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Boosting Impact as a PhD Candidate

An Interview with Elysse Grossi-Soyster, PhD Candidate in the Microbiology & Immunology Department at Stanford University School of Medicine (https://orcid.org/0000-0002-2719-1973)

In preparation for the 2022 Research Impact Challenge, we turned to the Stanford Medicine community to find examples of real people using tools to track and promote their online scholarly presence. We sat down with Elysse Grossi-Soyster to learn how they use ORCID and science blogging to do just that.* Read on to find out how you can employ similar habits to increase your own impact!


How do you utilize your ORCID iD, and what are the benefits of keeping it up to date?

It’s easy to use now because it’s required; I need it for a lot of fellowships and grants, and any time you publish something they usually want your ORCID. I just submitted an F31 [award] and used it to link all the publications on my BioSketch. 

In terms of benefits, I’m always thinking about jobs. [Using my ORCID] to update a CV and apply for fellowships and awards is a nice way to not have to spend many hours to make a list of that stuff. You can provide a link and be on your way. From the student perspective specifically, we sometimes forget that the goal is a career after this. There will be a point where we need to organize everything we’ve done to show we’ve been productive. You can lose track of that when you’re so focused on the science. Making sure you do that along the way makes it a lot easier. [Utilizing your] ORCID iD means you don’t have to dedicate that much time because it’s automatic.

Has having an ORCID iD saved you time?

It has saved many, many hours. Updating your CV or BioSketch is the worst! So useful and so important, but also so cumbersome to do.

Has having an ORCID iD increased the visibility of your research?

I linked it to my ResearchGate account, and it’s always searching for publications. That’s basically Facebook for research articles. I noticed more people following specific papers. I think it has moderately increased the visibility of my research.

What is the primary benefit of maintaining your ORCID iD?

It’s the go-to record of the [research] that you’ve worked on and published. If you ever want to refer someone to a specific paper or can’t remember when a publication came out, it’s an easy way to do that. You also don’t have to sift through your folders to find your most updated CV.

Science Blogging

Earlier in your career, you kept a science blog. What inspired you to start the blog, and how did you find time to write blog posts?

I started the blog halfway through my masters [degree]. I wanted to organize my thoughts about what I was learning. [I believe] the best way to learn is to teach others. I felt that writing about what I was learning would help me retain the information. I used it as a study tool, rephrasing things, and looking for ways to make the content interesting to me. I integrated it into my study routine, it was a weekend activity and a fun hobby. I didn’t have a regular publishing schedule. Whenever I had time or something particularly interesting to write about, [I would post].

In what ways do you feel keeping the blog helped to further your career?

It’s so easy to focus on one specific area [in science], and our breadth of knowledge gets so specific. You’re typically pushing one very specific topic forward. I believe interdisciplinary research and learning is so important to challenge ourselves and our research. I used the blog as a tool to look for other [concepts or fields] that are similar or related to [concepts] I was working on. It pushed my learning outside of my main field. I also think that outreach is super important. Any way to stimulate the curiosity of people who aren’t in science, but interested in it [is paramount]. The blog may not be the most useful thing for my day-to-day career, but it helps fuel my passion and excitement.

Outreach as Impact

You mentioned you run a non-profit now. Can you tell us about it?

Yes, STEM Outreach Collective is now seven years old. We talk to middle school and high school students [about current STEM research]. We also show that scientists come in all shapes/sizes/colors/orientations. I am energized to see the students hungry for knowledge and excited about science. [Doing outreach] keeps the excitement and the thrill for science alive. It is really important to tell kids that being a scientist is a career goal you can have, and there are so many different levels of education you can reach to engage with science. You don’t have to get a PhD, and you don’t have to pick just one topic. People don’t realize that a lot of middle school and high school students learn science out of workbooks, not hands on. They don’t get to see the science going on around them firsthand. Anybody who is in the STEM fields can sign up to volunteer with us.

How does your outreach work connect to research impact?

I’m a virologist and I work with SARS-CoV-2 amongst other viruses. It’s the first time in many decades where my research is directly relevant to the people around me. Seeing how people engage with scientific information and how it relates to their health outcomes is so important. It has also been so sad and challenging because people are wary of science. The earlier we can engage kids with science, the better we can build trust and show that [scientists] are part of the community. It’s important to build trust; If you only give kids workbooks and don’t show them how the process [of science] really works, it makes sense that there is mistrust and misunderstanding.

*This interview has been edited for brevity.

Would you like to learn about more ways to increase your impact? Sign up for the upcoming 2022 Research Impact challenge, September 12th to 16th.

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