Connection is Key: Tips on Communicating Science from Alan Alda

Editor’s Note: Here we have a book review contributed by Mollie Enright. Mollie is a graduate student in inorganic chemistry at the University of Toledo studying iron-catalyzed coupling reactions. Be like Mollie and make this a green read by finding this book in your local or institutional library rather than purchasing it, many libraries have free audiobooks available even! 

A career in science is not for the faint of heart. The hours are long, the material is challenging, and there is always more to learn. However, there’s one aspect of science that I’d argue to be one of the most brutal tests in our love for discovering the deepest truths of the universe: The Boring Lecture. Those long talks we sit through on highly specialized content delivered by the driest, most unengaging speakers who are completely unaware of our glazed eyes, stifled yawns, and complete lack of understanding or enthusiasm for their work. To these scientists, Alan Alda asks, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?”

As a graduate student, my life is pretty dependent on my ability to communicate well. The demands to publish aside, I need to be able to represent myself and my research effectively to my committee, to my department in my second- and fourth-year talks, and at conferences. One of my biggest fears is to be the giver of The Boring Lecture. Alda is an American actor and founder of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science® at Stony Brook University. In his 2017 book If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating, Alda shares his philosophy for effective communication and gives insight into the methods he uses to help train scientists to better present their work and ideas.  After having this book recommended to me by both a fellow graduate student and by an emeritus professor within the same semester, I stopped by the library and snagged it to read while I waited for some reactions to finish.

I could not put it down.

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Book Cover Photo Credit: www.goodreads.com

Alda suggests that the key to good communication is connection, specifically through empathy, with those with whom we’re attempting to communicate. Reflecting on the training he received as an actor, he starts off the book with a simple question: “Could scientists become more personal, more available to their audiences if they studied improvisation?” Spoiler alert: the answer is yes! As he works with scientists, engineers, and health professionals through improv theater games, he breaks down the walls between speaker and audience to build a platform of active listening and authentic conversation.

Here are some of my favorite takeaways:

Communicating well is the responsibility of the communicator, not the listener. 

In one of the improv games, students are split into pairs with one designated as the leader and the other the follower. The follower is charged with mirroring the leader’s movements exactly. If the leader moves too fast, the follower can’t keep up. It’s up to the leader to slow down and help the follower track alongside him. To do this, the leader also has to be in tune with the follower. Early on in the book, Alda explains “Communication doesn’t take place because you tell somebody something. It takes place when you observe them closely and track their ability to follow you… communication is a group experience.” Empathy, the awareness of what another person is thinking and/or feeling, allows us to better understand how our audiences is relating with us and to adjust our language and tone to connect with them.

The Curse of Knowledge

Later, he describes another game, this time with two teams. One team is asked to choose a simple song, like Happy Birthday, to tap out with their fingers. The other team has to identify the song. The tapping team is always confident that the other team will be able to guess their song. In reality, the listeners are able to guess correctly only about 2 to 3 percent of the time. Alda points out that, “Once we know something, it is hard to unknow it, to remember what it’s like to be the beginner. It keeps us from considering the listener.”

The Power of Narrative

In chapter 17, “Emotion Makes it Memorable”, Alda shares conversations with scientists and educators to draw a conclusive relationship between memory and emotion. So, if we can create an emotional response in someone, they’ll more likely remember what we’ve said. But how do we excite emotions with people how have no connection to what we’re talking about? The answer is through stories. Rather than presenting a list of facts, we have the opportunity to engage our audience through a question and take them through a narrative of suspense that reaches a turning point to bring a resolution. I love the way Alda describes the drama of science:

For me, the acknowledgment of the opposing thought is one of the things that makes science such a dramatic thing to watch. The scientist says, in effect, “It looks like something is happening here – but am I wrong?” And then the opposing thought, that courageous application of doubt, takes us on an adventure of risk, tension, suspense – the emotional turmoil of experiment. And finally, we reach a turning point where, identifying with the scientist, we either achieve new understanding or we don’t. And that leads to the story’s resolution – a new way of seeing, a sense of meaning that we didn’t have before.

