by Sven Truckenbrodt, 2019 YSS winner
When we first stepped in front of the green screen, my fellow winners of the iBiology Young Scientist Seminar and I immediately started goofing around. We flailed our arms practicing the weird sideways gestures we would need to perform to point at our presentations during the recording, wrapped ourselves in green sheets to make our heads float before the test image and just generally dissolved into giggles.
This was also the moment when it really hit me for the first time – this is happening, we are doing this.
What was I doing and how did I get here? The motto of iBiology is: “Bringing the World’s Best Biology to You!” The platform hosts introductory video courses side-by-side with cutting-edge research talks, all presented by the world’s foremost experts in their field. To give early-career scientists the opportunity to take part in this great sharing of knowledge and passion for research, iBiology instituted the Young Scientist Seminars.
And now here I was, after months of a competitive multi-stage application process including written proposals and online interviews, in front of a green screen in the iBiology recording studio in San Francisco. I’m not gonna lie: the cameras, the screens, getting mic’d up – it was intimidating! Luckily, the iBiology Young Scientist Seminar is more than a recording session. We weren’t just thrown in front of the camera and told “GO!” No, we arrived here after extensive preparation – months of online coaching, crowned by an intense three-day training program on site at the iBiology headquarters in San Francisco.
All four of us winners had honed our presentations for months before arriving, but I can honestly say that these three days did more for my presentation skills than all other courses I had ever taken, preparation at home, and presentation practice over the years, combined. The training itself was led by Carol Schindler, an acting professional and amazing coach who has worked in improvisational theater and acting training for decades. Her passion to help us improve combined with a keen eye for what was holding us back positively catapulted our performances forward.
On the first day, we hardly even touched our presentations – it was all acting training, figuring out how to perform in front of an audience and a camera. Carol started us off with some improv exercises to loosen us up and get to know each other. If you think that sort of thing is not helpful for you – wait until Carol puts you through your paces! I never got to know new people faster while simultaneously learning about my strengths and opportunities than in those first few minutes. On the second day, we applied what we had learned to our presentations – and threw out almost everything we had brought to the workshop! Knowing what we had to do to get the response we desired from our audience meant radical changes, but I never felt insecure or rushed – we knew what we were doing now. On the third day, we perfected our presentations in one-on-one sessions with the iBiology team and checked out the studio for the first time.
And finally, on the morning of the fourth day, it was time to record. One last, deep breath – and “GO!” You can watch the results for all of us online over at iBiology or YouTube.
It was a wonderful experience, but intense as well. I don’t know if I would have made it through it if it hadn’t been for the amazing support of the iBiology team and among our little group of winners, constantly lifting each other up at every opportunity during our shared exercises, practice sessions and meal breaks. If you are on the fence about applying or not sure if you are “good enough” – just go for it! It’s not about being perfect, it’s about learning and growing – and you’ll find the perfect environment for that at iBiology!
Note: The Young Scientist Series is a collaboration between the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University, and iBiology.