Updates on 100Books50Schools GoFundMe


About nine months ago, FemSTEM.com started up a GoFundMe campaign to send one hundred books to fifty schools! A lot of people are probably wondering how that went (…and honestly, it is still going). 

Unfortunately, we were not able to raise enough money to buy 100 books. However, we were able to purchase ten books and pay for the shipping fees of those books.  We purchased ten copies of Rachel Ignotofsky’s Women in Science, plus one on her signed copies to give away. The purchase of her signed copy was not done with donation money. 

We ended the campaign today, January 17th, having raised a little over $200 of our $3000 goal. We are not in the least bit upset — we did manage to get something done, and we couldn’t be happier for our first ever campaign!

Now …here comes the small issue.  Every school (except for one) that I have contacted has either not gotten back to me about wanting the donation of the book, or they thought my emails were spam. (I’m not sure how or why …but I called them, too, and could not convince them that I was legitimately trying to donate a book to their library).

With that said: I met with a soon-to-be science teacher in mid-Atlanta, and we have thankfully started to get the ball rolling! I will be updating with which schools have gotten donated to so you know exactly where your money went! It is just taking a little more time than I had anticipated.

I want to thank all of our donors — it means so much to me that you believed in this cause and that you’re letting new eyes meet Rachel Ignotofsky’s work!

AD: Purchase Melissa C Marquez’s New Book: Science Communication 101!

More than Just Bullwhips and Fedoras: The Diverse World of Specialisms in Archaeology


It may surprise you, but one of the first questions I get asked as an archaeologist is still, “So is it as exciting as Indiana Jones?” 


(The second question is usually, “so what kind of dinosaurs have you found?”)


Popular culture would have you believe that all archaeologists are adventure-seeking, tomb-raiding, fedora-wearing, bullwhip-wielding world travellers that spend most of their time knee deep in sandy Egyptian pyramids. In reality, most archaeologists can be found trowelling in a field, mixing chemicals in a lab, or in my case, half asleep over a pile of sheep bones at 10pm. 


Within archaeology are many different types of subfields or specialisms – archaeologists may choose to specialise by region (British archaeology, North American archaeology), time period (prehistoric archaeology, classical archaeology), or by specific disciplines. For the purposes of this article, I’ll be focusing on the latter. 


Most archaeologists will probably identify their speciality by discipline. For example, I’m a zooarchaeologist – this means I specifically work with animal remains in the archaeological record. Osteoarchaeologists, on the other hand, focus on human remains. Additionally, paleoentomologists study insects and arthropods in archaeology. 


Paleoentomology and zooarchaeology may also be considered part of environmental archaeology, which focuses on analysis and sometimes recreation of past environments. Other specialisms in this broader discipline include landscape archaeology (study of past landscapes and how they were utilized) and archaeobotany (study of archaeological plants).  



Some specialisms are based on the way archaeology is used for analysis and interpretation – for example, experimental archaeologists may attempt to recreate methods of tool production (such as flint knapping) to better understand how it was used in the past. Marine archaeologists often utilize scuba diving to excavate sites that are now underwater due to the changes in modern coastlines.


More recently, advances in archaeological sciences have led to the specialisation in specific methodologies – this includes lab techniques such as radio carbon dating (used for dating organic material) and stable isotope analysis (uses isotopes from elements like carbon, oxygen, and nitrogen to investigate things like diet).


As long as technology and theory continue to evolve over time, so too will more subfields be developed into their own disciplines of research. A recent example of this is “archaeogaming” – archaeologists in this field use archaeological frameworks and theories to examine the virtual worlds of video games. We have certainly moved a long way from Indiana Jones…who knows what kind of research will be developed next? After all, archaeology only needs a past record to thrive – and the world doesn’t seem to be running out of that


This article only covers a very small portion of the many subfields in archaeology. For further information, Current Archaeology has a section dedicated to specialisms in archaeology here.



About the Author:

Alex Fitzpatrick is a zooarchaeologist and PhD student at the University of Bradford in England. You can view her website here, and her twitter here!

An Interview With Elizabeth Lorayne: The Historical Heroines Coloring Book

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Did you know that a woman – Jeanne Villepreux-Power (1794-1871) – invented the aquarium? Or that Nettie Stevens (1861-1912) discovered how sex was determined – by the size difference of a single pair of chromosomes? 


Just in time for National Women’s History Month is an inspiring, illustrated coloring book featuring 31 women in science who broke boundaries and achieved their dreams. THE HISTORICAL HEROINES COLORING BOOK: Pioneering Women in Science from the 18th and 19th Centuries, written by Elizabeth Lorayne, shares powerful portraits of women Nobel Prize winners and major innovators, as well as less-known figures who made an impact. Short profiles provide facts about their lives and discoveries, including how each overcame the social expectations of her time to pursue her passion. The accompanying line-drawings illustrated by Kendra Shedenhelm are beautiful and fun to color. 


With global activism for women’s equality fueled by movements like Press for Progress and the energy of the Nevertheless She Persisted rallying cry, it’s important to recognize the pioneering women who shaped history and contributed to science through their tireless commitment to pursue their dreams. 


We’ve invited Elizabeth Lorayne to discuss her book and the heroines whose courage and discoveries opened the door to a larger universe. 



Q: What inspired you to write The Historical Heroines Coloring Book? 


As the mother of a young girl in today’s society, I felt driven to offer an alternative narrative to the one I learned in school. For example, I don’t think young women should only be taught that eighteenth and nineteenth-century women were deemed “hysterical” and therefore incapable of being treated as equal to men. Instead, I wanted to create a playful, educational way to highlight and celebrate the women scientists who persevered despite the gender discrimination they faced. 


The pioneering women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics in The Historical Heroines Coloring Book are incredible role models for girls today – girls who may struggle to feel included or be accepted in their own pursuit of STEM education and careers. My hope is that, through reading and coloring the portraits of these fiercely persistent, capable women, young people, will feel inspired to work harder toward reaching their own dreams.


Q: Why do girls need to know about women in science in history? 


Learning about women scientists who broke with tradition to pursue their dreams and make discoveries is inspiring! I believe that it is particularly important to demonstrate to girls today that there always have been women and girls throughout the centuries who were curious about the natural world and wanted to contribute to society through science; that just because you are a girl does not mean you are incapable of becoming a scientist or engineer or mathematician. However, it may mean you have to work even harder. Unfortunately, even though we’re making strides, women still face discrimination in the workplace, including in STEM careers. So I really want to encourage young women and girls to pursue their interest in STEM. 


A hope of mine is that in reading about these women, girls will feel empowered to continue their math and science exploration and hard work, because representation matters. When we see other women in history and our culture conducting research and making a difference, we believe it’s possible – and maybe, just maybe, my daughter’s generation will be the one to finally end gender discrimination. 


Q: Although The Historical Heroines Coloring Book covers extraordinary heroines from diverse backgrounds, nations and fields of study, could you tell us about one or two of the American scientists in your book and what barriers they had to overcome? 


American scientists Alice Ball and Nettie Stevens shared one thing in common – credit for their hard work and discoveries was taken by men. Fortunately, one of Alice Ball's male colleagues called foul and made sure proper credit was given to her. Alice was not only the first African American woman, but also the first American woman ever to receive a master’s degree in chemistry. She isolated the active chemical compound in chaulmoogra oil so that it could be given to leprosy patients through injection, and her method was used until the 1940s. Only recently, in 2000, her work was commemorated with a bronze plaque placed at the very chaulmoogra tree she used to extract the oil from in Hawaii. 


Nettie Stevens still has not been properly credited for her discovery despite proof that her work was done independently from her male colleague, biologist Edmund Beecher Wilson. Instead, Edmund is known for the discovery that sex is determined by the size difference of a single pair of chromosomes. Nettie had shared her breakthrough in a 1905 paper, but Edmund’s name continues to be attached to the discovery rather than Nettie’s. It’s truly a shame! And these are just two examples of the discrimination that women have faced throughout history. 


Other barriers include not being paid for intellectual contributions, not being officially awarded a doctoral title and degree, or not being allowed to attend college without approval by the male board of directors or professors. The challenges have shifted and morphed over the years, but women still face discrimination. I hope that with every new book, movie, class, or conversation that enlightens the general public of the past and present struggles women face in science and other fields, such barriers will soon be left to the pages of history.






Elizabeth Lorayne is an award-winning author and publisher of children’s books. Since the success of her first book The Adventures of Piratess Tilly, featuring an aspiring naturalist heroine who is the captain of her own ship, Elizabeth has continued to write and publish books with themes of girl-empowerment, eco-consciousness, exploration, and science. Elizabeth spent her childhood sailing and cultivating her passion for science along the shorelines of the Pacific Northwest. She is a graduate of The New School in Manhattan and a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. An artist and mother, she lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her family.




