF, TEI, Wikipedia citation templatesBibTeX, Endnote, RefmanText only, rich text format (rft), html and Endnote (xml)none
Import file formats.xml (endNote format), .bib, .risris file formatBibTeX, CiteULike, Endnote, Pubmed, RefmanMtiple formats including Endnote (xml), Pubmed, Reference manager (ris) and PDFnone
Word processor integrationWord and Open OfficeWord and Open OfficeWord and PagesWord, Pages, Open OfficeWord (beta version)
Database conectivitypotentially problematicDropbox integration (Papers 3) is fussyyesso far always get "Sync Error"
In-app search with university proxy integrationnoyes and for some can be problematic when the institution requieres web-based authentication, they are working on that problem.yes (remembers login and works smoothly)yesyes (have to log in frequently)

Endnote (
Endnote is about 20 years older than the other reference managers we tried: the first Endnote software review is from 1989! It has stood the test of time with a robust set of features. Endnote is a user-friendly software that doesn’t take long to get started with. It allows you to import and export references in several different formats, and has over 5000 citation styles that can easily be further customized if needed. The addition and management of citations and the reference bibliography in Word is very straightforward. However, insertion of citations in powerpoint is so far only available for Windows and not for Mac. Regarding PDF-files, Endnote can both find and incorporate reference information for a PDF you already have (as long as it has a DOI number), as well as find and attach a PDF-file for a reference already existing in your library. Both references and papers can be organized in folders and searchable smart folders, and the program also allows you to search full text PDFs. However, the annotation features in Endnote are limited. But the biggest drawback is perhaps the price, since Endnote is by far the most expensive reference manager software covered in this review. Apart from the annotation feature, Endnote is a very good reference manager, but we think the price tag will make a lot of users start looking at the cheaper options.

Papers (
Papers is a fully featured PDF- and citation manager. You can do everything in Papers, from searching many online databases to annotating files. When searching for papers, the program remembers and automatically uses your university proxy. When you download papers, the PDFs get automatically named and downloaded to a folder structure you can set. Within the program, papers can be organized by tags, keywords, in smart folders, etc. Changing paper annotations is easy. Managing references in Word is easy and pasting references in Powerpoint, emails or anywhere is effortless. The only missing feature of Papers 2 is syncing between computers. Dropbox syncing has come with Papers 3; however, from our experience, Papers 3 beta was a disaster with many bugs and a library that was not accessible through Finder. The official release of Papers 3 is better: certainly worth a try if you want to be able to set up a customized workflow.

Readcube (
The new kid on the block is Readcube. Moving beyond its origins, this PDF manager just got updated to manage citations and sync papers in the cloud ( An iphone and iPad app is available now, which eliminates the need for any other software. Searching Pubmed, Google Scholar or your own library within the app works really smoothly. You can download enhanced PDFs, which puts references within 1-click reach. Readcube’s user interface is extremely clean, which is great, but some features are missing. For example, you currently can not change individual fields in paper annotations or set automatic naming of downloaded PDFs. However, if you want simple software that requires no setup and works smoothly, consider giving Readcube a try. The developer team is working to add more features while maintaining sleekness, and we are excited to see where Readcube is going.

Mendeley (
Mendeley is a tool for organizing academic research papers, creating/sharing libraries, and generating citations and bibliographies. It has two formats (the downloadable program available for Windows, Mac, Linux and the web-based software compatible with all web browsers) and two versions (basic/free and premium). Its main features include: automated extraction of metadata information from PDF-papers and databases, PDF annotation (highlight text and sticky notes), text search function and export of citations and bibliographies in document processing software (Microsoft Word, OpenOffice, LibreOffice). One of its unique features is the social network module allowing users to create and share online libraries with other users (users can choose between creating private or publicly available libraries), while getting article recommendations. Mendeley offers a larger storage space (2GB) compared to its rivals and allows synchronization between different computers and operating systems.
Originally created by three German PhD students in 2007 (first software version was released in August 2008), Mendeley has won several awards, such as the ‘’European Start-up of the Year 2009’’ and has been ranked 6th in Guardian’s ‘’Top 100 tech media companies’’, before being bought by the publishing company Elsevier. Despite the growing number of users (almost two million), Mendeley has some drawbacks compared to other PDF and citation managing software. In particular, it often has problematic integration with academic databases (compared to Refworks), since entries often require manual inspection and correction. Also, book citation requires further development (inferior to Zotero and Endnote). Finally, the PDF annotation module offers only basic functionality (compared to Zotero) and the optical character recognition function is not yet available.