I think it’s easy to forget the greater drama in our narrative as researchers when we’re ones in the trenches, slowly digging up answers one experiment at a time. But when it’s time to share the results, presenting the work as a story with purpose and excitement helps our audience better see, and remember, its value.

Interview with Past Executive Research Director Dr. Cristiano Varrone

In the months leading up the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (ACS GC&E) and 9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry, we are highlight interviews of past NESSE executive board members and volunteers for a social media campaign (#throwbackthursday) leading up to our 5 year anniversary of launching at the ACS GC&E in 2014!  This will help review NESSE’s accomplishments and celebrate all of the people who have made NESSE what it is 5 years later. This interview is with Dr. Cristiano Varrone, who is currently an Associate Professor at the Aalborg University in Copenhagen working in the field of Sustainable Biotechnology. 

Biosketch:  

Dr Cristiano Varrone | Director of Research 2015-2017

I have a background in Natural Sciences and Environmental Engineering and, as such, my general research interest is closely related to applied microbial ecology and ecobiotechnology, following a biorefinery approach. More in particular, I am very interested in finding new/effective ways to convert waste streams into higher-value products, using fermentation technologies and statistical optimization of process parameters. My research focus is mainly dedicated to the development of second generation biofuels and green chemicals (such as bioplastics), as well as the biodegradation of plastics and pesticides. I have several hobbies, such as traveling, hiking, birdwatching, eno-gastronomy, music, languages, Improv, etc., and I have a big passion for the Sea.

When and in what capacity did you volunteer for NESSE?

I volunteered as a Research Director and member of the Executive Board from 2015-2017.

What inspired you to serve on the NESSE board of directors?

Before joining, I personally met with some of the people from NESSE, who organized a Workshop on BioEconomy at the University of York, and I was highly impressed by the positive energy, the proactive attitude and the very international atmosphere. It was clear to me that the members of NESSE have passion and stand for what they do, and it felt inspiring for me to be part of this and give my contribution.

What projects were you involved in while serving on the NESSE board? What impact did you see from your work?

As the director of research I tried to facilitate interdisciplinary collaborations and networking among young researchers and the NESSE groups, identifying important research themes to be developed and discussed. This included, for example, writing blogs on the Sustainable Development Goals, participating in NESSE’s Randomized Coffee Trials, or keeping updated our NESSE LinkedIn group (posting topics dealing with sustainable science, conferences and career opportunities for young researchers). A large project regarded the development and coordination of the Global Challenges Team. Another key activity was to develop NESSE’s webinar series, suggesting diverse research topics and inviting relevant speakers. I was also supporting NESSE’s organization of courses, workshops and conferences, etc. The hoped impact from my side was to help increasing the visibility of early-career researchers and provide a network for motivated young sustainable scientists, where to exchange ideas, project and collaboration opportunities.

What did you gain (skills, connections, etc.) from being involved with the NESSE executive board?

The biggest gain was the great positive energy that we transmitted to each other in every skype meeting, project development and discussion, I learned what it means to develop a project and work in close contact with people from all around the world, having different background and very different time zones (which makes the scheduling of meetings or webinars more challenging)! I also learned more about the use of social network and project management platforms, or how to update our website. Last but not least, I certainly also expanded my personal network.

What impact has NESSE had on your professional career?

The experience with NESSE allowed me to reinforce several competences, which are very important when working in an international research environment. In this sense I believe that NESSE was a great training and contributed to reach my professional goals. It is not by chance that  I am now working at the Section for Sustainable Biotechnology at the Aalborg University.

Conclusion

I enjoyed my experience with NESSE, both from a personal and professional point of view. I was collaborating with enthusiastic motivated people and we share a common purpose, which was energizing. I would recommend this experience to every researcher interested in sustainability.

Where do you see NESSE 5 years from now?

In 5 years I see NESSE as an established and international organization that is giving its strong contribution to an international network of NGOs dealing with sustainability and research, with a particular focus on the young scientists that will need to make the sustainable development a reality.
If you could give one piece of advice to individuals in the membership, what would it be?

Be active, give feedbacks and engage in NESSE’s activities!