Kendra Shedenhelm grew up in Nebraska, illustrating short stories, entering poster contests, and creating "sellable" wares out of paper placemats. Upon graduating with a BFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1995, she moved to NYC and has worked as a graphic designer, printmaker, illustrator, and artist ever since. Kendra was a semi-finalist for the Tomie dePaola Award in illustration and recently won an A. Eric Arctander grant for her watercolors. She lives north of Manhattan in a village on the Hudson with her husband, nine-year-old son, and two cats. 




The Historical Heroines Coloring Book: Pioneering Women in Science from the 18th and 19th Centuries , White Wave Press, October 2, 2017, ISBN # 978-0-9979098-9-0 (and a POD version # 978-0-9979098), Paperback, 8.5 X 11, 78 pages, $14.95, http://www.whitewavepress.comhttps://www.historical-heroines.com.


*This interview was sent to FemSTEM by Elizabeth Lorayne's publicist Skye Wentworth. Mariah Loeber (editor) was not involved with this interview.  Mariah has a copy of this book, not by way of sponsorship, but via giveaway. This post is not sponsored in anyway.


#STEMSaturdays: The Talk People Rarely Have - Getting Real About Mental Health


You would think moving to a new country and being newly married all while pursuing a graduate school degree would make a girl happy... and it did....


but it also broke me.


I felt completely isolated and alone, making my year pursuing my MSc a rather dark one. And it wasn’t until recently that I opened up and discussed these mental health problems in detail with others—even loved ones!


I sometimes wanted to die.


For the last #STEMSaturdays blog post, I want to talk to you about one thing many people don’t think about when signing up for graduate school: your mental health. I’m hoping that you learn from my mistake of staying silent and instead, if you are not okay, reach out for help because there is no shame in it whatsoever.


Let me be clear that it wasn't the workload that caused my mental health to nosedive, but a cumulative of feeling isolated, adrift in my career path, the financial stress I was under, taking on two part time jobs on top of doing TFUI, and really hating the Wellington weather (I went from constantly sunny Florida to constantly cold, wet, and windy Wellington).


I would have daily anxiety attacks and barely sleep, writing my thesis or TFUI blog posts by phone light. I ate when I remembered to, cried a lot, and spent most of my time in front of my computer doing work. I sometimes wanted to die.


And I told no one. I kept up the facade that I was fine because I felt that if I told anyone I was struggling that someone would take it all away. They would tell me I'm weak, strip me of my research and call me a fraud (I never found out who "they" was). I had nightmares of colleagues laughing at me for not being strong enough. So I kept it all bottled in, keeping up the image of "perfect" that I seemed associated with. I wanted to prove all those nasty voices wrong, and thought I was "cowardly" for not being able to control my own thoughts and feelings.


Not being perfect equated to being a fraud in my mind.


I sort of knew I was not the only one, but didn't know how common mental health problems in graduate students was. A 2003 Australian study found that the rate of mental illness in academics is three to four times higher than the general public, with 53% of academics in the U.K. suffering from mental illnesses; a 2005 study showed that 10% of graduate students had contemplated suicide. A following 2015 study found that 47% of graduate students suffer from depression.


It's that horrible stigmatization of mental illnesses, however. A broken arm or leg you can SEE and feel sympathy for, but what about those problems you can't see and can't begin to fathom how they mess someone up? And so many who struggle keep those problems to themselves, afraid of being branded negatively because of this.


If you're in graduate school, we can assume you are a hard worker and pretty well self- disciplined, but it's those same positive qualities that make you beat yourself up when you fail to "control" your depression or thoughts or feelings. I remember full blown discussions with myself about how I was such a disgrace because I couldn't stop crying and be the perfect student (my advisor was blissfully unaware of my problems and even called me the perfect student towards the end of our time together).


Not being perfect equated to being a fraud in my mind. I talked about my impostor’s syndrome at length with AMCH, and give some tips on how I've been able to reign those feelings in. I'm not the only one who has thought their career advancement has been luck or a fluke; every publication, successful funding grant or opportunity felt like an administrative mistake. It's very common to feel an incompetent fraud, and to feel like you're the only one who feels that way.


It’s that horrible stigmatization of mental illness.


Buried under a pile of books and often alone to write, I was also stressed about the "What's next?" question that graduate students always get. We all face uncertainty about the future, but it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing a graduate degree. In fact, none of the above should deter you from pursuing what you want to do... but you should be prepared to handle these unspoken psychological challenges.


That means researching what support services your university and community has for you to fall back on. My university counseling helped me, as did the support meet up groups around the area.


With more people coming forward about their mental health issues, perhaps we will be seeing less of a damaging stigmatization when someone says, “I’m not okay.” I now make sure to regularly check in with my friends who seem to be taking on too much, listen to those who have problems, and check in with myself when I take on more than I can handle. They’re little baby steps, but it’s a step in the right direction.


So check in with yourself, #femSTEM family: how are you really doing?


Author’s Note: I want to thank you all for taking the time to read not only this special blog post, but also for having me this past year for #STEMSaturdays. It has been my pleasure to talk with the #womeninSTEM community so frequently and I hope my series can help people out. Love always, Melissa 


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here.

#STEMSaturdays: Publishing Your First Scientific Article


This past year, I’ve been working on my biggest challenge yet: getting a scientific article published in a journal! Here are some tips and tricks that I’ve used to help get me to the finish line.


When I finished my Master’s degree, I knew that I wasn’t done with the hard work even though I was to take a break between my MSc and PhD degree. I wanted to get parts of my MSc research published and realized I had no idea where to start. 


With a giant manuscript, I thought I could churn out a few papers but got the best advice: don’t “salami cut” just to get your publication number up. Do not rush in submitting your article for publication—take your time in presenting new or novel ideas. People would rather read one really good paper with multiple dimensions than a few mediocre articles. But what if you can’t even connect pen and paper and are having a massive brain fart?


The advice of “write drunk, edit sober” is toeing the line of an appropriate solution. While we don’t condone drinking and writing, the idea of just writing everything and anything down, not inhibited by your writer’s block is essentially what this boils down to. It’s easier to edit ‘word vomit’ than a blank page. #Protip: Send your edits to anyone who is kind enough to give your work a read. This can include colleagues and also those outside of your field! Just like any other writing, you want to avoid jargon (if there is some, define it) and passive voice. Your article should be relevant to its field and delivered clearly without surrounding “fluff.”


What isn’t fluff? Any opposing viewpoints. Acknowledge the opposing viewpoints in your article to display that you understand both views of your topic and can provide a balanced discussion. This avoids any black-and-white statements that can be easy to find faults with. Also not black-and-white? Your readership! Remember that your article may be read by international readers – don’t forget them when talking about measurements, acronyms, etc.


Each and every journal has a certain way they do references and sources, so make sure you do them currently! References are your source of credibility in an academic paper (i.e. reference relevant articles that help boost your article, widely cited references, references published from the journal you are submitting to, etc). Don't randomly select papers just to have a reference.


Oh yeah, we brought up journals. That’s an important bit! #Protip: target an appropriate journal. By ‘appropriate’ I mean don’t just submit your article to a “big” journal for the heck of it.  I was strategic in selecting my journal to target, doing research on certain aspects (like aims and scope). By doing research on what journal you want your work featured in, you can increase the odds of publishing your first article. Make sure you keep an eye out for deadlines to make sure you don’t miss out! 


Once you have a journal picked out, read the author guidelines carefully. Agreeing on the order of authorship can be an awkward conversation to have with collaborators, but it’s best to get it out of the way in the beginning of this long journey instead of the end all you guys want to do is submit the darn thing. Normally, if it’s your MSc and PhD, you would be the first author with your advisor and any other collaborators being behind you. If it isn’t this clear cut, you can always do what one paper did and determine it with a 25-game croquet tournament.



If croquet isn’t your game, there’s always arm wrestling! While everyone arm wrestles (or plays croquet), don’t forget to submit a cover letter with your manuscript. You don’t want to repeat your abstract in the cover letter—repetitiveness does no one any favors.


And then, the hardest part… the waiting. Once you hear back, steel yourself against anything. This process will help you develop a thick skin for criticism, and my biggest tip is to not take anything personally. After all, a rejection can be the first step to an acceptance if you play your cards right! You want to address the reviewer comments carefully and can strengthen your writing process and the article as a whole by listening to what they have to say. However, if you don’t agree with some recommendations, you can challenge what the reviewers say – with a well-argued justification for why you aren’t taking their advice. 


Any modifications suggested by the reviewers that you make to your article need to be highlighted in the revised manuscript. You will also need a letter with the authors’ responses illustrating that you all have addressed all the concerns raised. 


For more tips--




About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here.

#STEMSaturdays: Tips on Receiving Grants




In an ideal world, all scientists would be adequately funded to carry out their research and not have to stress about grant writing. Sadly, we don’t live in that world and many scientists have to worry about where their next round of money will come from. FemSTEM cannot guarantee these tips will get your grant application funded, but this article is a good starting point.


First, ask yourself the big question:


Are you eligible for this grant?


