Women in STEM

#STEMSaturdays: Scientific Buisness Cards! Who Knew!

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Some people choose to write their information on a napkin or scrap of paper that is easily lost; the majority choose business cards.


Yes, science business cards are a thing! And just like “regular” business cards (that you get from a banker, realtor, lawyer, etc.), they’re the best way to keep in touch.


I’ve always gotten my business cards done by Vistaprint or Moo as they tend to have good deals for reduced prices or free shipping. Both have templates you can follow but also allow you to design your own business card.




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The above is an example of what my science business card looks like. All business cards should be simple, easy-to-read, and look professional. Mine is on a standard weight card stock and is full color; you should make sure your business card is at least standard weight card stock, so as it doesn’t easily bend, tear, or wear. Some people choose to have both sides of their business card have some sort of writing, but I’ve personally found that all my information could be said on one side, allowing a cool picture (with picture credit, if it is not your own) to adorn the other side.


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Once you have finished designing your business card, it’s time to start plugging information in. Start off with your name in big, bold lettering  (you want it to be the biggest font on the card). Underneath, put your degree or specialty. For my card, I put “marine biology, ecology and conservation,” as I was between degrees when creating my most recent business card. You can put “MSc” or “PhD” after your name (or “Dr.” before your name for those who have a PhD), along with your degree title below. Are you still in university? Put down your university’s logo or laboratory name somewhere on your card (usually beneath your degree).


Next, you will want to include a phone number and permanent email address (or institutional e-mail address if you will be there for a while). A phone number can be your personal cell or your university line; if it’s your personal cell phone, remember to have a professional voicemail! A quick scan over the hundreds of cards I’ve gotten, the majority of contact e-mail addresses are GMAIL accounts, as it is more permanent than an organization e-mail.


Below my contact information, I have added my social media handle (Twitter) and my LinkedIn, allowing for my new connect to follow me on Twitter or send a friend request on LinkedIn. I find the logos to be the easiest way to depict what handle belongs to what medium, as sometimes cards can get too wordy. I’ve also added the address to my professional website that includes my work, my updated CV, and more!


You can network anytime and anyplace, so make it a habit to carry around your business cards! You’ll never know when you will meet someone you can help out, and in turn, help you out. I’ve even exchanged professional contact information during a wedding! It’s never too early to start building your network, so keep some copies of your card in all locations. I have some in my wallet, my purse pockets, jacket pockets, my car, my desk, etc.


Card courtesy dictates that if someone hands you a business card, you give one in return. Don’t be caught empty handed and scrambling for a pen—design your science business card today!


*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: 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="http://www.marchforscience.com">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

Academics Across the Ocean – Advice for the International Student


Study abroad programs are often advertised by universities as “life-changing” opportunities to experience new cultures and new places…and only for the low cost of a couple thousand dollars! And while some students may see these programs as an easy holiday from home for a semester, there are some benefits to traveling elsewhere for your studies. This is especially true for those looking into applying internationally for postgraduate studies – and I would know, as an American PhD student currently “across the pond” in England.


Prior to my move across the Atlantic, I had lived my whole life in New York and attended Hunter College for my undergraduate degree in classical archaeology and anthropology. After participating in a study abroad program in the UK alongside staff and students from the University of Bradford, I realized that I was much more interested in the technical and scientific aspects of archaeology, which are arguably more emphasized in British archaeological education.


The decision to study abroad for my MSc wasn’t an easy one – I knew I would have to start relying heavily on student loans and would be far away from my friends and family for a long time. But I strongly felt that studying abroad would allow for better opportunities and provide training that would look more attractive to future employers.



And while I don’t regret my decision, I will admit that it was a hard and stressful first year! I ran into visa troubles, I got severely homesick, and my MSc program was intense. It was definitely hard work, but I also never felt more confident in my abilities as an academic and scientist. It opened a lot of doors, as well – currently, I’m halfway through my PhD in archaeology and have been able to work with some of the greatest archaeologists and researchers in my field. Even almost three years into living abroad, I still run into issues from time to time regarding my status as an international student, but I think it has so far been worth it.


So, with a few years of living as an international student under my belt, what kind of advice can I give others thinking about making a big move for their research?


  • Get organized – I am one of the least organized people on this planet, so the visa process was a nightmare. Getting your documents organized is by far the best advice I can give to anyone thinking about applying for an international program! Nowadays I have folders dedicated to any paperwork I need: passports, application receipts, letters of acceptance, etc. This is especially useful for anyone thinking about doing multiple degrees abroad or looking for work abroad afterwards – keep your documents close and in order, and applying for new visas will become a breeze!