Interview with Past Executive Research Director Dr. Daniel Pleissner

In the months leading up the 23rd Annual Green Chemistry & Engineering Conference (ACS GC&E) and 9th International Conference on Green and Sustainable Chemistry, we are highlight interviews of past NESSE executive board members and volunteers for a social media campaign (#throwbackthursday) leading up to our 5 year anniversary of launching at the ACS GC&E in 2014!  This will help review NESSE’s accomplishments and celebrate all of the people who have made NESSE what it is 5 years later. This interview is with Dr. Daniel Pleissner, who is currently an Assistant Professor at the Institute of Sustainable and Environmental Chemistry, Leuphana University of Lüneburg. 

Biosketch: 

Daniel Pleissner | Director of Research 2016-2017

Daniel Pleissner |
Director of Research 2016-2017

Dr. Daniel Pleissner obtained an international university and research education in Germany, Poland, Denmark, and Hong Kong. Daniel Pleissner’s research activities focus on marine biomass production in aquacultures, in particular shellfish and macroalgae, integration of microbial fermentations (bacteria, fungi, and particularly microalgae cultivation in batch, fed-batch and continuous processes) in waste and wastewater treatments for biomass production and nutrient recycling. Daniel Pleissner is further interested in developing concepts to create sustainable urban areas, and green chemical and biotechnological processes based on organic waste as feedstock. In his research, Daniel Pleissner uses innovative approaches by combining knowledge and technologies from several engineering disciplines with natural sciences. Daniel Pleissner published more than 50 peer-review articles and participated in and presented at more than 20 international conferences. He is member of the advisory board of the DECHEMA “Algae Biotechnology” group.

At the Leuphana University of Lüneburg he aims on the development of biotechnological and chemical processes for the almost complete use of carbon for the production of food, feed, chemicals and materials. He follows the recommendation of the German bioeconomy council for a cascade use of biomass starting with food and feed production before material and energetic use.

When and in what capacity did you volunteer for NESSE?

As the Director of Research 2016 to 2017.  

What inspired you to serve on the NESSE board of directors?
My motivation was to connect young researches and to achieve a close exchange.

What projects were you involved in while serving on the NESSE board? What impact did you see from your work?

I was involved in the organization of the “Random Coffee Break” to connect individual NESSE members and in the NESSE University Program.


What did you gain (skills, connections, etc.) from being involved with the NESSE executive board?
I gained a bigger network from being involved with NEESE executive board and connections to other young researchers in my field.

What impact has NESSE had on your professional career?

I would say that the exchange with NESSE members had an impact on my professional career by developing new ideas.

Where do you see NESSE 5 years from now?

I see NESSE 5 years from now as an exchange platform where young researcher work together on common problems in an interdisciplinary way.


If you could give one piece of advice to individuals in the membership, what would it be?

I would recommend the members of NESSE to be more active, to seek the contact of other members in order to work together on common global problems. Only with the help of all members, NESSE can develop from a networking to a cooperation platform.

International Symposium on Green Chemistry (2019)

REPRESENT NESSE AT ISGC 2019!

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NESSE is partnering with the International Symposium of Green Chemistry (ISGC), the flagship international green chemistry conference, to be held in La Rochelle, France from 13-17 May 2019. Two years ago, a team of NESSE representatives attended the ISGC and hosted a sustainable science session – which you can find an overview of on the NESSE blog.

This year, we are excited to announce that we are looking for two people to be involved with the organisation of the conference and host NESSE activities at the conference. This is a fantastic opportunity to gain experience in the organisation of a flagship international conference in sustainable science, gain experience in event organising and gain free entrance to this fantastic conference.

What you will do:

  • Be a member of the ISGC 2019 organising committee (2 person)
  • Participate in decision-making about early-career activities at the conference and within the programme
  • Plan and host activities at the conference – such as an early-career social evening, ‘meet the editors’ publishing workshop
  • Host the NESSE stand at breaks during the conference
  • Communicate before, during and after the conference including tweeting, writing a blog and interviewing scientists (support will be provided!)
  • Liase with the NESSE Executive Board to plan and organise the event

What you will gain:

  • Free registration to the ISGC 2019 conference (you will need to cover your own travel and accommodation expenses although we can try to help you find sponsors)
  • Involvement and experience in organising a large international conference
  • Recognition from NESSE about your role in the event
  • A fantastic networking opportunity to meet leading green chemistry researchers and innovators as the representative of NESSE

To apply, visit the NESSE website for further details and complete the application form by 31 January 2019.

