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‘Grad student improve lab skills through teaching’

Most of us graduate students are encouraged by our PIs to focus on our bench work in order to produce results. That is what we are primarily trained for. Being a good scientist entails more than just being able to do good, reproducible bench work. This is reflected in our requirements: all of us must do at least 1 quarter of TAing (TA = teaching assistant).

But how useful is it being a TA? According to a new study published in Science, teaching helps graduate students be better at the bench.

“… students who both taught and conducted research demonstrate significantly greater improvement in their abilities to generate testable hypotheses and design valid experiments.”

This sounds like that graduate students should teach more than just 1 quarter (and many do). Trying to explain a scientific concept and your own research to motivated undergraduate students can ask some interesting questions that seem obvious to you if you ask them yourself but are less obvious if you have to explain it to someone else. How useful would it be to try to explain your research to your non-research friends and family? Not just trying to exhaust them with the details of what you are doing, the one you thing you probably think is actually worth while, but the larger picture in which your research fits. To explain it in such a way that your non-research friends and family can ask you questions, rather than that they say that they understand what you are doing (just so you will stop talking some foreign jargon language). Would this be helpful in improving your skills in generation testable hypotheses and design better experiments? It is tempting to think this.

Link to original paper.

Link to related news article about the original paper.

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