No point in writing up a funding proposal if you don’t qualify for the money! Read the application pre-requisites and follow the application guidelines exactly. Make sure you keep an eye on deadlines, giving yourself plenty of time to write... and rewrite... and rewrite... and...


You get the point! This means that it’s not always about how many funding grants you churn out. In fact, the saying “it’s not about quantity, but quality” rings true here.  That means having others read it to make sure clarity reigns supreme. I like to have a trusted colleague look over my grant — and then pass it to a friend outside of my field to make sure jargon is minimal and defined! When you have friends read it, make sure they can take away why your research is needed and how your research project fills the gaps in the field. 


Before you send it out, make sure your have checked your grammar, spelling, and math. The first two may be a given, but math?! Yup! You have to make sure your costs are justified and correctly add up. There’s nothing worse than asking for money and the amount not being right!


#Protip: Another way to make sure your grant stands out is to include a cover letter with your application, addressed to the correct people (or persons).  


So what should be in your proposal? Here are the basics:


  • A Summary – you usually write this last.
  • An Introduction that quickly covers why your area of study is important.
  • A section that discusses what work has been previously done, emphasizing research gaps.
  • An explanation of how your research would advance knowledge in that field.
  • A section explaining what your research will cover and how you will carry it out.
  • A budget that explains the need for the funding amount requested.
  • A justification of the budget (i.e. why the amount you are asking for is reasonable).
  • A timeline of when certain parts of the research will get accomplished.
  • A bibliography of the references cited throughout the proposal.


Once you have everything turned in, all we can do is wish you luck! Make sure you interpret the referees’ feedback carefully and don’t take rejection personally. Just revise and try applying again!


So where do you even start looking for money? At the end of a rainbow? Nah. Here are my favourite funding body starts:


Grants.gov - Grants.gov lists all current discretionary funding opportunities from 26 agencies of the United States government, including the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, and many others -- in other words, all the most important public funders of research in the United States. Grants.gov is free and does not require a subscription.


The National Science Foundation (NSF) - An independent federal agency, the U.S. National Science Foundation funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted at America's colleges and universities. This is the place to search for NSF funding programs. The NSF Web site is free and does not require a subscription.


For more information on writing funding grants:


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here.

#STEMSaturdays: How to Market Yourself


You may be doing fantastic things in your field, but it won’t help your career advance (which leads to better funding) is nobody knows that you exist. This is where marketing yourself becomes key. But before you start dialing for a publicist, we discuss a number of ways to do this in a cheap way, so put the phone away.




The main goal isn’t to push yourselves to audiences, but to give them reasons to want to continue listening to what you have to say. That means being an influencer who has something interesting to say and that what you have to say is scientifically sound (i.e. don’t make things up - you’ll get caught in the lie and be known for the wrong reason). I don’t know about you, but I want to eventually receive unsolicited calls for guest interview opportunities and collaborations with other influencers I otherwise wouldn’t even know about.




Many people take matters into their own hands and create their own content. It’s easy to do this- you can make videos/podcasts and write blogs from your phone if you choose to. This allows you the opportunity to relay your knowledge through the platform of your choosing.


For me, written word and audio are my strongest suit, which is why I love writing blog posts and doing podcasts. From there, you can easily disseminate your work via social media (we talked about the power of Twitter last #STEMSaturdays) to a new audience. I also share the articles I’ve written on LinkedIn and on my Facebook, allowing my existing friends to like, comment, and share it. If you don’t have your own blog, identify a blog you really like and submit yourself as a guest contributor. This is a great way to build credibility! 


#Protip: Another quick and easy way to give people information about yourself is make a personal website! 


Companies like Weebly and Wix make it easy to create your own website, without every making one before.* My own website is by Weebly and the simplest thing to do! 


On that website, you will want to list your: 


  • Achievements
  • Projects you’re a part of
  • Published works 
  • Interviews you’ve been a part of
  • You Educational background
  • Your contact information
  • Etc.


Consider this a living website that is constantly updating with each new achievement you unlock. 


The internet allows for you to make connections which can blossom into friendships and makes going to professional evens and meeting people so much fun. The internet is not a substitute for meeting in person, but merely a bridge to make and grow connections until you can meet face-to-face. 


A little low-key but useful way to helpful way to step up your leadership skills (and get noticed in the long run) is working with non-profits, schools, community organizations, chambers, and professional organizations in your industry. In these capacities you may be able to host a workshop or webinar- find a free local or online space to do so and promote it throughout your social media marketing channels! One space to keep in mind is meetup.com, which makes it easy for locals to organize groups and can be a networking powerhouse.


You can continue your reach through media attention. This can be done in a number of ways, like having a reporter write a story about you, your expertise, etc. You can also reach out to journalists from your local and regional news outlets to get you and your work featured. This will require a few cold emails, so check out our tips here


Another way to be featured in the media is by giving a comment or statement regarding a topic. I recently learned about HARO (Help a Reporter Out), which allows you receive emails about stories journalists are currently working on. If your expertise matches up with what a journalist needs, your comments could be featured in the publication! Don’t underestimate what makes something newsworthy, as news sources are always searching for potential content.


There are a number of smart and purposeful ways to authentically market yourself. What ways do you market yourself?


*This article is not sponsored.



About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Using Twitter as a Resource


In the past #STEMSaturdays has showcased how to use the social media platform Twitter and how to live-tweet at conferences (including your own talk). But there is so much more to this platform than just YOU tweeting. I truly do believe that Twitter is an untapped resource goldmine and want to share a few ways I use Twitter outside of my tweets – read on if you want to learn how to harness all that Twitter has to offer!




Twitter is not just for professionals – anyone can use it! That means you will probably interact with many people not  in your field. This means two things: 1) You need to leave the jargon out so everyone can understand what you are tweeting (keep the 140 character limit in mind) and 2) You will come across people’s tweets that you don’t understand! 


While you can be a teacher and discuss [x] with your audience, you can also be the student and learn from those you follow. 


I follow scientists from around the world, both in my discipline and out of it. It’s astounding what I learn in my discipline and mind boggling what I learn from scientists who are in a different field. I recently learned about how cool dung beetles are, how spiders react to different lights, and have witnessed the discovery of many different terrestrial animals! 


I tend to follow conference hashtags on Twitter too, so even though I’m not physically there, I can still learn about what is being said! In fact, I often end up learning about when conferences are to be held via this platform, allowing me to work my scheduling around them. This is how I stay up-to-date with the newest discoveries and papers, while many use the platform to keep up with the Kardashians. 


Speaking of papers, Twitter allows scientists to share their latest research through tweets or tweet threads—including their publications! A great way to make sure a wider audience is exposed to your discipline is by chatting about what you discovered in a tweet (protip: add a picture in your tweet). I love seeing what people in my field have been up to through this and allows you to send a “Congratulations!” for a job well done.




Twitter can not only allow you to disperse ideas to a large and diverse audience, but you can receive feedback or further information from said interactions. This includes networking! 


While most networking can happen face-to-face, Twitter has no time-cap on your conversation. This means you can “follow” a person for however long you want and continue to have multiple chats via the medium—essentially, you’re networking! Fun fact: This is how I know most of my colleagues! Most conferences now have a blank space in your name tag where you can put your twitter handle and it’s refreshing to see many familiar handles instead of just strangers. One conference I attended last September I had everyone I met say, “Oh! So YOU’RE @mcmsharksxx. You’re that Melissa.” It was pretty cool having people recognize my name- even if it was just because I was live tweeting the conference like mad. 


There are pros and cons to using the platform as a networking site. Many people toe the line of being solely a professional entity and also showing their personality… which can include a few profanities and funny pictures! Remember, what goes on the internet stays on the internet forever. Make sure you think before you tweet- do you want future employers to see that? 


For myself, I tweet a lot about my specialty: sharks! But I am also known to showcase selfies, talk about my latest cooking endeavors, discuss politics, feminism, and more. This shows my followers that although I’m a scientist, I’m a human with diverse interests first and foremost. 


Twitter is the way most people I interact with know me from- and I make sure the impression I leave is a good one (though I apologize for spamming people with ice hockey team rants). 




Ever started a search (either for funding, internships, jobs, etc) and gotten completely overwhelmed? Me too! Twitter has helped alleviate some of that anxiety by allowing me to follow key organizations or people and be on the look-out for updates. 


From experience, the science community is great at retweeting opportunities up for grabs—from scholarships to fellowships to graduate school positions, they tend to advertise everything! I have a few colleagues who have gotten job positions from learning about them via Twitter, and I was made aware of great opportunities like TEDxWellington (see my talk here) through this platform. Be strategic in who you follow, especially because it can open the doors for you in more ways than one.


What are some ways you use Twitter in your career?


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: What Women Need in the Field


Gum boots, check. 

Water waders, check. 

Waterproof notebook, check. 