Please note: you must be able to commit to attending the conference to apply for this role and we cannot guarantee subsistence funding.

India: The Land of Unity in Diversity and It’s Sustainable Approaches

Editor’s Note: This article was originally produced by Sunitha Anup,  a research scholar from the Indian Institute of Technology in New Delhi, India. To contact Sunitha directly e-mail :anup.sunitha@gmail.com.  

Picture by Pixabay

Picture by Pixabay

Issues concerning Earth’s sustainability indeed pose a challenge to every nation. Some of the alarming problems include: declining food security, natural disasters, pollution, population growth, and the degradation of biodiversity and of ecosystems. India has always been known as a land of diverse cultures, languages, landforms and religions. The existence of the land as a united territory [amid its diversity alludes to a] spirit of totality where differences are not looked down upon as a conflict; but are rather seen as a strength to enrich society. This spirit is reflected within India’s approach in combating climate change and in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. It can also be seen in its policy measures and development schemes. India was also ascertained as an important player within the recent COP21 Paris Agreement.

Picture by Pixabay

Picture by Pixabay

Over the years, the traditions and lifestyles of India have always followed an environmentally friendly [trajectory]. In fact, more than 70% of India’s population belongs to villages where the rural communities live very close to nature. However, increasing trends of socio-economic growth have added more foes to this peaceful co-existence. In order to reduce carbon footprints, India has been following low-carbon models in transportation and in development, and it has been promoting a pedagogical curriculum to educate local regulatory bodies. Moreover, India is a key player within the International Energy Agency, which enables fruitful works in clean energy, policy, and open markets. All of which, allows for better energy security. Some of the national initiatives in India that are working to ensure sustainable development include:

  • National Solar Mission
  • National Mission for Enhanced Energy Efficiency
  • Mission on Sustainable Habitat
  • Water Mission
  • Mission for Sustainable Himalayan Eco-system
  • Mission for Sustainable Agriculture

Indeed, India has begun taking baby steps to achieve its sustainability goals. As a global family, research communities all over the world should work together and learn from each other by combining ancient traditional wisdom and modern research.

Picture by Pixabay

Picture by Pixabay

How Volunteering Changes Your Career Path

Editor’s Note: This blog entry was written by Ashley Lipman, a marketing specialist for “The Blog Frog”. 

Volunteering is the best way to try a career before you commit. In this day and age, it’s hard to decide on just one career path, especially when things are changing so rapidly. Not only does volunteering give you an opportunity to try new things, but you can also gain valuable career experience to boost your application.

Whether you’re in school or looking to change careers, volunteering empowers you with the skills and network you need to make the best decision. Keep reading to explore how volunteering can change your career path for the better.

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                                                                              Image via Unsplas

Gain Experience and Skills

When you’re in school, you have the opportunity to learn a lot about several career fields. That being said, it’s harder to learn hands-on skills inside a classroom. When you work in the real-world through a volunteer experience, you get to put the things you learned in the classroom to good use while learning even more.

By working with others in your field, you gather valuable experience from their experience. Future employers want to see examples of you working well with a team. As a volunteer, you’re expected to work well under supervisors and with your fellow volunteers. Depending on your chosen volunteer experience, you might work directly with members of the public as well.

It’s hard to gain confidence in yourself and your skills if you have no experience or real-world skills. As a volunteer, you add so much more to your education than you ever can inside a classroom or library.

Try a New Career

The best part about volunteering is learning about a new career without having to commit to the structure of an actual job. Because more volunteer opportunities are for a limited amount of time, you’re able to experience what a career is really like without having to dedicate your career to a new role.

