Updates on 100Books50Schools GoFundMe


About nine months ago, 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!

#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: Differing Opinions on the March For Science

This article was written after the #MarchForScience in 2017.

FemSTEM does not have a political affiliation.

Names in the article may have been redacted by request of those who were interviewed.


March may have ended, but it doesn’t mean that the marches against the newest USA administration will.


The March for Science is slotted for April 22, 2017.  With a long list of partnering organisations (close to 100), the March for Science website boasts, “This incredible show of support and interest […] reflects how important it is to recognize the critical role that science plays in all parts of society, and among different communities […].”


Yet, it’s the lack of diversity (and other reasons discussed below) in this march for science that has put many from participating.


I went to twitter and asked my fellow #womeninSTEM followers (many who retweeted my question) if they were/were not participating in the March for Science and if they felt comfortable giving the reasons why. All quotes will remain anonymous unless specified by said person to respect the person’s privacy.


The Arguments Against the March for Science


“I think it’s a great idea, on the surface,” one personal message said. “I think the majority of scientists—if not all—can agree and have voiced their concern over Donald Trump’s slashing of the EPA, NOAA, and who he has hired to oversee many environmental aspects of the USA. His clear disregard for scientific facts in regards to climate change is alarming. The Trump administration has based many of its ‘facts’ about climate change on conspiracy theories and fantasy.”


So what’s the problem?  “This is a very politically charged event. And science isn’t a political faction.”


This person wasn’t the only one who was worried about the potential consequences of this march in regards to politics. “There’s a notion now that scientists should run for office now. NO! We are  scientists, not politicians. We should be collaborating with those who studied their [butts] off to be politicians, not becoming one with no political/law background.”  Many peers also debated whether scientists should even form a united front against the president, ultimately making the American people choose: science or the person elected as your president?


Others questioned the purpose of the March for Science—what did it hope to accomplish?


“The scientific community uses these marches to sweep its own massive failings under the rug,” said one Twitter user.


If we go to the <a href="">March for Science website</a>, the mission statement says that this march, “champions robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”


“Kind of bland, no? An overall blanket statement that says ‘it’s not about scientists or politicians’ but it very much is. Just look at its Twitter feed!”  said another member, who wished to be identified as Julie.



And it’s with the March for Science Twitter page that many felt problems with.

Numerous commentators felt that the March for Science was <i>not </i>diverse at all—that, in fact, it sometimes wrote prominent women and POC out of the narrative.


“One notable problem was a tweet celebrated that American biologist James Watson and English physicist Francis Crick discovered DNA in the 1950s. The outrage was that they didn’t mention Rosalind Franklin who was responsible for much of the research and discovery work that led to the understanding of the structure of DNA.



Many women called the March for Science twitter page out on this, with no response from the moderator until a male scientist spoke up. It was only then that another tweet was made: this time all about Rosalind Franklin and how her contributions were not forgotten but that the tweet character limit had been reached. Again, many pointed out how others had been able to fit both her and Watson and Crick’s discovery all into one tweet. It was absolute bull.”



Others had problems with the March for entirely unique and personal reasons.


“I have major misgivings about the Science March, for two main reasons,” said one respondent. “The first reason is that scientists who spent the entire Obama administration engaging in reprehensible behaviour (e.g., enabling sexual assailants) are now shouting, ‘Science! Diversity! Respect!’


"There are many scientists who are just as bad as Trump, but who will never get called out for their behaviour because they’re simply not famous enough. These people can now sanitize their public image by claiming to be outraged […].


"The second reason is that […] here’s a community that claims to pride itself on objectivity, critical thinking, and self -awareness, whose hypocrisy is now excused by the need to fight Trump.”


The Arguments For the March for Science


What began as just an idea on Reddit has exploded into a full-blown and divisive movement. And while some are choosing not to attend any of the marches worldwide due to scheduling conflicts, they have other things planned, or many are already attending Earth Day (April 22) events, many others are choosing to attend.


“I’m going to use my first amendment right to protest a president and congress that are hostile to science, especially climate change. And how fitting is it that it’s on Earth Day?”