Prepping for field work can be time-consuming… especially when it’s your first time! The reality is that women sometimes have to take extra precautions for their health and safety while out on the field, especially when it’s in the middle of nowhere. We asked some #womeninSTEM what common things they brought to the field when they were doing work… and what things they brought that wasn’t on the ordinary packing list. For privacy, we have made everyone’s responses anonymous:


A rape whistle. Pretty self-explanatory, but many women carry whistles in case they are about to get attacked. These whistles can also come in handy if you think a large predator may attack you- but be careful! Not all defensive tactics include loud noises – some animals do not appreciate lots of loud noise.


Breast pump (and replacements). Are you a #womeninSTEM who is also a mother? Sometimes our fieldwork takes us away from our families, but that doesn’t mean Mother Nature stops in its tracks. Replacements are essential, as you never know what will happen in the field.


Personal mini freezer. Unless you want to pump-and-dump, having a personal mini freezer to store all that breast milk is needed. Or, have superb labelling skills so no one mistakes your milk for… well, who knows what. 


Extra hair ties. Unless you have short hair, you know how annoying your hair constantly being in your face is. If you’re like me, you carry extra hair ties during every day so why not bring a ton during the field work?? I usually bring another packet, just in case. They make good rubber band substitutes as well, and vice versa.


Diva Cup*. I don’t use a diva cup, but I’ve heard rave reviews from friends who have taken them out to the field. I can understand the appeal: having to hang on to tampons can be a bit gross, especially in confined places and when you’re the only female in your group. Diva cups are a brand of menstrual cups, which are flexible and designed for use inside the vagina during your period to collect menstrual blood. On top of less landfill waste, depending on flow you can go up to 12 hours before emptying the cup. The cons are that it can be pretty messy, not helping with the “ick” factor that comes with a period.


Extra menstrual necessities. For those who use tampons and pads, don’t forget to bring extras just in case your flow is heavier than normal or something else happens. A waterproof case comes in handy, too, to store everything!


Birth control. Also to have handy? Extra birth control! You never know if you may stay a little bit over on your field work, so having extra is always good to have. Better to be safe than sorry.


A clothes line. This was something I didn’t even think of, but is smart! In some regions, it’s disrespectful for women to hang their delicate laundry to dry. That’s why a clothes line inside your tent is brilliant- you get dry undergarments and don’t offend anyone. Just make sure not to hang the line above where you sleep, as constant dripping is not fun.


Antibiotics. UTI’s are no fun- but they are especially no fun when out in the field. I take multivitamins and some preventative medications with me into the field in case anything crops up. Discuss this with your doctor beforehand.


Anti-yeast medicine. As above, talk to your doctor before getting this type of medicine. I also take Gold Bond powder to keep myself dry… well, everywhere!


Hair conditioner. I tend to take little bottles of shampoo and conditioner with me, but usually bring those little traveling samples. I bring two conditioners to one shampoo, since I tend to fly through a conditioner bottle.


Moisturizer. If you’re gonna condition your hair, you can’t forget your skin! In harsh weather conditions, it can really zap your skin and leave you feeling quite dry. For my sensitive skin, I use Nivea and Aveeno.


Fake wedding ring. Many women can feel unsafe in an environment that doesn’t see women as equal members of society. This means that ‘hiding’ behind a fake wedding ring may bring some women safety and comfort. I have a cheap band that I take with me when I go to foreign countries, just in case.


What uncommon/common things do YOU take with you on the field?

*this article is not sponsored


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays - The Informational Interview


Unless you’ve been an interviewer, informational interviews can seem pretty awkward. But when done right, they are powerful interactions that can leave you with a better sense of the industry/career path you are interested in and possibly lead to new networking connections!


Send the person a friendly cold email (September 23)- remember to keep it concise! Let the person know why you are interested in talking to them specifically, and ask if they would be willing to communicate via email, phone, or meet up for a coffee.  


Protip: Make the effort to do your research on the person you want to interview- being unprepared is not the best first impression!


If your email goes over two weeks unnoticed, send a follow up along the lines of, “Hi [x], Just following up to see if you had seen my previous email about…” I usually forward the original email to jog their memory. Many have flooded inboxes and may have not even seen your email, or seen it and forgotten to reply!


If the person declines, be courteous. Many have hectic schedules they just can’t step away from at the time. Thank them for the consideration and move on to someone else. Insulting them or continuing to pester them after getting a “no,” is not a great impression, especially if you end up working together down the road!


If the person replies and agrees, great! Set up a time to chat or meet up. From there, you will want to do research on what your candidate has been involved in. What have they written? What interviews have they done? What research have they been a part of? Find similarities to discuss.


Although called an “informational interview,” you don’t want to bombard your person with a ton of questions. Let the conversation flow naturally, including basic questions within the discussion. Some of my favorite questions include:


  • “What is the most challenging aspect of your job?”
  • “What skills have you picked up in your job?”
  • “What does a typical day look like for you?”
  • “What has been the most fascinating thing you’ve learned?”


If you guys end up meshing really well together, that’s fantastic! But don’t forget to glance at the clock every now and then and be respectful of their time! I keep my informational interviews at no more than an hour long. At the hour I reminder myself to do a body language check- are they fidgeting? Constantly looking at their watch? That means it’s time to wrap it up! If I don’t see that body language, I still say the following:


“Well, I want to be respectful of your schedule, and I can’t thank you enough for carving out some time to talk to me about [x]. I would love to keep in touch and possibly do this again in the future, if that’s okay with you!”


Once home, send a follow up email after the informational interview! This is usually in the form of a thank you note, telling them how much I appreciate their time. Again, always be respectful. The conversation can then continue from there and lead to possible meet ups or collaborations. Informational interviews are a base platform from where you can start a working relationship. My most recent informational interview led to me and a scientist I look up to working together every week and discussing the fishes of New Zealand! 


So how do you find the ways to reach out to your interviewees? Try LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and your network of friends and family. Don’t be shy about reaching out to anyone who looks interesting – reaching out to a stranger can be nerve-wracking but can end up being so rewarding. I believe in you… now go get some interviews lined up! Good luck!



About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSATURDAYS: Cold Emails - What They Are and How to Write Them


In the ideal world, we would know everybody in our industry. This isn’t an ideal world, however, and sometimes you’ll want to reach out to people who you have no mutual connections with. This process of reaching out is called either “cold emailing” or “cold calling” depending if you choose to communicate via email or phone. We’ll be talking about a cold email is and why you need to perfect yours today in this #STEMSaturdays post.


First, a definition: cold emails are basically where you introduce yourself to someone and sometimes ask them for information. They’re called “cold” because your addressee doesn't know you. The goal? To get it read.


Sometimes your addressee gets hundreds of emails a day. For example, my e-mail address gets anywhere from 50-130 emails a day. Many times I’ll do a quick cursory glance and mass delete things I see as spam, as many others do.


That’s where you need to make your cold email stand out: the subject line. 


Make me want to read your email by writing a catchy subject line. This can either be by the cursory, “Attention: Melissa Marquez” or by something that includes my interests like, “Melissa Marquez- Shark Inquiry.” 


Do your research on the person you are reaching out and find out what their interests, strengths, etc. are. From there, pick a few key words and add them to your subject line and fiddle around with it until you have something cohesive written. For example, here are a few cold email subject lines that caught my attention:


“Melissa- loved you on Femmes of STEM… can I ask you a Q?”

“Sharks: a Q&A”

“Melissa- Guest Writer Opportunity”


On to the body of the email! 


Keep it short, blunt and simple. Very rarely does someone answer back to a five-paragraph long email from a person they don’t know. Your email is ultimately something else they (may) add to their to-do list and shorter emails tend to result in faster response times. 


Here is a sample template:


Dear [name of person you are reaching out],

Hello! [Introduce yourself in 1-2 sentences]

  • [Explain how you know them in 1-2 sentences] 
  • [Explain why you are reaching out to them specifically in 1-2 sentences] 
  • [Close with a question - makes it easy for the reader to respond with answer and increases chances of a response]

[Signing off],

[Your name]


Right off the bat, introduce yourself (here’s a great place to insert your 15-second science pitch), and then make it clear why you are reaching out to that person (i.e. what drew you to them). This will, again, show that you put time, effort and thought into reaching out. 


While these emails tend to be short, it doesn’t mean they can’t be conversational. A tip I was taught and still use to this day is to pretend you are having a conversation with the person face-to-face in public and you just walked up to them and said hi. Now what? And so goes the rest of your email, making it so when you leave the conversation you both want to continue it later. 


So perhaps your conversation (in your head) goes a little something like this:


“Hi David. I’m Melissa. I am a big fan of your shark conservation work and love following you on twitter! I also am on twitter, promoting my program The Fins United Initiative which just happens to focus on shark conservation and education amongst other things…”


This technique has yet to fail me, as it makes the cold email feel much more approachable and warmer. So give cold emailing a try… you’ll be surprised at who you can connect with!