By trying a new career, you gain confidence in your career path. You can spend your entire life thinking a single career path is right for you only to realize as a volunteer that it was never [a right fit]. Maybe it wasn’t what you were thinking, or the role doesn’t align with your goals. You’ll never know until you try.

If you’re on the fence about a different career path, try volunteering. Give yourself a chance to experience something new and decide if it’s right for you. This is the best time to explore.

Make a Difference

Few things are as satisfying as really making a difference in your community and beyond. Not only will you gain experience, but you’ll be helping in an area that needs it. Finding volunteer opportunities today that matter is easier than ever. Whether you’re looking for sustainable scientist volunteer opportunities or hospital jobs, there’s a position waiting for you.

In this day and age, there’s a never-ending need for sustainability. On Sustainable Scientists, we highlight ways to help your community through research, hosting educational events, or supporting members of a sustainable organization.

We all stand to learn something from making a difference in the world. This also reflects powerfully on our career search later. Having volunteer experience that shows your commitment to making the world a better place goes a long way towards proving your passion and excitement for helping others.

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Image via Unsplash

Lead with Confidence

Having confidence in your career doesn’t happen overnight. You need experience to back up your feelings, whether you’re charging into a well-known field or uncharted territory. By volunteering with a worthy organization, you gain confidence in yourself and your new skills.

Volunteering isn’t always easy. You’re pushed from your comfort zone and told to try new things. Handling these new tasks and obstacles successfully will let you know you’re ready to take on anything. Fight discouragement in your career path with your own confidence.

When you help others and your community, you feel useful. You’re productive, and you’re active in ways you haven’t been before. That leads to a feeling of belonging that won’t fade away anytime soon.

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 Image via Unsplash

Start Volunteering

Are you ready to make a difference? Now is the best time to experiment with your career. The world needs enthusiastic volunteers, and you are always in a position to grow your skills. By helping others, you help yourself and your job. This is a win-win we can all get behind.

You can look in your local community for places to volunteer as well as through your university if you’re enrolled in a program. Consider fields you’re already interested in, but don’t be afraid to try something new and unexpected. You never know what you might find when you open your mind.

How to Raise a Vegetarian Family

Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jennifer McGregor. 


Photo courtesy of Pixabay

More and more people have been converting to vegetarianism and veganism in recent years. A reported 6% of the U.S. population is now vegan, up from just 1% in 2014. What’s causing this trend? There are many reasons why one might convert to vegetarianism. Regardless of whether you believe eating meat is unethical, there are many health benefits to a plant-based diet. First and foremost, eating meat has been linked to a variety of conditions—cancer, heart disease, obesity, and hormonal issues, to name a few—while a plant-based diet has been shown to reduce these risks.

In addition to being better for your health, vegan and vegetarian diets are also better for the planet. Industrial animal agriculture, which is responsible for most of the world’s meat products, is a key driving factor behind greenhouse gas emissions, according to One Green Planet. Therefore, by eating less meat, you can cut your family’s carbon footprint, save water, redirect grain that can be eaten by people in need (rather than consumed by agricultural livestock), and help protect the world’s rainforests and endangered species.

If you’re looking to maintain your family’s health while reducing your carbon footprint, a vegan or vegetarian diet might be the way to go. Here’s how to get started with raising a vegetarian family.

Tips for Parents

Raising vegan or vegetarian children doesn’t mean you have to immediately give up all meat products. Sometimes, slowly transitioning to vegetarianism by eliminating one product at a time can be easier and more successful in the long run. For instance, you might start by limiting consumption of specific meats, possibly replacing them with eco-friendly, cholesterol-free meat alternatives.


You can also swap animal-based products like milk, cheese, ice cream, or butter for vegan alternatives, which can be made from coconut, almond, cashew, and more. Try to stick with local, organic whole foods whenever possible. Choose high-quality plant-based foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, and protein sources such as nuts, seeds, and beans.

Before you make the switch, you also need to consider nutrition. This might include discussing your child’s health with a pediatrician and/or nutritionist. Does your child have any health conditions or specific dietary needs? With any diet, you’ll need to ensure your child is getting adequate nutrition and proper amounts of protein; vegan and vegetarian diets are no different.