Zotero (
Zotero is a free, friendly and intuitive software to collect, organize and cite, and works great for collaborations. We recommend this software for the “newbies” as the online tutorial (offer on their website) is brief and it’s just what you need to start using it. As with the other reference managers, there are also a lot of tutorials available on youtube.
One of its best features is that is very easy to collect your information; your library will displayed on the bottom of your search engine (it works great with firefox, and now you can also use other search engines), so when you find a reference on pubmed or on the ejournal, within one mouse click you get the reference integrated into your library (and if you get access to the paper, or it has free access, it also saves the paper into your library.
You can collect anything, from papers, audio, video, books, images and webpages. You can add notes to your files, so you can use the note to write the citation of the paper, or the information that you will use from that paper. This helps to organize your bibliography, PDFs and notes so it is really smooth to write. You can organize papers by title, author, year and you can also search within the document. What we value most from this software is how easy it is to collaborate and write a paper with two or more people. All the collaborators can access the same library and add citations on the same document; you can decide who can only view or edit the library. It does not have an app on it own, but you can sync your Zotero (and also Mendeley) account using Papership (, which is an application available at the iTunes store that is designed to give you access to Mendeley and Zotero libraries on your iPad or iPhone. You can annotate your PDFs and share them.

1. Mendeley, official web site (
2. Wikipedia (
3. Office Information Technology, University of Colorado Boulder (
4. Academic Technology blog (
5. Stephen Miller "EndNote." Computers and the Humanities, vol.23 (1989) pp. 489-491

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Collaborative research: the why and how to collaborate in science.

Posted By Connections Editor , Friday, May 2, 2014
Updated: Monday, April 28, 2014
Eugenia Flores-Figueroa and Teresa V Bowman

“I was told once that the mark of a good PI (principal investigator) is that they sit in their office on the phone and dial up as many collaborations as possible”      Dr. Leonard Zon.

Imagine you are holding with your right hand a ball half white and half black. From your perspective, you see the ball as white, someone next to you sees the ball ¾ white and ¼ black, and someone in front of you sees it black. In order to get an accurate description of such a ball, you have to talk and work with the people around you, you have to collaborate. Collaborations can bring many benefits –like broadening your perspective-, but it can also be intimidating, especially for young researchers and students. You might become wary due to sensationalized stories from the press or from your colleagues or you just do not know how to start a collaboration. We learn by trial and error, and in order to learn how to collaborate, you will have to collaborate, and learn from your experience. However, jumping head first into collaborations without learning the basics of effective collaboration can leave you flailing in a sea of uncertainty. In order to avoid (or reduce the chances of) drowning in a bad experience, we asked ISEH members for their advice and invited them to share their experiences to help us understand the why and how to collaborate in science.

Why to collaborate in science?
If we had asked this question to our members in 1950 –when ISEH was created- we can speculate that the answer would have not been straightforward. Just remember the Till and McCulloch paper from 1960, it was a “truly” Till AND McCulloch paper (just two authors). Science has evolved in the last decades in many different ways; we have witnessed a technological and communications revolution. We do not see science as we did in 1950; our own field is evolving constantly and it is hard to become an expert in everything. These days it is not uncommon to read papers with more than 30 authors and to work on a project with people from different fields (researchers, clinicians, mathematicians and epidemiologists). We asked current ISEH members about the benefits of collaboration to understand why it is seducing more and more scientists each day.

One of the benefits of collaboration is that, as a researcher, you have only one view of your project, when you collaborate, you join perspectives. According to Dr. Leonard Zon, a distinguished stem cell scientist and Harvard Professor who works with the zebrafish model, “When you collaborate, you gain more information about your project, and this could be transforming.  You may publish more quickly or bring expertise into your own lab." For Dr. Margaret (Peggy) Goodell, the current president of ISEH and Baylor College of Medicine Professor, collaboration is an “addition of complementary expertise”, which means that you optimize resources and time, as you do not have to establish the techniques or spend money on reagents in your own lab, and collaboration will “provide another person to bounce ideas off and consider concepts you might not have otherwise.” Dr. Ulrich Steidl, an Associate Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine notes that “in the long run you almost always get much more out of collaborations that you are putting into them.”