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Tips For Your Ever Important Cover Letter


You’ve read the #STEMSaturdays article about polishing up your resume (and how It differs from a CV) and you’re ready to start sending a few of these babies out. But wait! While you can get away to giving them to some professionals without an important component, if you’re applying to a job, internship or volunteer opportunity, you can’t miss out on this essential part: the cover letter.


No resume (or CV) is truly whole without the cover letter. This is what should give an employer an overall first taste of who you are, why you’re applying, and how you can possibly be an asset to the team. A cover letter, which is no more than a page in length, is an important component of making you stand out amongst the others, so it’s not only important to have an eye-catching and professional cover letter, but to tailor it to each and every unique opportunity.


Cover letters are where you, in essence, sell yourself to potential employers. Here, you want to talk about why you are the best person for the job (i.e. what experiences, skills and qualifications make you qualified for the job).


You want to talk about examples of those qualifications at work (for example: “In just two years working at ‘x’ I increased data entry efficiency by 95%).


You also want to talk about how those skills are linked to what the employer has asked for (i.e. the job requirements) in your cover letter. Focus on what you have to offer the company/organization, which will make employers interested in reading the rest of your resume/CV and ultimately reaching out to you for an interview.


Protip: Make sure you do your research on the company/organization and talk a little bit about them in your cover letter, too! 



Cover Letter.JPG
  1. To tie the cover letter in with your resume/CV, think about having the same style throughout all documents.

  2. Have your name and contact information available for employers in case it gets separated from your resume/CV.

  3. Address your letter to the person who will be reading the cover letter/resume. If unsure of whom that is, reach out to employer to see who to address it to.

  4. Keep your cover letter to no more than one page long!

  5. Be professional and friendly; do not regurgitate your resume/CV into the cover letter. Do not start every sentence or paragraph with "I".

  6. Use clean, white, A4-sized paper.

  7. Use an easy-to-read font (e.g. Georgia, Helvetica, Arial and Times New Roman).

  8. End by thanking them for the consideration and that you are willing to provide more information.

Using these tips, try writing your own cover letter! 


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Speed Networking


Networking is one of the most productive things a person can do to help out their career (besides, you know, putting lots of work and studying into your craft). Building a diverse, yet cohesive, group of relationships is vital to tap into for information, advice, opportunities and more while giving the same in return. #STEMSaturdays discusses what networking is at large in a previous post (May 20), how networking is not always done in a conference setting (June 3) and what’s the ONE THING you should ALWAYS bring with you when networking (May 6). Today, we’ll be covering another type of networking that is starting to become popular: speed networking.


While you might not have heard of speed networking, you may have hear of speed dating. Speed networking operates on a similar idea: a structured and fast paced event that allows people to interact one at a time for a short amount of time (usually a minute or two) and then leaves it up to participants who they want to provide their contact information to. In speed dating, when sparks fly it usually leads to a date while in speed networking, it usually leads to some networking opportunities. 


Many see pros and cons to this type of networking. While you will get to meet a lot of people in a short amount of time, you don’t get to delve into much of a deep conversation given the time constraints. Typically, these events have a “round robin” format, which is where the leader of the event will alert that you time has begun/ended by some sort of noise (think buzzer, whistle, bell, gong, etc.). To begin, one of you (or both) will introduce yourself, why you’ve come, and perhaps exchange business cards right off the bat. From there, you start to ask questions of each other to see if you really want to get to know this person more after that buzzer goes off. Once the time is up, you move on to the next person and so on and so forth until the event is over.


These types of events can last anywhere from one hour to two (usually no longer as one’s voice can go quickly after talking so much), and usually ends with some time to openly network (i.e. without a buzzer) so you can either reconnect with interesting people or talk to individuals you weren’t paired up with. 




Remember that science pitch! You’ll want to have that statement polished for events just like this. Make sure it includes your name, your occupation (or degree), your field of interest, and why you are here (are you looking for exchange of information, jobs, internships, etc?). For example, my quick introduction would go something along the lines of: 


“Hi, my name is Melissa Marquez, a marine biologist based out of Wellington, New Zealand who focuses on sharks and their relatives. My interests include studying habitat use further in these animals, and I’m looking for PhD or job opportunities that allow such research. I’m also open to marine biology jobs that focus on science communication, outreach and education.”


Done in sixty seconds and is straight to the point. 


Remember those business cards! Bring them. A lot of them. You won’t have an idea of how many people you’ll meet, so I usually bring 50 just in case. How do I carry so many? I have a small purse dedicated to just business cards, so I don’t forget! Some event coordinators will suggest a number depending RSVP count, so keep an eye on that!


Bring a few copies of your resume. Some people will ask you if you have a resume or CV with you. I bring 10 copies and keep them in a folder that I keep in my purse for just these occasions. It’ll be impressive to see how prepared you are!


Be prepared. That means you’ll want to bring a writing utensil (pen is best as it doesn’t smudge as easily), notepad, and a small planner so you can pencil in a meet-up date if necessary. Dress to impress by checking the dress code; these events are usually business or business casual, but if no guidelines are given ask the organisers! 


Don’t forget to follow up with those you want to connect with within a day or two; this can be either via e-mail or a phone call, whatever you feel more comfortable with!  


These types of events are starting to crop up at conferences, universities, clubs and more. See where your nearest event is and show up—after all, practice makes perfect! Good luck!


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Your Guide to Conferences




Conferences are a great way to learn in a unique setting and take advantage of possible career building opportunities you just wouldn’t find outside of conferences. I always come back from conferences absolutely knackered because I take full advantage of these events, but also completely excited, rejuvenated and ready to tackle on some new collaborations. Conferences allow you to share ideas and conversations with many people you normally don’t get to interact with, making you think outside of the box. 


To really get the most out of conferences, I always encourage people to present their research—even if it’s “just” a poster—and to attend as many talks and events as possible. Take advantage of live tweeting the talks you attend and reading the tweets of other talks that you may have missed out on. Protip: I have found that the best place to sit at in a room during talk(s) is at the way back, by an aisle seat so you can enter/leave in between talks without causing too much of a distraction. You’ll also want to capitalize on networking during the tea breaks! I talk about how to network (May 20) in any setting (June 3) and what you should have with you (May 6) to make the most out of these interactions in previous #STEMSaturdays posts. Give them a read before you head out to your next conference or socializing event so you can be prepared for any situation!





Often times with conferences, you can opt for field trips, dinners, banquets, etc. Depending on your financial situation, you may be wondering if these extra events are worth the extra dollar signs. I’ve never been one to say no to a dinner party as I find it’s easier to connect with others when their “professional” side has been turned on and it’s just a room full of people who are passionate about [insert conference topic here]. It’s also just nice to let loose with people who are usually close friends or colleagues without having to worry about… well, much of anything else. Some of my favorite memories have been of trying to make my advisor dance (he didn’t—said he didn’t have enough wine), telling a whole crowd my most embarrassing field story (ask me about it some time), having delicious food on a British Harbour, watching a haka in the Te Papa museum to welcome us to the banquet, and riding the night away in a giant Tasmanian camouflaged boat while toasting to a good life with champagne. 


My personal rule is to not pay more than $200 on “extras,” unless the university/advisor is paying for me as a student and doesn’t mind me going on extra events. Otherwise, with my limited budget, I try to spend wisely. You’ll find some peers skip the extras and hold their own events that you can join (for free)!





Conferences are expensive and there’s no way around that. While the price tag is overwhelming for many, there are some ways to cut a few dollars here and there while not dampening the experience as a whole. As mentioned above, you could skip the pre-arranged extra events (which usually mean extra dollar signs) and instead invite peers for a dinner or drink later. That way you can still reconnect or network without going broke. 


Students, you’re in luck! Many organizations have reduced prices (membership, registration, hotel prices, etc.) for students. This also includes scholarships and travel reimbursement through either the organization holding the conference or your university itself to ease the financial burden a little bit (which can add up to a few hundred or a few thousand dollars). Check in with your school and the organizations involved in the conference to see what can be done!


For those who do not qualify for those types of price deals, think about cutting costs by sharing a room with other attendees. Many will post on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter about seeking roommates—reach out to them and cut your lodge costs up to 75% if you share a room with three other attendees. Some conferences have group rates going for the hotel of their choice for attendees to reside in—check the conference website for these types of deals or inquire with an organizer. Or, instead of staying at the hotel the venue is at, look at cheaper options like a motel or a nearby AirBnB. 


Airfare deals can be hard to find when you’re constricted to a certain time frame! Here are some of my tips that help me land the cheapest flights:


  • Always compare airfare prices. No one airline service will have the best price every time so shop around!


  • Clear your cookies. Some airlines may track your searches and hike the prices up each time you look at a specific air path! Clear your internet browser cookies so this doesn’t happen to you.


  • Set airfare alerts. Some sites can alert you when flights to your designation are around or below the price limit you’ve set. 