Tips for Pet Owners

If your family is going vegetarian, should you include your four-legged family members? That depends. Cats, for instance, evolved to eat meat and might have a harder time on a vegan diet. Dogs, on the other hand, can benefit from a vegetarian diet. Rover.com reports that switching to a vegetarian dog food can decrease your dog’s risk of skin allergies, liver disease, and kidney stones.

Although switching your pet to a vegetarian diet can be good for your pet and for the planet, it’s not always the best idea. It’s important to check with your veterinarian before making such a major change to your pet’s diet. Even if your pet is getting adequate nutrition, you might need to increase your number of vet visits to monitor your pet’s health on the new diet. If you have a young puppy or if you’re considering breeding your pet, it’s best to stick with a more traditional dog food.

At the end of the day, your decision of what to feed your family is deeply personal. Every situation is unique. Before making any major lifestyle changes, talk to your doctor, nutritionist, your child’s pediatrician, and your pet’s veterinarian to help determine what options might work best for your entire family.

 

Top Tips on Writing a PhD Thesis

Editor’s Note: This week’s blog is brought to you by one of NESSE’s Executive Director’s: Alexandra Hicken. Read on to find out what Alexandra’s tips are for making the writing process of a PhD thesis less daunting!

Last week, I began the writing of my PhD Thesis. A huge task lay ahead of me with over three years of work ready to write-up into one document. Naturally, the first couple of hours were spent scrolling through Twitter and pondering on the perfect starting point (it was the first day back after the Christmas break, so a very slow day) and thus I sent out the following tweet:

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To my surprise, I was greeted with numerous replies with my fellow tweeters giving a range of advice on writing – and here I am now (procrastinating further) with a blog post designed to help others who are embarking on thesis writing. So, here it is condensed into three easy-to-digest sections.

Planning & Writing

If you are reading this with a few months to go until your thesis submission deadline then congratulations! Starting to write early is a good idea and having a plan is key. Writing a plan is an excellent first step in order to get you thinking about what to write in a logical order and with a clear story.

Plan how you will write the sections – does your thesis need to be chapter focused? Based on manuscripts that you have already written? One specific piece of advice is to write a plan in quite some detail with descriptive sentences and to show this to your supervisor in order to see if you are on the right track. One very keen advisor suggested that you should estimate how much time each day you need to spend writing to meet your deadline – and even suggested to write a timeline in order to make sure that all sections are written on time. Personally, I feel like having a written schedule is a little too prescriptive, however I did make a plan ahead of Christmas, and thus feel like, initially at least, I put myself on the right track.

The way that you write and where you write also seems to be something that was mentioned by a few tweeters. Treating writing like a day in the lab – writing in what you would consider your normal working hours and defending that time for writing is important. Do not let your colleagues’ tasks distract you from doing yours! Others suggested locking yourself away in a library or in a quiet room to avoid distractions. Another very specific piece of advice was to block off two-hour slots in your calendar to write about a specific topic, section or read specific papers – again this feels quite prescriptive to me but could benefit your own style of working. It could be beneficial to find a few theses that have already come from your group – or ask to see the theses of the postdocs in your group. Find out what you like about them in terms of style and formatting and what you do not like to later tailor your writing accordingly.

Now you have a plan, a place to work and you have told everyone in your research group that you are beginning to write your thesis. You hope those who have already been through the process will give you the space that you deserve, and you hope the new PhD and undergrad students will also recognise that now is not the best time to ask you for help! It is time to begin the actual writing. Most of the advice I received was to just write. Try to get something on the page, even if it does not feel or look right, just get it done. Write a lot, maybe even way more than you think is acceptable and remember everything can, and will be edited. Do not just stare at an empty page.student-849825_1280

Keep in mind that the first things you write will not make the final cut and do not feel bad about this. All good writing starts with a bad first draft and then you go from there – even saying things out loud may help you arrange your thoughts on the page better. Have it read by others and plan when you are going to send your supervisor the drafts – maybe do not send all of your chapters or sections in one go, do this gradually so that they have time to edit and to send it back to you whilst you are still writing other sections. Remember that writing is one job and editing is separate – having a break in between will help with the editing process.