You can also think of collaboration as a way or a style to do research. “Collaborative research," says Achilles Anagnostopoulos MD, Director and Head of the Haematology Department in Greece, “entails cross-fertilization of ideas and provides opportunities for creative thinking as well as cumulative capacity far exceeding the sum of its parts, raising the prospects for real progress that is unattainable when working in isolation.” 
Collaborative research will benefit your career, as Dr. Anagnostopoulos stated “L’union fait la force” (as the French say). But how should one initiate and foster fruitful collaborations and avoid bad ones?

How can a scientist engage in collaborative research?
Opportunities for collaboration are all around us, you just need to be aware and seize the moment. Attend local seminars and national and international meetings with your ears and eyes open to how your work could synergize with others. Don’t be afraid to initiate contact and inquire about the possibility of a collaboration. Small meetings, like ISEH’s, are generally a better set up for collaboration opportunities than big ones. Start by introducing yourself at a meeting to help put a face to a name, then follow-up contact with the researcher via email or a phone call. This personal touch helps to remind the researcher who you are, making them more likely to take your inquiry seriously. As Dr. Anagnostopoulos suggests, the most important thing is to “Strive to achieve it. For this to happen, prepare to be motivated, focused, clear about your objectives and capacity, patient, inventive and adaptable.” 

Before you contact someone, it is important to have a clear idea of what you want to achieve with the collaboration and what is going to be your input. As the basic “playground rule”, you have a better chance that someone will “play” with you if you have a toy to “trade” or “offer” to your playmates. Consider if the collaboration is of mutual interest or not, and the resources of the researcher that you want to collaborate with, so your proposal fits both. For Louise Purton, Associate Director and Lab Head at St. Vincent’s Institute in Australia, “It helps if the collaboration is of mutual interest to both parties- we are all so busy in research and trying hard to get publications and funding that not many labs have spare time/money these days to put towards projects that are different to their research interests. While this is a shame, as cross-disciplinary collaborations can produce amazing "outside of the box" stories, at the moment many researchers need to keep focused to continue to get the funding for their research.”

To succeed in collaborations, “communication is critical”, as Dr. Goodell advises. “Suggest establishing a set of phone calls or meetings so that you are forced to see the progress of each other toward a common goal.”  Consider discussing authorship issues in advance- if not specifics, then general approach (what constitutes co-first-authorship?).  This can be motivating to the trainees. Dr. Zon agrees and notes “Things will change as time goes on, and it is better to be flexible”.   

Another motivator for collaborations is to establish common goals and incentives. Dr. Steidl suggests developing collaborative grant applications based on the collaborative work, "This ensures that all parties have a high interest in the success of the project -and not just the lab that is leading the publication efforts.”

How to minimized the risks of a bad collaboration?
Authorship issues, bad communication of goals and objectives or just because you and your collaborator were not meant for each other, are often the culprit of collaborations gone bad. “Collaborations are like relationships. Some work very well and continue to do so, others never really progress far, and just fizzle out,” said Dr. Purton. Dr. Goodell warns, “The interests of your collaborator are not always well aligned.  Might have different pre-conceptions about who does what, about what authorship should be, or what the timeliness (urgency) of the work should be.” When things just don’t work out the way you expect, “discuss it openly and decide together the next steps (if there will be any). If you have to completely abandon the project, explain the reasons to your collaborators in a timely manner. And don't let this make you give up on collaborations. "Making scientific friends is also difficult” advises Dr. Konstantinos Kokkaliaris, one of our junior investigators. 

Dr. Zon shares his experiences remarking, “There is only very small risk associated with collaboration.  In my career of 22 years, I have only had one collaboration that became antagonistic.  Collaboration involves some give and take.”  Dr. Anagnostopoulos corroborates this sentiment by stating “Collaborations pose few risks provided they are grounded on scientific merit as well as respect and openness. In my long professional career, I have never faced problems with collaborations forged with this spirit – whenever obstacles appeared, these stemmed out of fundamental disagreement on principles and objectives, emphasizing the need for careful pre-planning and transparency.” You should “learn from the experience and try again: experience requires training!”

