Wenfan Ke is a 4th-year PhD student in the Biology Department. His dissertation research focuses on identifying genetic factors contributing to diet-induced obesity using roundworms as an animal model. The goal of his research is to find potential “cure” for obesity that allows people to consume more sugar without worrying about obtaining too much fat.
Wenfan has participated in the Communicating Research module of the PhD Plus program and is interested in becoming a faculty member at a research university. In addition to his role as a Liaison, Wenfan served as the 2017-2018 research committee co-chair of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ Student Council (GSASC); 2020 vice-chair of the ComSciCon at UVA’s organizing committee; and a 2019-2020 science communication committee member of UVA’s Science Policy Initiative.
Q: Why did you apply for the PhD Plus Liaisons Program?
A: It is a well-known problem that many scientists are not able to convey their research to general audiences, which causes a big gap for the scientific community in outreach and making science accessible to the public. One serious consequence of this gap could be the general public losing their trust in the scientific community and the rise in the spread of misinformation. I believe that part of the issue is inadequate training related to science communication in PhD education. I hope to help others realize this issue and work together to provide relevant communication training to our students.
Q: What are you doing as a PhD Plus Liaison in the context of your department and “Communicating Research” area of focus?
A: I am working with my department to introduce the PhD Plus Program to incoming and new PhD students during the recruitment and the department’s first-year seminar, “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Graduate Students." Also, I collaborated with other PhD Plus Research Communication Liaisons to organize UVA’s first ComSciCon, a 2.5-day event to train graduate students on how to communicate their research to diverse audiences. Finally, I paired up with another Liaison to develop a workshop on story-telling in a research context. This workshop was delayed due to the pandemic, but we hope to offer it as soon as we can.
Q: What professional skills are you developing as a PhD Plus Liaison?
A: I am developing skills in organizing workshops, communication with department administrators, fundraising, and leadership.
ABOUT PHD PLUS LIAISONS PROGRAM
The primary role of the PhD Plus Liaisons is to bring the professional training provided by the broader program into specific disciplinary/departmental contexts and to communicate the needs of specific departments and disciplines back to the broader program. Liaisons communicate with students and faculty in their home departments about their peers’ professional development needs, helping to gather departmental feedback to be used for the development and improvement of the program and conferring with liaisons in other departments across the University of Virginia. In addition to supporting their fellow graduate students and informing the continued evolution of the PhD Plus Program, Liaisons themselves benefit from sustained access to training, mentorship, and support in a professional focus of their choosing.
Over the following months, PhD+ Liaison highlights will provide an opportunity to get to know the Liaisons for Academic Year 2019-2020. Learn more about these PhD student leaders, why they decided to participate in PhD Plus Liaisons program, their professional development goals, and how they are collaborating with the PhD Plus program and their departments.
We will select the 2020-2021 cohort of the Liaisons Program in Summer 2020.