Some tweeters recommended not starting at the beginning with the introduction, as you may not know the specific story that you want your thesis to tell at the beginning. Others recommended writing the introduction as you go along as it will take the longest. I feel like in the planning stage, planning the introduction took the longest amount of time and required the most effort, but I will not start writing it straight away.

If you’ve started writing and you’ve got a few pages under your belt – at this point I would be feeling pretty happy with myself. Maybe now it’s time to think about formatting. For the purpose of this blog post, I have assumed that the majority of readers, like myself, will have decided to write their thesis using the trusty, yet sometimes frustrating programme – Microsoft Word. I am aware that this may not be the case. Using LaTeX is definitely another option and some advice for using it would require a whole other blog post that I do not have the expertise to write – but I appreciate those who suggested it as a writing tool!

Formatting, Citing & Saving

Start writing in a template – if you have already written a bit then do not worry, transferring your thoughts to a template is easy – but see if your university or college has a thesis template that you can use. You may even be able to make an appointment with a librarian to talk through this template with you. If this is not possible – make one for yourself. It is pretty easy once you get going and was one of the first things I did along with making a plan.

Save your work. This was probably the first piece of advice that was ever given to me by my dad when I started doing homework on a PC. You have got to save your work and save it often because it won’t be recoverable. I appreciate that time has moved on and recovering work is now possible, but I think that the point still stands. Do not just save your work locally – also back it up often. In multiple locations. Do whatever you can so that you don’t have to re-write things that you have taken a long time to note down, or worse lose your entire thesis document altogether. Use autocorrect for common subscripts/ superscripts. You can make word do the hard work for you!

Referencing is also a topic that was brought up by a lot of tweeters – make sure you cite whilst writing and don’t leave it all to the end. Save your work every 45 minutes and when you do, refresh your referencing tool then for it to update. Don’t let it get bogged down and expect it to be able to update a whole days worth of referencing.

Looking After Yourself

Remember that thesis writing is just one part of your professional life – don’t get hung up on it needing to be perfect because it is a summary of the past 3/4/5 years. Regardless of what you do, you will probably look back on it and wish you would have done something different – which is fine. Do not get annoyed with yourself for not making a certain amount of progress per unit of time. It’s a long task so focus on rewarding the successes and the progress that you are making.

Eat well, sleep well and take regular breaks. Your mental health still needs to remain a priority during this time and looking after yourself is the only way to realise this. Do not overwork yourself and regardless of how much you write a day – if you feel like you cannot write any more then do not! Don’t be afraid to take weekends and evenings off. Have in mind that towards the end things may get more chaotic, but by this time you will have a few weeks worth of writing under your belt and be prepared to finish the damn thing.

Finally, thank you to everyone who offered their advice and good luck if you are in the same position as me. I’m sure I will be tweeting about my experience and I would love to hear from you too (@ahichem07).

Book recommendation:
Useful links:

 

 

The Ecotarian Revolution: How to Make Your Home & Diet More Green

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Jennifer McGregor for writing this article. NESSE values your input and commends your effort in wanting to create a healthier planet!  

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Brooke Lark

Photo courtesy of Unsplash by Brooke Lark

The world’s population has skyrocketed in the past 100 years, growing sevenfold since the 1800s. The population is estimated to grow by another 2 billion people within the next couple of decades adding pressure to the planet’s current population of 7 billion. While overpopulation is often cited as the single biggest threat to the planet, BBC estimates that the current growth trend is not entirely the issue. The real problem is how much each individual consumes.

The good news is that everyone can do their part to help heal the planet. Here are some ways one can bring more sustainable habits into their diet as well as into their home:

 

Making Eco-Friendly Dietary Choices

From vegetarian and vegan to Paleo or dairy-free, there are more diets to choose from these days than ever before. Which ones are best if you are looking to reduce your carbon footprint? As TIME points out, “Sustainable eating does not have to be hard, and it also does not have to be all-or-nothing.”

