Research "Elevator Talks"

In the job search and interview process you will have some very brief, yet critical, opportunities to describe your research to departmental faculty, institutional administrators, and students. You'll want to be able to convey the nature and significance of your work to other academicians, who will have a wide range of areas of expertise. As with many situations, it's important to hook your audience early on, to convince them that what you do is important and that they want to hear more about it. To that end, it may help you to think about what you could say in the time of an elevator ride.

Participants from our Preparing for an Academic Career in the Geosciences Workshops have found it helpful to draft such statements in preparing for the interview process. However, if you memorize your statement, your delivery may be less engaging than if you simply think about the key points you wish to make. One workshop leader suggests thinking of this in terms of a three-part delivery: Statement... But... Therefore.... For example, "X happens, but we don't yet understand..., therefore I am...." This format encourages you to explain why your work is important.

Examples from "Preparing for An Academic Career" Workshop Leaders

  • Kurt Friehauf, Professor of Geology, Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
  • Margot Gerritsen, Associate Professor of Energy Resources Engineering, Stanford University

Examples from Stanford University Graduate Students and Postdocs

The Stanford University 'I-RITE/I-SPEAK' program teaches graduate students and postdocs to prepare and deliver highly understandable, compelling oral and written accounts of their research for non-specialized audiences. The examples below are geoscience examples taken from their archive.

  • Jamie Elsila, 'Extraterrestrial Messages: What Meteorites Can Tell Us About the Early Solar System'
  • Nancy Grumet, 'The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: Climate Change'
  • John Harrison, 'Agriculture and Pollution in the Developing World: Understanding the Link Between Fertilizer Use, Greenhouse Gases, and Coastal Change in Sonora, Mexico'
  • Cari Johnson, 'Dinosaurs in the Land of Genghis Khan: The Geologic Evolution of Southeastern Mongolia'
  • Darcy Karakelian, 'Electromagnetic Precursors to Earthquakes: Do They Exist?'
  • Cynthia Martinez, 'Understanding Mountains Out of Molehills: Why Looking at Old Dirt Can Tell Us How Mountains Form'
  • Phil Resor, 'How Does the Earth "Relax" After an Earthquake?'
  • Kamini Singha, 'Scanning the Earth to Help Predict the Movement of Contaminants in Groundwater'
  • Kevin Theissen, 'Interpreting Global Climate Change: Clues From the Past'
  • John Townend, 'The Biggest Banana Peel on Earth: Understanding the San Andreas Fault and the Mechanics of Earthquake Generation'