Although you may not appreciate it immediately, one of your most important roles in the lab community is to give valuable feedback to others. Anyone, at any level, can do this! Here are some guidelines to consider:
- Bring a notebook and write down notes related to the talk, including questions. Writing notes makes you more actively involved in the work. You will be surprised at how this simple act helps you engage more deeply with the material, and thus to give more valuable feedback (as well as enhancing your own understanding!). Most scientists have a lab notebook (or tablet) used for this purpose. Get started with that now.
- Try to write down one question to ask in each talk that you go to - in the lab and outside the lab. Writing down the question will give you more confidence to ask it, and also help you to engage with the material more critically.
- Does something not make sense to you? Chances are, you are not alone! Others are likely to be just as confused or to have a similar question, and not speak up because they feel that they just missed something... Or, your question may get to the heart of the matter in a way that others took for granted. Even if you are new to the lab, your questions are valuable to help us all articulate why we are pursuing particular research questions!
- When asking a question, think about how you would like someone to ask a question of your work. Offer praise for the good aspects of the work when appropriate (but not gratuitously). Recognize that you may be confused about some aspect that was mentioned, or feeling frustrated if aspects of the presentation were unclear. Ask the question in a constructive and positive looking way. Avoid overly critical feedback. If necessary, meet with the person one-on-one later, or approach the mentor to share your feedback.