Collaborators without borders? 
The rules of collaboration may also be cultural, and when we decide to collaborate overseas, we should take that into consideration, as this can be more complex than deciding whether we should “kiss, bow or shake hands”. There may be differences, not only cultural, but in science funding and customs rules (to import or export samples or reagents). According to Dr. Hector Mayani, head of the Oncology Research Unit in Mexico, “scientific collaboration in developing countries is a different story”. “Collaboration in Latin America and other developing areas of the world should be more common than it is. But the truth is that it is sometimes difficult to conduct collaborative studies –at least good collaborative studies- between research labs in “third world” countries. One reason for that seems to be the fact that “professional science” is relatively recent in developing countries; thus, the culture of collaboration is just being established.” Dr. Mayani believes that collaboration in Latin America will expand in the future, not only between labs within the region, but to labs from developed countries, as he stated -“small” labs have much to offer to “big” labs (let’s not forget the fable of “the lion and the mouse”).  

Take home message
Overall, collaborations add an extra and mostly beneficial component to our lives and our science; you just need to have clear and aligned goals with your collaborator.  

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How to get your science noticed: Tips on writing a great scientific abstract

Posted By Connections Editor , Friday, February 28, 2014
Updated: Thursday, February 20, 2014

Eugenia Flores-Figueroa and Teresa V Bowman

New Investigators Committee Members

The call for abstracts for this year’s ISEH meeting has now arrived! Submissions will be received February 17 through April 11. Time to think about writing up your exciting science; here are some tips to help you get organized and get noticed.

An abstract is a brief summary of a research project written to catch the organizers attention so they decide if it fits the conference criteria, and it also serves to attract participants to visit your poster or attend your presentation. A good abstract begins with good science, do not write an abstract of work that you have not done or is not completed.

Before you start writing the abstract, it is important to focus on pre-writing. Ensure that you have a clear idea of the aim of your study, results and conclusions, and that the abstract relates to the conference theme (try not to be driven only by the location of the conference, e.g. Cancun or Paris). Once you pick the conference, review the abstract format guidelines and deadlines very carefully. Avoid sending your abstract the last day; you may encounter a technical problem. If this is your first time writing an abstract, it is always a good idea to read past conferences' abstracts (most of the time they are available on the conference webpage or journal); focus on the abstract with similar methods or subject.

Ready to start typing? The abstract should not exceed the word limit, and within one or two paragraphs you have to be able to cover your study on a clear, concise and stylish way. Do not attempt to write the perfect abstract on your first draft, according to Dr. Kristin Sainani, the longest part of the process is pre-writing and review.

At our 2013 annual meeting in Vienna, Dr. Leonard Zon gave us his advice for presenting your science, that can also be apply to abstracts:

1. Know your audience

2. Start with a brief description of the general topic

3. Second sentence should be the rationale of your work

4. Present the data

5. Conclude

6. Finish with the use of your research

The way you present your ideas is crucial; if you are not a native speaker or a good writer, look for courses online, they are usually free. Dr. Kristin Sainani’s advice for scientific writing includes:

1. - Cut the clutter, after you finish writing your abstract, look for unnecessary words, excessive background and negative sentences. If you find yourself looking for synonyms to avoid repetition that means your sentence and paragraph need review.

2.- Use active voice and strong verbs, avoid using the verb to be, highlight all the verbs on your abstract and review them. Use active voice.

3.- Beware of punctuation -there is more out there than points and commas-. A bad use of punctuation can change the meaning of your sentence; a good use will make your ideas clear and stylish.

The last part to evaluate from your abstract is the logical flow of ideas.

Examine the logical structure; can it attract visitors to your poster?

Before submitting your abstract:

Make sure it is within the word limit and that authors, institutions and content are correct. Have someone else approve the abstract and hit the send button!

Remember that your abstract will talk about you and it could be the first impression of you and your science.


How to write a good abstract for a scientific paper or conference presentation

Chittaranjan Andrade. Indian J Psychiatry. 2011 Apr-Jun; 53(2): 172–175.

Kristin Sainani. Writing in the sciences.

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Why belong to ISEH? New Investigators share their thoughts

Posted By Eugenia Flores-Figueroa, ISEH New Investigator Committee, Thursday, January 9, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 9, 2014

Meet the New Investigator Committee members and their top reasons for being involved with ISEH. We asked them to share their thoughts and experiences as a part of our society. ISEH has a unique and special focus on new investigators, students and post docs, and will give you the opportunity to connect to the right people and enhance your training. We would love to hear your experience through our social media, visit our sites and let us know why you belong to ISEH on Facebook, Twitter and Linked In.