  • Get in touch – Being in contact with current international students at the program I was about to join as well as staff in the international student department of my university made a lot of the visa and moving process easier. Don’t be afraid to reach out while you’re still considering a program – department heads can get you in touch with current students and relevant staff to answer any questions you may have. Also be sure to check if there’s any scholarships available to international students – funding can be tricky when you’re not a citizen of the country you’re studying in, so take advantage of any funding saved specifically for international students.


  • Get donating – “Live lightly”, I think, is the motto for most international students. When you first move, it will be tempting to bring everything from home, but you might end up paying extra for two checked-in suitcases (something I unfortunately had to deal with when I first moved!).  Bring along clothes, any essentials, and some mementos and pick up everything else when you get to your new home. It’ll make travel a lot easier…and you can feel good if you end up donating a lot of your unneeded things! This also works in reverse as well – if you end up moving back after your study abroad program, most universities have donation programs that allow international students to leave furniture and appliances for future students.


  • Get friendly – Moving to a new place is scary, especially if you don’t have any friends or family there. Be open to joining societies or extracurricular activities to meet new people – most universities will even have special events specifically for their international students, so you’ll be able to find people in the same situation as you!

  • Get excited – Studying abroad can be full of fear, anxiety, and panic – but it may also be incredibly rewarding! Even now, I still sometimes wake up in awe that I’m living in England. Enjoy your time, take advantage of any university-sponsored excursions, and soak in your new home while you can.

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!

#STEMSaturdays: LinkedIn Decoded: What it is and How to Curate a Strong Profile


Chances are that you’ve been Googled. If not by yourself (admit it, we’ve all done it), then by job recruiters. Is what they’re seeing what you want your first professional impression to be?


LinkedIn profiles tend appear high on Google searches (mine was #2 when searching my name). It’s a way to market your unique, personal brand, while showing off your achievements, skills, and experience. It’s not only the place recruiters look to for headhunting, but it’s a great networking tool to have as a young scientist trying to expand their network. Not to mention it allows you to share your latest research, publications, and stances on matters of importance with your connections.


By engaging in conversation with your network — and joining “Groups” where similar-minded people discuss topics — LinkedIn has become another place of learning, allowing for you to be on the forefront of knowledge in your respective industry.


In order to get the most of out this, you need to have a strong profile set up. Whether you are actively looking for a job or not, making sure your LinkedIn profile is up-to-date and regularly used is vital to helping you make a memorable first impression. These tips will help take your profile to the next level.




Have you ever had that friend who posts way too many things on Facebook?  Don’t be that friend. While you revamp your online profile, turn off your activity broadcasts so you don’t become that friend. You can do this by going to Settings >  Privacy Controls > Turn on/off your activity broadcasts. Don’t forget to turn it back on once you are done so your network can be aware of any new developments in your career (e.g. new job, new project, looking for employment).




When you sign up with LinkedIn, you are automatically given a profile URL consisting of letters and numbers. You can customize your profile URL by going to Settings &gt; Edit Public Profile &gt; Customize Your Public Profile URL. You want yours to be a URL that is easy to share. For example, mine consists of my initials + my program’s name.


Next is tackling your profile picture. This may be the first time a person is seeing your face, so you want to make a good impression! Treat this picture as a headshot: you want to come off as approachable, confident, and mature. In my profile picture, I have natural looking makeup, simple jewelry, my hair is straightened and neat, and I’m wearing my best accessory: a smile!


While some people say you should get a professional photographer to take this headshot photo, the same can be achieved with having a friend volunteer to take this picture or even a self-timed camera.



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LinkedIn now has “header photos,” similar to a cover photo on Facebook. My photo is usually ocean-themed (relevant to my industry) and I try to keep it simple. The focus should be on you and your accomplishments, not the header photo.


When it comes to personalization, many people don’t think that you can edit the byline (the line directly underneath your name) but you can! LinkedIn automatically fills it in with your most recent job is, but it can be changed to how you want to market yourself. Mine reads, “Founder of The Fins United Initiative” while a friend’s reads, “A political science and historian major with strong organizational, leadership, and interpersonal skills.” Changing your byline can be useful when searching for new opportunities, by adding keywords to ensure that your profile will be found by your intended audience. Keywords in this instance means focusing on job titles, skills, programs you know, etc.




When writing your summary, try to keep it under 300 words; it should be written in first person and should be conversational in tone. You’ll want to keep your target audience in mind when writing this and, when writing, ask yourself what you want them to learn about you.




Some discuss accomplishments (stats and figures), while others talk about their professional interests. I like to keep mine short and to the point, so my summary reads as such: My educational and professional career paths are based on the behaviour, ecology and conservation of Chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras). My future goals are to ensure the conservation of elasmobranch fishes through open communication, reliable data/research, sustainable fisheries and community outreach. Special interests: GIS, underwater photography, satellite tagging, shark movements, behaviour, sustainable fisheries.