  • Know the cheapest and most expensive days to fly. Many airlines release weekly sales late Monday or early Tuesday. Cheapest are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and sometimes Saturdays. The most expensive days tend to be Fridays and Sundays. 


  • Know the cheapest times to fly. Most people don’t want to fly at dawn, overnight (red-eyes), lunch or dinner time. Keep your eyes peeled for these flights for cheaper flight prices.


  • Know when to shop for your tickets. For domestic flights in the US, try to get your tickets anywhere from 90-30 days before you leave, otherwise you may get a price hike the closer your trip gets. For international fares, shop between six months to 2 months ahead of your departure date. 


  • Remember peak travel seasons. These include June, July, August and around the holidays. Try to purchase your tickets up to two months in advance so you don’t miss out on a seat and do miss out on a nasty price hike!





Check into your hotel (or motel, AirBnB, etc) and head towards the conference venue. Find out where registration is to pick up your name tag, any goodie bag you might receive, and the itinerary. ProTip: Put your twitter handle on your name tag so people can see you are on social media!


Conferences are a lot of fun to attend and I hope you get the opportunity to go to one (or more) this conference season!



About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Presentation Tips For Posters


I strongly suggest going to a conference as many times as possible during your academic career. Not only will this allow you to work on those networking skills, but you can also show off your latest research via poster or oral presentation. In this post, we’ll give you tips to help you nail your poster presentation. 


Before we delve into what makes a poster great, we first need to get your poster to the conference! While some decide to print their poster at the location, many students can print theirs for a reduced fee or for free at their university. If that’s the case, take advantage of that as posters are pretty expensive (I had to pay $58 for mine, once). Here are some tips to transporting your poster from Point A to Point B:


  • The poster case. This is usually a white colored, hard cardboard roll with plastic ends that you can put your poster in for safe keeping. Your advisor/university might have one that they would be happy to loan to you. If not, invest in one. I travelled from the US to the UK without a poster case and I was a bit embarrassed by how wrinkled mine ended up being. 


  • Protect the poster case. A step further is a case around the cardboard poster case to protect it from the elements. I’ve seen these be mostly of leather or some synthetic fabric with a strap so you can easily fling it around your shoulder. If you’re going somewhere where there is rain, wind, etc. it’s well worth the investment!



You’ve made it to the conference with your poster intact, hooray! So what should this poster have had on it? Essentials include your name, your university/affiliations, a way to contact you (always put your e-mail; feel free to put your twitter handle as well), and the title of your project. With a poster you want to focus on just one aspect of your research and expand on that.


The next question I get a lot is, “What should my poster look like?”


There’s no cookie cutter formula that all academics follow (trust me, I’ve looked and asked around) because everyone presents data in a different way. Much like how your oral presentation shows your personality via PowerPoint, this poster allows your “design personality” to come through. Here are some tips I’ve seen replicated by many posters:


  • Background. This varies person to person, but the majority seem to go for a plain background of either white or a dark blue/black. Some put a picture that is almost transparent but doesn’t detract from the important bit of the poster — the WORDS. 


  • Font. I was taught that font size should be minimum size 14 for a poster. Stick to traditional and easy-to-read fonts such as Verdana, Times New Roman, Arial, and Garamond as a few examples. Try not to use more than three different fonts on a PPT; think of one as a “title” font, another as a “subtitle” font, and a “body” font.


  • Pictures. With pictures, make sure the resolution is big enough that it doesn’t get extremely blurry when blown up on the poster (dimensions vary by conference). Don’t forget to give credit to whoever took the picture!


  • Tables and graphs. Make sure they are easy to read- may or may not have background depending the overall poster background.


These are a few “templates” that you can follow for your poster from previous conferences I’ve been to:



Once you have given your pitch (tips for creating your own pitch can be found here), encourage your audience to ask you questions! If you don’t know the answer, don’t make something up. Instead, admit you don’t know the answer to their question (which is perfectly okay) and that you’ll look into the subject more in detail and would be happy to get back to them at a later time. 


Make sure you exchange contact information (e.g. give them your business card) to keep in touch! Include a stack of business cards by your poster so you can be contacted if not by your poster. Follow up with people you’ve met either during the conference or shortly after.


With all eyes already on you, you also want to make sure you are following the professional dress code. I usually go for either a simple dress (the attention should be on your poster, not you) or nice pants and a shirt. Flats or heels work; remember, you will be on your feet a lot during these conferences so comfort is key!


Practice your pitch in front of family and friends and see if they can give you any constructive criticism about it.  I usually get my group to also look at my poster and rate it on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the highest) by how easy it is to read, how attractive it looks, and if it is a memorable poster. This helps me tailor my poster to not only professionals, but also those who are outside of my field and may happen to come across my work; be prepared and be confident! You’ve got this!


Do you have any tips on poster presentations that I haven’t mentioned? Share them with us in the comments below or tweet us at @mcmsharksxx or @OfficialFemSTEM!


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Live Tweet Your Own Talk at a Conference!


So you want to live-tweet your own talk at a conference… well good news, you can!


If you want to make sure your audience takes away key information from your talk (or your thesis defense, outreach initiatives, etc.), you can make sure that the facts are coming from your twitter feed as your mouth is relaying the information. How? Well, you won’t be pausing the talk every few seconds to say, “Hold on, let me just tweet that.” Instead, you will be scheduling your tweets ahead of time so they will “air” during the pre-selected time of your talk. 


To my knowledge, there are two main platforms that my peers use: HootSuite and Buffer. I personally use Buffer as it’s free (up to 10 tweets a day- then you have to pay) and it’s easy to learn (I should preface this by saying that I have not had experience with HootSuite).


With Buffer, you can synch a number of your social media outlets to it. This includes Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and now Instagram (it gives you reminders to post your photo, and does not post your photo for you); there may be a few other platforms I’m missing, but these are the ones I primarily use. 


Step 1. Choose the platform you want to post your talk from. I usually do an “update” on my Facebook and LinkedIn pages telling my audience that I will now be giving a talk on subject x and to refer to my twitter feed (insert twitter handle here) for more information. After my talk I’ll give a quick synopsis again of these two pages.


Step 2. Choose the time zone you are in. My time zone varies; for normal Twitter scheduling, I’ll choose US eastern-time as my zone; for specific conferences, I will choose the time zone I’m in. For example, for my Tasmania conference, I chose the Tasmania time zone and started the first tweet from my allotted talk time start. 


Step 3. You have 10 (free) tweets to work with. Make them count. I usually dedicate one tweet to introducing my topic via presentation title; the rest of my tweets are usually one tweet = one slide. On tweets that have no graphs, charts, etc. on them I will attach a picture of my research animal(s) because everyone likes pictures. Make sure to credit photographer or have copyright on photo.


Step 4. Once you have your 10 tweets, schedule them. If your talk starts at 2:00 pm and is scheduled to end at 2:15 pm, make it so you have one tweet about every minute. 


Step 4a. Time yourself to accurately schedule your tweets! Practice your presentation and see around what time each tweet should roughly go out. The last few minutes I leave blank for questions from the audience.


Step 5. Advertise your talk. Make sure your audience (on Twitter) knows that you will be live tweeting your presentation at  x time so they can be sure to tune in and learn all about your awesome research!


Step 6. Make sure everything is working! Day of the presentation, make sure your scheduling is all set up and that your self live-tweeting can go without a hitch! 


Step 7. Retweet those who have tagged you or your talk. Their perspectives can sometimes shed a new point of view on your dataset! 


And that’s that! Good luck setting up your own live-tweeting.


Author’s Note: This post has not been supported nor sponsored by Buffer or HootSuite. All opinions are my own and without endorsement.


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Live Tweeting at a Conference


Conferences are a great way to impart a lot of knowledge on those who are attending. Yet, what if you want the greater community to know what you now know? Enter Twitter. With it being easily accessible on phones, tablets, and computers it allows you to share presentations live-time with only one catch: you have to say what you want to say in 140 characters or less.


I’d like to say I’m pretty good at live-tweeting presentations while at conferences. At a recent conference in Tasmania, I was known as “that twitter girl” when I was introduced to new people because the hashtag (we’ll talk about what this is below) was basically just me. Oops. #sorrynotsorry

In my defense, live-tweeting allows me to write down the information shared, serving as notes for me to refer to later on… it just happens to be notes on a public platform so others can learn as well!


Some things of live tweeting just can’t be learned or controlled. For example, I type very fast, allowing me to simultaneously type as the person speaks. Other times the venue doesn’t have internet, or has slow internet, practically eliminating your ability to live-tweet. And maybe it’s neither of those things and some presenters just aren’t comfortable with you live-tweeting their work (which is 100% okay), meaning you should put your phone away and just enjoy the presentation (or take notes via notebook). 