"I am a member of ISEH because I feel like my voice is heard. The society really cares about junior investigators and our interest. I never miss the ISEH annual meeting because I know great science will be presented and I will get a chance to speak with both established and junior colleagues one-on-one. The atmosphere at the meeting is so welcoming and natural, it is easy to approach even big name PIs during one of the many social events”

Teresa Bowman (USA) 

"This is quite possibly one of the friendliest meetings I have ever been to. The opportunities for networking are outstanding and the emphasis on getting young investigators participating at the meeting means that it's easy for graduate students and post-docs to have meaningful interactions with world-renowned professors.”

Michael Milssom (Germany) 

"I have attended the conference for 3 consecutive years. I have found someone from another lab, working on something quite similar to what I research. This was at first frightening, but then turned exciting since I was able to discuss my research with other researchers and share perspectives. The compact size and the friendly atmosphere of ISEH allows young researchers to go forward and network. I feel that PIs are more approachable at ISEH than other meetings.

They also have very nice social events. I was shocked to see senior PIs dance. I'm Japanese. I didn't imagine that my senior PI would appreciate club music and dancing. But it seems that the event is a delight for many people in my country.”

Ayako Ishizu (Japan) 

"ISEH is a great community with plenty of networking opportunities for young investigators. I met many people with similar interests at the annual meetings, it is always at a great location and the perfect size to have a few intense days of science and networking”.

Peter van Galen (Canada) 

"I particularly like the ISEH meetings for two reasons apart from the great science presented there. Firstly, it is small enough to interact with everyone from PhD students to senior professors, and secondly there is a great focus on new scientists”.

Sofie Singbrant Soderberg (Sweden) 

"First, it is easy to find people to discuss ideas with at the ISEH meeting compared to some of the larger hematology meetings. Second,everyone in the society is very familiar with each other’s work so little background explanation is needed and the insights are very deep. Andalmost every poster and talk is interesting to my field and has something that can be applied to my research”.

Grant Challen (USA) 

"ISEH brings a friendly group of scientists who are willing to chat and share ideas. Fantastic opportunities for New Investigators to meet with some of the leaders in their field. There is also a great opportunity to meet other like-minded people from around the world in an intimate, relaxed friendly environment at the annual ISEH conference. ISEH is a place where you can easily develop long-lasting friendships and fruitful collaborations.The conference is all about networking, hearing about hematological research that is at the leading edge and having an enjoyable time.”

Sarah Ellis (Australia) 

"ISEH is an international community of blood specialists offering unique opportunities for networking and scientific collaborations for young and established scientists.The meeting allows for a a good ratio between PIs/students-postdocs, making it a great opportunity to approach the ''big names'' in the field”.

Konstantinos Kokkaliaris (Germany) 

"My story at ISEH began with the new millennia (29th meeting at Tampa, FL) and along with a challenge, it was my first international meeting and the first time I gave a talk. I learned three important lessons at my first meeting: to discuss your project with experts in your field, to meet and put a face on the authors of the papers I was reading, and to see those authors dancing the "chicken dance” at the social event. My former mentor introduced me to ISEH and I hope I can soon bring my own students.”

Eugenia Flores-Figueroa (Mexico) 

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ISEH launches social media

Posted By Connections Editor, Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Connect to your colleagues and stay on top of new developments in our field. This initiative aims to enhance and facilitate a two-way communication between our society and its members to:

  • Get first hand news on ISEH and our annual meeting.
  • Connect to your colleagues.
  • Make new collaborations.
  • Share and exchange ideas and discussions.
Three fast and accurate ways to connect:

: Being among the most commonly used social networks, our Facebook group aims to bring together scientists from different levels, inform them about upcoming events and set the ground for vivid discussions. Join us on Facebook.

LinkedIn: More focused on career development, LinkedIn is about accessing peoples professional history and follow discussions about research, medicine, industry, or any of your work-related interests. Advance your career with us on Linked-In.

Twitter: Straight to the point. Find all the information within a 140-character message (tweet). Great tool for peer to peer communication. Easily share and access resources (links, videos, photos). Look for our live feed at the ISEH Meeting. Stay tuned for our live interviews! Follow-us on Twitter.

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