There are some sections of LinkedIn that you’ll want to expand upon more than others. These sections are “Awards” and “Experiences,” since your resume usually has you condense these areas. Experiences aren’t just limited to what put money in your bank, but includes internships or volunteering. There is a also a specific section for “Projects,” where you can talk in length about any committees you led, student projects you were a part of/completed, or your thesis!


The “Skills” section allows your connections to endorse you for specific qualifications (of their choosing). For reference, some of the skills listed in my section include “ecology,” “conservation issues,” “data analysis,” “public speaking,” “scuba diving,” “research,” and “GIS.” These skills happen to be keywords pertinent to my industry, and allow potential employers to find my profile when they look up certain words.


Protip: Don’t forget to endorse your friends, too!


You won’t want to talk continuously about your education. Put your degree, the years you attended, your university’s name, and any other relevant information. I included a small blurb about my time at each university (no more than two paragraphs). LinkedIn gives you the option of listing the classes you took, but I found most people don’t care about classes unless they are unique.


For languages, just write your level of proficiency and leave it at that. If an employer wants to know more, they’ll ask. Also, cut down on the talk about your non-industry related volunteering/causes. While it’s admirable if you volunteer at a soup kitchen, animal shelter or building houses, it doesn’t need to be talked about at length on your LinkedIn profile.




You can either search for your friends, family, and colleges by name on LinkedIn to start making connections or you can let it happen organically (e.g. someone asks for your contact info). Once you start making connections, you’ll be able to see their network and be able to reach out to anyone you would like to start a conversation with. This has allowed me to connect with others in my industry I wouldn’t otherwise have known!


Beware; LinkedIn does have a limit to how many people you reach out to that you don’t personally know so perhaps get a mutual connection to make an introduction.


I advertise my LinkedIn by tweeting out my profile link various times throughout the month, adding it my LinkedIn profile link to my e-mail signature, and having the LinkedIn icon on my business card. Once you have your LinkedIn updated, you’ll want to make sure your other personal brand tools (your pitch, your resume/CV, your cover letter) are top-notch as well.


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 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.

Naturejobs.com’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

#STEMSaturdays: Meet Melissa C Márquez and the Fins United Initiative


If you had told me I would have eventually become a science communicator, I would’ve been absolutely shocked. It’s not because I lack the skills, but rather, it’s just not a role I ever saw myself in.


The Fins United Initiative (TFUI) has humble beginnings: it all started with a book. I was an undergraduate marine biology student who wanted to do more around her community of Sarasota, Florida. Going through my marine laboratory’s library, I noticed there was no book about the sharks, skates, and rays of Sarasota Bay. I reached out to my then-adviser to see if I could create such a book and she gave me her blessings. I spent weeks researching, drawing, formatting and finally was able to self publish the guide that now proudly sits in New College of Florida’s library.


I wasn’t satisfied, though. Realizing how little the community knew about these predators in their own backyard, and that many never visit Mote Marine Laboratory (a favorite aquarium of mine to this day), I decided to take matters in my own hands, and reached out to an advisor and told her my plan to visit science classes during their environmental science sections, and discuss the roles sharks play in the ocean. She was a marine educator herself, and helped me network with local teachers. Intrigued, they booked me in, and I was soon putting together a PowerPoint that I would hope be enjoyed by all.


I was new to this and, to put it bluntly, I had no idea what I was doing and had five different classes in my first week. The first class I invited a scientist to talk via Skype to the class during some of my presentation time, but the students weren’t as engaged; I opted for props, personal stories, and interactive engagement instead. I coined the name “Sarasota Fins” for the little program, and made a website to direct teachers to. I added a blog and started showcasing different sharks around Sarasota and worldwide. During my college breaks I would return to Orlando, and my old teachers were keen on having me come present. Those teachers passed me on to their friends out-of-state and before I was six months into this endeavor I was doing Skype calls into classrooms!


Sarasota Fins grew, and when I moved to New Zealand for my MSc, I rebranded to the more globally minded The Fins United Initiative which focused on more diverse Chondrichthyans (sharks, skates, rays and chimaeras).


My science career is now no longer just academic; I collaborate and meet with policy makers, non-profit organizations, and other educational outreach programs. This little niche I’ve created for myself isn’t new (there are other shark education and conservation programs I share a platform with), but TFUI is unique in that it’s mostly run by young adults and recent college graduates—many of whom are female!


This is a long-winded way to say “Hello!” My name is Melissa C. Marquez, founder of TFUI, and I’m happy to be joining the FemSTEM team and helping young women climb the leadership ladder. By collaborating with FemSTEM, I hope this “STEM Saturdays” series will assist in preparing young women for the STEM workforce by sharing what has and has not worked for me and several women colleagues. This series aims to be interactive, by asking what <i>you</i> want help with, too!


I’m excited to embark on this journey!


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