Welcome to Summa-cum-Liesel: a blog for Life Science PhDs in Göttingen

I often find that the best conversations about science tend to happen next to the coffee machine.

It’s not just that we’re more receptive when there’s no scientific jargon or PowerPoint screens. There’s something about standing around awkwardly with an empty mug in your hand that makes people blurt out an assortment of succinct and insightful wisdoms.

Sometimes they’d explain what they’re working on and I’ll finally understand it for the first time since joining the lab (over two years ago). Sometimes I’ll explain what I’m working on and bank a few valuable tips for my own experiments. On rare occasions, the wisest and most elderly of the group will share one of the hidden secrets of the mystical art of PhD paperwork.

But more often than not we’ll just have a playful self-pity contest to boost each other’s spirits (spoiler: we both win).

It’s moments like these when I think to myself – Wow, if I could only get everyone to stand by the coffee machine, I’d be the bestest and wisest PhD in town!”.

The point is, science is made in the lab but shared over coffee. That isn’t to say that talks, seminars and meetings aren’t essential to our research. It just means that there’s a lot to be earned by having another, more informal setting to share our findings and experiences.

The goal of this blog is to give us PhD students a playground for sharing our experiences, wisdoms, advice and of course – our science.

Why a blog?

In my experience, personal stories aren’t something you delve into easily in Germany. If you combine that with the fact that most of us bio-scientists are on the introverted end of the social spectrum (to say the least), you end up with a lot of very quiet lunches. When you do make an effort to pry people loose (or when they don’t know how to whistle to avoid conversation next to the coffee machine) you find out that everyone has something immensely interesting to share.

The purpose of this blog is to do the prying and force out some of the valuable nuggets of knowledge that we often miss by not asking or not thinking to share.

Who is it for?

This blog is mostly aimed at PhDs in the Life Sciences living or studying in Göttingen. That means that a lot of the resources we’ll link to or provide will be particularly relevant to this audience.

However, most of the content is applicable to any PhD student in Germany, in the world, or anyone interested in biology for that matter. If you’re not a bioscience student in Göttingen and happened to reach this page by chance, you’re more than welcome to enjoy the content, comment and contribute.

Who writes the posts?

You! We want to get as many students as we can to pass on their PhD wisdoms. We is the students running this site. We’ll dedicate our time to finding people to write posts on a range of interesting topics (as well as editing and uploading the content), and we’ll also try to set an example by making our own contributions every once in a while.

Besides student posts, we also hope to get some interesting non-PhDs and professionals to share their advice, skills and stories with us.

What will the posts be about?

At the risk of limiting your creativity, the topics headers are:

  • Science showcase
  • PhD advice
  • Life outside the lab
  • Meet the PhDs
  • Good to know

The headers are fairly self-explanatory, but the first round of posts might give you an idea of what these topics can include. We want to hear about your research, methods, tips, personal stories and extra curriculars.

That being said, these topics certainly aren’t binding – you can write about anything you like, whether it falls under multiple categories or doesn’t seem to fit anywhere at all. If it’s interesting, we’ll find a place for it.

How can I contribute?

If you want to try your hand at writing a post, whether you have a topic in mind or not, send a mail to: contact@summacumliesel.com.

Don’t be discouraged by lack of writing experience. It doesn’t need to be (and shouldn’t be) anything fancy! Just a short max 1500 words conversion of thoughts to text. There’s also editing included (but it’s still common courtesy to use a spell checker).

So with that.. Los geht’s!

Oh, and credit to Yi-Tse Liu for the terrific cover art!

Tal Dankovich

PhD candidate, Neuroscience,University Medical Center Göttingen (UMG)

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