NDSU graduate education stands out through professional development

elisabeth wilson presenting at three minute thesis

Conducting cutting-edge research is one thing; being able to effectively talk about it to a variety of audiences is another.

NDSU’s Graduate School helps you do both, whether you choose to work in academia or industry. 

Professional development for graduate students emphasizes communication. Top-notch skills are important because many of the people who benefit from your research may not be scientists and researchers. Translating complex ideas into concise, accessible messages takes skill and practice. 

Elisabeth Wilson, a recent graduate, worked hard on communication while she pursued a master’s degree in biological sciences. She specialized in the alfalfa leafcutting bee and found that by facing nesting boxes to the northeast rather than the southeast can mean earlier nesting for the bees and more offspring, which ultimately saves farmers money. She recognized early that being able to explain this to many different audiences was critical for what she wants to accomplish as a scientist. 

“If we only learn how to talk within our own discipline, we will fail to communicate with the majority of people,” Wilson said. “Science research is done with benefits that extend far outside the discipline. If we truly want our results to reach the people we are trying to help, we have to learn to communicate.”

Wilson won NDSU’s annual Three Minute Thesis competition, where researchers use lay terms to describe their work in only 180 seconds. It’s one of several ways graduate students can work on communication and career skills. Other resources include the Center for Writers and Graduate Professional Skills Academy

Doctoral students also have an unique experience producing a three-minute video summarizing their dissertation research for a general audience. Few, if any, other universities incorporate this type of professional development into graduate education. 

“The requirement ensures all our doctoral students receive some training in presenting to a general audience,” said Brandy Randall, professor and associate dean of the College of Graduate and Interdisciplinary Studies. “We want the knowledge, insights and advancements that we achieve through research and scholarly activity to get out into the world.” 

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