Here are some tricks I have that help me efficiently live-tweet:


  • Learn the hashtag of the conference. Save it to your phone. Whenever you go to a conference nowadays, they usually have a hashtag. A hashtag (#) is used on social media sites (especially Twitter) to identify messages pertaining to a specific topic. For example, if you look up the hashtag #sharks on Twitter, you 95% of the time will see tweets about the animal while the other 5% will be about the NHL team. Once the hashtag of the conference has been learned, use it on EVERY tweet that pertains to the conference- this includes any social functions, talks, tea times where you meet people, poster events, etc. I tend to save it on my phone so I can just “paste” it at the beginning or end of the tweet.


  • Be on the lookout for Twitter users. Some presenters will showcase their twitter handle at the beginning, end, or throughout their presentation. If so, add their username (for example, @mcmsharksxx) to your tweets pertaining to their presentation. Before the presentation starts, try to fit their presentation title in a tweet and who is the presenter (e.g. “Adrienne Cruz is next in room C: “The debate between coffee v tea” #FAKECONF17”). Say I was the one giving the presentation—your tweets should begin or end with “#FAKECONF17 @mcmsharksxx” so not only can you connect with me, but I can retweet (RT) your tweets and people can see that I was the only talking about x topic. If they don’t have a twitter (which does happen), add the last name of the presenter (e.g. “#FAKECONF17 Marquez”) to your tweets. I sometimes include what room of the conference I’m at because it lets people know I’m in a specific area (if they want to meet up) and what the ‘theme’ of the room will be for the time being.


  • Be mindful of those presenters who DO NOT want their presentation live-tweeted. Not everyone is keen on having their presentation –or part of it—aired on Twitter. Please be mindful of that and respect their wishes. Some will declare their presentations as twitter-friendly or not, and may even have “no photos” or “no tweets” signs on key slides that may have raw data and they do not want publicised just yet. If you have live tweeted a presentation and the presenter asks you to delete the tweets, please be respectful of their wishes and take it down immediately.


NO signs.JPG


  • Turn your phone noises down. Nothing more annoying than hearing your keyboard going “tick-tack” the whole time or hearing any other distractions coming from your direction. Be courteous of those presenting and silence your phone so those around you can enjoy the talk as well. On that vein of thought, if you happen to get a phone call during the presentation, excuse yourself and leave the room to take it. 


  • Make sure you are connected to WiFi (if available). Twitter takes up a lot of data. See if your conference venue has WiFi (usually conferences will tell you this ahead of time) and then find out the password. This is especially important if you are abroad—roaming charges are quite awful (and expensive). 


  • Make sure you have an extra battery. Twitter also takes up quite a bit of your battery power. I have a portable battery that I charge every night so that I can use it all up when I’m in a pinch. I always bring two charging cords (you never know when one might go missing) as well as a wall charger in case there are any working outlets (it helps preserve my portable battery’s power, too). These can be relatively cheap and found easily enough on Amazon or your local electronic store.  


  • Know the ways to conserve your phone/device battery. Every phone is different, so my tips may not work for you. However, putting my brightness level at its lowest setting, on night mode and with no other applications running in the background helps my battery last a wee bit longer. My phone also allows me to put it in “low battery mode” which “temporarily reduces power consumption… mail fetch, Hey Siri, background app refresh, automatic downloads and some visual effects are reduced or turned off.” My battery also allows me to see percentage so I know when to start to charge again. There’s also the option of not tweeting as much—and for some topics that I don’t feel qualified to speak on, or quote the person on, I don’t tweet. 


  • Reduce the jargon. You’ve got 140 characters to work with, and some of those are dedicated to the hashtag and the presenter’s last name or Twitter handle. Your followers may all not be ‘experts’ in this area, either, so make it easy enough so people of all background can understand. If there is jargon that cannot be avoided, define it to the best of your ability.


  • Take pictures of the slides. This is not always recommended (see “Be mindful of those presenters who DO NOT want their presentation live-tweeted” tip) but proves useful when taking pictures of diagrams, photos of set ups, graphs, etc. For those who have a hard time seeing images, make sure you describe the picture so they are not left out. Again, always make sure that taking pictures of the slides is okay with the presenter.


  • Live-tweet your own presentation. Want to make sure your audience has specific information as a take-away message? Tweet your own presentation! Presenters now have the opportunity to live-tweet their own talk—we’ll discuss this in the next #STEMSaturdays post.


And that’s that! Hopefully you can put these live-tweeting tips to good use in your next conference.


Do you live tweet at conferences? Do you find it useful?


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Presentation Tips -- The Oral Presentation


I strongly suggest going to a conference as many times as possible during your academic career. Not only will this allow you to work on those networking skills, but you can also show off your latest research via poster or oral presentation. In this post, we’ll give you tips to help you nail your oral presentation. 


Out of all the conferences I’ve gone to (which is a fair share), the majority of oral presentations are done via PowerPoint (PPT). One or two have been via Prezi, but you may not always have internet access in order to make this work. You can choose whichever medium, but the majority of my tips will be for PPT since that is what I use.


Powerpoint is great in that it has a bunch of templates that one can customize to their heart’s content. I usually go for a dark blue theme (ocean theme) and go for simple, clean lines. Make sure your color scheme isn’t harsh on the eyes (e.g. bright red and bright yellow font/background) and that those who are color-blind can enjoy it as well (no red/green)! 


While the design is a minor factor, you want your audience to focus on the content, not the designs of your PTT. The take-home message should be, “Wow! I learned a lot! I should meet up with them afterwards…” rather than “Wow! It was such a pretty PowerPoint!” 


Intro slide example.JPG


The first slide should include your title, your name, any affiliations you have, and a way to get in contact with you! This can include your e-mail, twitter handle, or both! Let your audience know if you are okay with your presentation being tweeted and if there are any slides that you do not want tweeted/taken pictures of (e.g. data that has not yet been published). I try to have my twitter handle on every slide of my PPT in case people want to tweet my presentation while I give it (in a future blog post, I’ll discuss how you can live-tweet your own presentation), and will have the twitter icon with a bright red strike across it on the slides I do not want publicized.


Slide example.JPG
Slide example no photos.JPG

As you go from one slide to the next, don’t get too crazy with transitions and sound effects as it can be distracting. Instead, focus on your quality content and no one will notice if your next slide opens up in a star-shape or not! I was taught that font size should be minimum size 18 in a classroom setting, size 24 in anything bigger! Stick to traditional and easy-to-read fonts such as Verdana, Helvetica, Century Gothic, Times New Roman, Arial, and Garamond as a few examples. Try not to use more than three different fonts on a PPT; think of one as a “title” font, another as a “subtitle” font, and a “body” font. 


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With pictures, make sure the resolution is big enough that it doesn’t get extremely blurry when blown up on a projector. Always, always, always give credit to whoever took the picture! 


Author credit.JPG

Even a lot of senior scientists forget to do this, so don’t feel bad if you’ve forgotten to do this already (I’m guilty, too). If your visuals are instead gifs or videos, make sure they work before your presentation. Do alert your audience members if the pictures are of a particularly gory nature, or if they have flashing lights as they may be a problem with those who are epileptic. This can be done via a “warning” slide before said pictures, videos, or gifs.


A presentation will usually start with the presenter introducing themselves and giving a little background on the project, what the research questions are, the methods, and then delving into the results. Make sure your results section caters to what conference you’re at; you don’t want to focus on isotopes if the conference is about telemetry (unless it ties in somehow). From there, you can discuss what you found/did not find, and any questions you are hoping to answer in the future with more research. At the very end, your last slide should be a thank you to all who helped you with your project (it takes a community; acknowledge your university, advisor(s), funding sponsor(s), etc.). This last slide should also have your contact information again, so people can write it down if they didn’t at the beginning. You should take some time out of your allotted time to thank them all, and your audience who came to your talk out of everyone else’s!


Allow time for your audience to ask you questions! If you don’t know the answer, don’t make something up. Instead, admit you don’t know the answer to their question (which is perfectly okay) and that you’ll look into [x] more in detail and would be happy to get back to them at a later time. The point of audience members asking you questions is to make you look at your data in different ways, and some of these ways are not ones we’ve thought of before! These moments are what breed collaborations, which is (or should be) the backbone of science. Don’t despair if you don’t know all the answers, be happy you get to learn more!



If there is one thing I learned very quickly about giving presentations is that not all things will go according to plan. I live by the rule to have multiple copies of my presentation on my person. Usually conferences will ask you to upload your presentation before your “slot” so you can see if everything is working (i.e. videos, sound, animations). You can do this by either USB or e-mail (they’ll let you know their preferred method). In case one copy doesn’t work or something happens, I always have an extra copy of my presentation on my USB and sent to my own e-mail. Rarely has my presentation not worked, but I did have a time when my presentation went missing from the slot time and I avoided a potentially embarrassing moment by having a backup presentation on my USB!


With all eyes already on you, you also want to make sure you are following the professional dress code. I usually go for either a black dress (the attention should be on your presentation, not you) or nice pants and a shirt. Flats or heels work; remember, you will be on your feet a lot during these conferences so comfort is key! If you’re struggling to find something to wear, always try a few pieces on and ask yourself if this is how you want to make the first impression to potential new connections. I tend to go more conservative with my dress code because of this, but this is what makes me feel comfortable; you do you!