An alternative thinking to cutting out meat and dairy products altogether, the “ecotarian” diet has been gaining popularity in recent years. More than a lifestyle change than a traditional diet, ecotarianism involves making mindful food choices specifically designed to sustain the planet as well as your body.

How can you help? Start by trying to eat mostly plant-based, organic whole foods. Home sustainability expert, Laura Trotta, recommends reducing your meat intake as much as possible, even if you don’t go fully vegan or vegetarian.

Meanwhile, Harvard advises choosing local foods from sustainable farmers markets. You can also do your part to reduce food waste by eating smaller meals and switching to reusable grocery bags (which also help the planet by reducing the amount of plastic in our oceans).

 

Creating a “Green” House

Many homeowners currently are challenged with the task of reducing their home’s energy usage. Luckily, there are many ways you can make your home more green – and they don’t have to break the bank.

For instance, you could downsize your wardrobe and switch to eco-friendly clothing. Try to find environmentally conscious brands, such as those that create clothing from plastic water bottles and other recycled materials.

Can’t afford to switch to solar power yet? You could start by switching out your traditional light bulbs with LEDs or CFL bulbs. These fairly inexpensive bulbs use less energy and last longer than traditional bulbs, and they will also save you money on your electric bill. There is really no reason not to make the switch!

Although global warming is upon us, there’s still much you can do to help the environment. When it comes to reducing greenhouse gas emissions and climate change, we can all do our part. Every little bit helps when it comes to going green.

 

NESSE News: NESSE at ISGC 2017

The 2017 International Symposium on Green Chemistry (ISGC-2017) took place in May in La Rochelle, France. Following the trend of previous years, about 700 attendees gathered to discuss the most recent advancements on sustainable science across a variety of topics, including catalytic systems, biomass conversion, environmental impact, and biotechnology.    La Rochelle-1 

Prof. Roger Sheldon kick-started the four-day event with a plenary lecture that perfectly summarized the purpose of ISGC 2017. His talk, “Engineering a Sustainable Future with Green Chemistry and Catalysis”, exposed the need of shifting from a culture of fossil fuels to one that embraces renewable biomass. He elaborated on the use of green metrics, such as the E-factor and atom economy, for the evaluation and improvement of industrial processes.NESSE session pic 1-1

The NESSE team was present at ISGC-2017 to spread the word about our mission and recent efforts to connect scientists with a passion for sustainability. During the conference, we had the chance to talk to early-career professionals in our exhibition stand about the resources and opportunities that NESSE has to offer.NESSE exhibition area stand

Among NESSE’s activities at ISGC, we carried out a satellite session on career development. “Thriving careers and sustainability” was a panel discussion that brought together three guest speakers to converse about their vision about new professionals seeking to apply their knowledge in sustainable science into an academic or industrial career path. Dr. Edith Lecomte-Norrant discussed the opportunities for emerging scientists in the pharmaceutical industry through outreach programs that allow for a close collaboration between PhD students and the innovation department she leads. She emphasized the need to constantly innovate oneself in a market where companies constantly change and require new skill sets. Prof. Peter Wasserscheid shared his insight on the peer-review and grant writing processes for academic professionals, and how academia overlaps with entrepreneurial activities. On the topic of the value of a postdoctoral research, Prof. Luque shared his views on how this experience brought him closer to green chemistry, and how working abroad helps both by expanding the scope of your research and by improving your transferable skills along the way.NESSE session panelists-1INCREASE Industrial session-1

As part of the program, the International Consortium on Eco-conception and renewable resources (INCREASE) brought together a special session on the commitment of industry to sustainable chemistry. Representatives of several European industries discussed current efforts involving green innovation and answered questions from the audience. A particular point was made about industry not only having and active role within their own processes, but also the responsibility of carrying this objective throughout the supply chain.

NESSE session pic 2-1As usual, we had the opportunity to socialize throughout the week during the exhibition, at our NESSE social, and at the gala dinner held as part of the event. The historic town center of La Rochelle overlooking the ocean offered the perfect venue for us to meet new people and expand our knowledge on the latest advancements on green chemistry. We look forward to coming back to la Rochelle for ISGC-2019!