FASEB Bioadv. 2022 Oct 28;5(1):1-12. doi: 10.1096/fba.2021-00165. eCollection 2023 Jan.
The Integrated Graduate Program in Physical and Engineering Biology (IGPPEB) at Yale University brings together Ph.D. students from the physical, engineering, and biological sciences. The main goals of this program are for students to become comfortable working in an interdisciplinary and collaborative research environment and adept at communicating with scientists and nonscientists. To fill a student-identified learning gap in engaging in inclusive discussions, IGPPEB students developed a communication workshop to improve skills in visual engagement, citing specific content, constructive conversation entrances, and encouragement of peers. Based on short- and long-term assessment of the workshop, 100% of students reported that it should be offered to future cohorts and 63% of students perceived it to be personally helpful. Additionally, 92% of participants reported using one or more of the core skills beyond the course, with skills in “Encouraging peers” and “Constructive conversation entrances” rated the highest in perceived improvement. Based on the highest average rating of 76 ± 24 (on a scale of 0-100), students agreed that the workshop made them feel more welcome in the IGPPEB community. With a rating of 68 ± 13, they also agreed that the workshop had a positive impact on their graduate school experience. Participants provided suggestions for future improvements, such as increasing student involvement in leading discussions of course material. This study demonstrates that a student-led workshop can improve perceived discussion skills and build community across an interdisciplinary program in the sciences.