Practice your presentation in front of family and friends—they can give you constructive criticism and call out your bad behaviors (i.e. filling in empty space with “um”). If you can’t do that, record and time yourself! Soon you’ll be up on stage giving the real thing, so be prepared and be confident! ProTip: Don’t forget to look at your audience and not your slide. You’ve got this!


Do you have any tips on oral presentations that I haven’t mentioned? Let us know in the comments below!



About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: How to Write Your Abstract


Conference season is upon us and many are asking for your submissions to be sent already! 


Conferences are an excellent opportunity to share your research with peers in a professional (and sometimes large) setting. Not everyone gets a coveted oral presentation (or poster presentation) spot, so you want to have the best chance of securing one by presenting the committee with a fantastic abstract.


In this post, #STEMSaturdays will be discussing what an abstract is and how to write a good one when preparing for a scientific journal, your own thesis or conference presentation.


What is an abstract?


Good question!


An abstract is a small statement (usually no more than 250 words) that describes your work as a whole. What makes up an abstract varies according to discipline, but they all have to answer the following questions:


  • What was done?
  • Why was it done?
  • How was it done?
  • What were the results?
  • Why should anybody care?


Basically, it contains the scope, purpose, results and contents of the larger work.  


In essence, the abstract is a self-contained mini thesis, and should be able to stand alone and understood separately. The job of an abstract is basically to “sell” your work; that is to say, it’s to make your research enticing enough to go see your talk (or publish it/read it) instead of others. 



Why do I need to even write an abstract?


If your abstract is done well, it will make conference attendees, publishers, and readers want to learn more about your research. Usually for conference proceedings and online search databases, the abstract is usually the only part of the paper that is published.  Abstracts are also a great way to interest funders and have them turn the page and keep reading your proposal!


Writing your abstract: the checklist


I’m a checklist kind of gal. I write checklists for everything to make sure I haven’t missed a single thing; so, of course I have a checklist for writing my abstract. This checklist includes the motivation, problem statement, approach, results, conclusions, and the greater implications. 


Each of these sections is usually one or two sentences long, as you want to keep your abstract concise and to the point. Some parts (i.e. results and conclusions or conclusions and implications) may be merged and therefore spread out to be longer. Here are the breakdowns of each section: 




In this section, one discusses why anyone should care about the problem you present and its results. Is your research going to fill in a practical, scientific gap in your industry? This section can be often merged with the problem statement and it varies on topic whether the problem statement or the motivation should go first. For example, my research is on by-catch numbers in fisheries, but I specifically focus on a small section of that: Chondrichthyan (sharks, skates, rays, and chimaeras) by-catch. For this reason, my problem statement often comes first to indicate the “piece” of the overall larger problem that I’m working on. 


In summary, this section should discuss how important your work is in your field, the problem, and the impact the results may have if successful. 





What problem are you researching? In this section, try not to go overkill on the jargon. If your research is not well known, put your problem statement after your motivation section.




What steps did you take to solve this problem you previously stated? This section is basically a condensed version of your “methods” section, and it must be included in your abstract. 


Questions that must be answered in this section: What did you look at (does your work look at bycatch numbers worldwide or just in the New Zealand region)? How did you collect your data (did you go out and collect it yourself or was it a pre-existing dataset)? How did you streamline your data (did you account for x, y, z)? What was the extent of your research (did you solely use R programming or did you run other statistical models)? What important variables did you control, ignore, or measure? 


Leave nothing out!




What answer(s) did you research yield?  This section usually includes numbers (percentages, proportions, etc.) or statistical analysis figures. Be as precise as you can when it comes to writing about the outcome. This means that one should provide numbers or stats that cannot be easily misinterpreted. What if you submit this abstract to a conference before you are completely done analyzing results? I usually write down what I already have, and conclude with something along the lines of, “Further result analysis will be discussed at the conference.” 





This section and “results” can be merged together; it can also be merged with the implications section as you are basically answering what are the implications of your results here.  


As a result of your research, what did you learn, and what are the larger implications of your results, especially for the problem you identified earlier? While not all research will change the world, make sure that this section shows whether or not your results were significant or an indicator that the path you went on yielded nothing substantial (these results are just as important as “winning” results, I promise you). And finally, can your results be generalizable or specific to just your industry?


Important things to also remember


  • Meet the word count limitation. Some publications have longer word counts than others, but an abstract word count is typically 200–250 words.


  • Major restrictions or limitations on the results should be stated. Use words like “might,” “could,” “may,” and “seem” to explain them. This is especially important when you ended up getting unfavorable results.


  • Use keywords that people looking for your work might use. Be sure that those words (or phrases) are in your abstract, so that they will immediately pop up near the top of any search result.


  • Another use for keywords: assigning your committee. Keywords are great for search results, but may also play a role in assigning the committee or editors who look over your paper. Make sure that your keywords match exactly to the audience you want to be reading/reviewing this. For example, my research that focuses on by-catch will have the words “by-catch,” “elasmobranch,” and “Chondrichthyans” to make sure I get the best reviewers for this specific topic.


For examples of what your abstract should look like, try to models in the fields that are most similar to your research. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a few abstracts of my own to write!


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here

#STEMSaturdays: Networking During Happy Hour


Networking comes in many forms—from coffee shops to conference halls—so is it any surprise that one can often network during a happy hour mixer?


“Alcohol” and “professionalism” can co-exist, and in this post we help you navigate these sometimes tricky networking events.


We start with a disclaimer: we do not endorse nor condone these types of networking events. If you do not feel comfortable in this environment, do not feel like you have to drink any alcoholic beverages or attend these types of events.


First, before you go to this event, let somebody trustworthy know where you are going and how long you plan to be out. This person can be a family member, significant other, roommate, best friend, etc. If you’re driving, let them know when you’re arriving and leaving the establishment. Make sure you have sobered up before getting behind the wheel— DO NOT drink and drive. Better to be safe and sorry; have someone pick you up or designate a DD (designated driver). None available? Use UberLyft, or a taxi.


Like many others, you may be scratching your head in front of your closet wondering, “What do I wear?”


Remember you are still in “work mode,” as you are attending these events with the intent to network. Feel free to let your hair down a bit, but keep it professional. These are my wardrobe essentials, where I can pick and choose a myriad of casual-ish, yet professional, outfits:



Before attending a mixer event, make sure you have fed yourself!


I usually eat a filling meal, which has two purposes: there’s plenty of food in my stomach which leaves less room for alcohol, and I’m less tempted to spend money.


Unlike a social night with friends, you do not want to pre-game. Instead, drink water before your night out. Once at the event, no harm in buying a bowl or two of hot fries for the group—good for absorbing the alcohol!


During the event, continue to drink water between alcoholic drinks. Hate tasteless H20? Spruce it up with some lemon slices!


Limit yourself to one or two alcoholic drinks during the event so you do not become impaired in front of colleagues and potential collaborators or and/or employers. Talk about an embarrassing first impression.


If at any moment you don’t feel safe, tell a bartender. Or, have your trustworthy individual on speed dial or a text away. Some people have a safe word they text to their friend (“Red”) or a phrase (“Is Becky okay?”) while others are more direct (“911! Help!”). Whatever you choose, make sure both you and your contact are aware of what the phrases mean.


Do not ever walk home alone at night. If you have no choice, stay on the phone with your contact until you are home safe. I used to call my now-husband and talk to him while walking home in the dark, constantly being vigilant of my surroundings. Stay aware of the people around you and where you are—that means NO HEADPHONES.



(in the US—please chime in with security apps you use worldwide)


  • WATCHME 911: One of the best security apps available for the iPhone. There are four main features: a panic alarm and flashlight, an automatic 911 emergency dial, a panic mode and a monitor me mode. The panic mode will send SMS messages – along with your GPS location – to a predefined contact in your address book so that they can help you.


  • CIRCLE OF 6: The White House has endorsed this security app. Circle of 6 is an app which sends pre-set messages to a circle of 6 people who you have chosen to in an emergency situation. You can customize the message to contain your location or address, and there is even an option to request that the person calls you as soon as they can.


  • GUARDLY: This app allows you to set specific people to call in specific situations. You do have to pay a subscription fee every month of $1.99 if you want to be able to call 911 directly from the app.


  • HOLLABACK!: A security app available on Android and iPhone which will take a photo of anyone who you deem to be harassing you, which it then automatically uploads to a harassment website to warn others of this person in the area.


  • STREETSAFE: Your Facebook account will list your current location so that all of your friends can see it, and SMS and phone messages will be sent to people who you have listed to #contact in an emergency.


*this post is not sponsored


About the Author:

Melissa C Marquez is a marine biologist and science communicator based in New Zealand. She is the founder of the Fins United Initiative.  You can find her twitter here, and support her on Patreon here