Another argued, “It’s a well-intentioned march for science. Those who say science isn’t political are absolutely crazy. It’s our job as scientists to research and tell the public the truth—now we have an administration who wants to gag the truth. We must defend the truth. You just can’t be this ignorant in 2017!”


Many were going to give a different face to the word ‘scientist’ besides a ‘stuffy old man in a lab coat.’


“I’m participating so those in my inner circle and those around the world can see that scientists are more than just that—we’re humans, too.” Others said that they viewed this as a way to stand up for science, research, and open access data. “This is a march about science, not just scientists and a political agenda. And we must defend science. I’ll be bringing a few interested non-science friends so that will be a cool learning experience.”


Whatever way you choose to speak up for science, we hope you do it safely. For those attending the March of Science, stay safe, and be kind to others -- even to those who have opposing views.


The world is watching and listening.


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

Nafisa Jadavji, PHD: Her Career and A Few Lessons Learned


I am a neuroscientist by training; I started working in a university lab letting during the first year of my undergraduate degree in 2002. This year, 2018, I am starting my 6th year of postdoctoral training.


Part of my postdoc training was completed in Berlin, Germany at the Charité Medical University. It was a dream of mine to live in Europe and I enjoyed it a lot. During my time in Germany, I travelled to many other countries and experienced different cultures. I also formed a number of fruitful scientific collaborations. In 2015, I returned home to Canada and continued my scientific training.


My research program focuses on nutritional neuroscience, with a specific focus on folic acid, a B-vitamin, and neurodegeneration. I work in a mouse model. I study vascular cognitive impairment and stroke, as well as Parkinson’s disease. Some of my research tools include behavioral testing, in vivo imaging, using MRI, primary cell cultures and biochemistry assays, such as Western Blot.


When I completed my PhD in 2012, I was very eager to get going on my postdoctoral research and move into an independent position, at the time I did not realize the importance of postdoctoral training. When I defended my doctoral thesis in late 2012, I felt that I was on top of the world and that I could do anything, like run my own lab.


Little did I know that was not the case, there is a significant amount of training required when moving from doctoral work to leading a research group.




While I was completing my first postdoc at the Charité Medical University in Berlin, I had the opportunity to mentor and supervise a 4 MSc. students, develop a course for graduate students, writing grants, and drive my own research project.


At first, I felt daunted by all these tasks, but it was also very exciting and made me work harder. The experience I had was priceless; I learned a lot that I would not have if I had not taken on these additional responsibilities. My time at the Charité helped me transition from a student to supervisor and mentor. This was further extended when I moved back to Canada and into my second postdoc position at Carleton University.


I have been driving my research program since beginning my postdoc in 2013. So far in my training I have mentored and supervised over 33 trainees, including high school, undergraduate, and graduate students. I have published 16 peer reviewed articles since beginning my postdoc training in 2013. These experiences have helped me learn techniques, strategies, and important lessons I think I need to know in order to lead a team of researchers in the future.


I have not taken the traditional road to postdoctoral training. This means that I did not go into someone’s laboratory and do experiments to help move their research program forward.


What I did do was obtain my own funding and drive my own research project. In my last two years of PhD training I did a lot of research to find potential labs and wrote a number of fellowship applications to fund my postdoctoral training. I knew exactly what I wanted to do in terms of research area and so I ran with it. I was successful in obtaining funding for five years from the provincial and federal Canadian government. Along the way I also got some small pots of money to help with meeting travel. I was successful in obtaining operating grant money twice which was a great to help with the costs of running experiments.


I have faced a lot of road blocks and rejection along the way, and I still do.  But persistence and a strong will has helped me stay on path for a career in STEM.


I think I have learned a number of important lessons from my scientific training and the two top things I try and pass on are; one take a break from time to time, don’t burn yourself out. Take some time away from work and come back refreshed, you will work better.

Two, rejection is important. You can’t be good at everything. Failing is important, you learn how to pick yourself up and get going again, these lessons have been priceless.


