I’m an advocate for blogging, obviously, but should you blog during your PhD? Will you have time? Will it be a distraction? I find it hard to answer those questions, but a growing number of people are doing it and I’m lucky enough that Gaia Cantelli wrote in to share her experience of blogging, which I think we can all learn from.
This post is by Gaia Cantelli, who is now a postdoctoral associate at Duke University, where she works on breast cancer and metastasis. She completed PhD from King’s College London, where she studied the molecular mechanisms driving melanoma metastasis. She is passionate about science communication and outreach, and you can find more of her writing at scienceblog.com and on her time4science site.
This year, the PhD students of the Randall Division of Cell and Molecular Biophysics at KCL founded a collaborative PhD student blog. Here are a few of the reasons they feel writing and blogging in particular is a great opportunity for PhD students!
You get to explain what you love to the public
You got into your field because you love it and it’s only natural to want to understand why you do. A blog is a fantastic opportunity to explain to the general public how your area works and how your project is trying to make a difference. Explaining very complex concepts in a simple and accessible way can be much harder than to write them up for a bunch of academics. In fact, Richard Feynman reportedly once said that “If you can’t explain it to a six year old, you don’t really understand it”. That’s both a challenge to your understanding of your own work and to your writing skills!
You get to practice your writing
No matter what stage of your PhD you are at, writing your thesis is always looming in the background! Writing is not something most PhD students will have practiced extensively before getting to the write-up stage (at least in the sciences!), which means most of us could probably use the practice! Brush up on your syntax and your grammar (can you remember the difference?), as well as your style and not least your typing skills! Come thesis time, you will be glad you’ve kept your writing muscles nice and toned. Plus, the writing practice you’ll get with blogging will pay off once you get a “real job” and have to deal with writing all day
You are free to express yourself
If you are a PhD student, it’s most likely that you’re very passionate and opinionated about your field. Sadly, it is also true that not many people might be agog to hear your two cents about it! A blog is a fantastic platform to express yourself and really get into the nitty-gritty of what bothers you or excites you about the hottest new development in your field. Plus, the Internet is a big place and it’s more than likely you’ll find other people (PhD students, other researchers or just enthusiasts) who agree with your opinions. Intellectual debate is always stimulating and fun (although the Internet is also full of not-so-nice people so be prepared for some not-so-nice comments if you post anything controversial!).
It’s good for your CV
Looming past your already looming thesis is your approaching need for employment. Whether you want to stay in academia or you want to explore your options in the private sector and beyond, employers always value writing experience – or so we’re told! Most jobs that are available to PhD graduates involve a huge percentage of writing, which is why it makes sense for employers to seek out people who not only can write but are passionate about writing!
You work together with other PhD students!
Working on a cooperative blog with other PhD students from your area or department can be really fun as well as useful! After all, these are your peers and most likely your friends! Blogging is a great chance to work on a project together, bond and discover new sides of each other.
Thanks Gaia! Have you started a blog, or shared in the running of one? What advice do you have to share?