Pursuing my own research program has also been a lonely path; I have been surrounded by people in the lab but there are not very many people in my current surroundings that are experts in my field. Although a challenge, I have embraced it and made a number of collaborations with others in and outside of the field. I have also expanded my research by working with others different areas, it has been a good challenge to embrace.


I think that postdoctoral training is very important for scientists in STEM. It is a difficult time because the future is not certain, job security is scarce. But when done correctly it can give an individual the experience and confidence that they require to run their own laboratory or to go down their own path.


If you love what you do, go for it!


About the Author:

Dr. Nafisa M. Jadavji is a postdoctoral fellow and instructor at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa in Ottawa in Canada. You can find her website here, and her twitter here!

#STEMSaturdays: Tips and Tricks to Creating Your Science Pitch


“So what’s your Master’s about?”


This is probably one of the most dreaded questions a scientist hears because in the span of a few seconds they have to formulate what they’re going to say to adequately answer that inquiry. That is, it’s one of the most dreaded questions if you aren’t prepared with your “pitch.”


This question isn’t just asked by professionals, but by family, friends, and the person who overheard your conversation in a coffee shop and now wants to know your life story. In fact, “What do you do?” and “What’s your research about?” are the most asked questions of all time when being introduced or catching up with a friend. So it only makes sense to have a prepared and well-rehearsed “elevator pitch.” If these two terms- “pitch” and “elevator pitch” – are foreign to you, it’s time to be introduced.




A pitch is where you state your name and what you do to an audience (usually just one or two people). An elevator pitch is the idea of you relaying that information in the time it takes to ride an elevator (think 30-60 seconds).


When I was taught what a pitch was, I was told to have multiple versions of your pitch- a five minute one, a minute one, a 15 second one. The reason for this being that sometimes you have a little bit more time to delve into your research, while other times you don’t.


The five minute pitch would be geared towards longer conversations with members of the science community that study similar things as you. The one minute pitch would be what you would say if you were standing in front of your poster at a conference. A 15 second pitch example is you introducing yourself before asking a question at a Q&amp;A session (frequent at conferences).




Science is all about funding and networking, in my opinion. To get funding, you need to be able to communicate why your research is important to other people. The purpose of a pitch is to get the listeners interested in learning more about your work.




I usually start out with “Hi, my name is Melissa Marquez and I work on x.” When I was working on my MSc the x = “deep sea fishery bycatch in regards to chimaeras.”


I next ask a question: “Have you heard of x?” This answer will allow me to gauge their level of understanding of my research area. How I proceed with my elevator pitch depends on their answer.


If the answer is “YES,” then I go on explaining my research. If they answer “NO,” I describe the on-going problem (with some statistics), and summarize what my research covers (broadly). I finish my pitch by describing how my research will bring the marine science world closer to an understanding x.


I’m a big proponent of using as little jargon terminology as possible in my presentations, and especially my pitches. And while these pitches seem like I came up with them rather quickly, I actually have spent years perfecting them. Like most of my work, I usually write things down and the pitches are no exception. From there, I edit and tweak until I feel confident enough to practice the pitch out on unsuspecting family and friends (thanks for listening about habitat use in sharks for what seems like forever, guys).


As mentioned above, it is good to have multiple versions of your pitch. One would rather be over prepared than underprepared and lose your listeners because you went off on a tangent. My advice? Start with a one minute pitch geared towards a more professional audience (the more common of all pitches delivered). Once that is complete, you can modify it for a more general audience and then get it down to a 15-second introduction.


The following are some good resources for getting started:

“Grab Your Audience’s Attention: First Impressions Set the Presentation On – or Off – Course” by Mark Magnacca.’s “Communication: Two minutes to impress” is a good resource on how to prepare a science pitch.</li>

Jeffrey Aguirre Lab’s The Elevator Pitch for Scientists has examples of a 15-second introduction and a 30-second poster pitch.

Forbe’s “The Perfect Elevator Pitch to Land a Job” by Nancy Collamer outlined 9 basic tips to keep in mind.


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