Episode 8 – Jennifer Cherone (MIT Graduate Student) Reflects On Episodes 5-7

We sit down with a graduate student to unpack the previous episodes.


Guest Starring Jennifer Cherone, Phd Candidate – MIT Burge Labratory

Produced & Hosted by Adam Greenfield

Executive Produced by Patrick Yurick, Instructional Designer – MIT OGE

Executive Produced by Heather Konar, Communication Director – MIT OGE

Special thanks to the following editors who provided us invaluable feedback that aided in the development of this show:

Christopher O’Keeffe, Co-Founder of Podcation

Kristy Bennet, Manager – MIT Women’s League

Jennifer Cherone, Phd Candidate – MIT Burge Laboratory

Erik Tillman, Phd, Formerly of the Kim Lab & Currently A Fellow at Vida Ventures, LLC

The Great Communicators Podcast is a part of Gradcommx. Gradcommx, targeted at enhancing research communication, is the first offering of Gradx – a professional development project created for the graduate student population at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology by the Office For Graduate Education.


“All The Best Fakers” by Nick Jaina is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License (http://freemusicarchive.org)

“Plant Food” by Nic Bommarito is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike License (http://freemusicarchive.org)

“Deliberate Thought” Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) is Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/



Welcome to The Great Communicators Podcast presented by The MIT Office of Graduate Education, a professional development podcast expressly designed to bring lessons from the field to our graduate student researchers.

My name is Adam Greenfield and in this special episode, we’re going to get a different perspective on the things we’ve heard so far.

We asked a few MIT grad students to listen to the interviews we conducted with these great speakers, then provide feedback on what they heard.

In this episode……


My name is Jennifer Cherone and I’m a grad student here at MIT in the department of biology. More particularly I study post-transcriptional gene regulation and how microRNAs act in neurons.


Jennifer is in the 5th year of her PhD program at MIT but so far hasn’t spoken in front of too many audiences.


I haven’t given any conference talks, you know. I’ve given posters, you know, where you’re talking to people in your field and then it’s much easier to communicate, I think.


So with varied and limited experiences in public speaking, Jennifer’s obstacles are along the path of just knowing the audience and what their level of understanding of the topic at hand is.


I think for me the issues come when you’re trying to communicate with somebody where you don’t really know what their background is in that field. So, you know, you have to kind of assess, you know, how much do they know and also try to gauge what is their real interest level in what I’m trying to tell them.

Because it can be really hard I think in any scientific field but, you know, in biology we have a very specific set of words that we use just to describe even what are the basic things to us.

You know, it’s just a lot of jargon and so to get into that, to really be able to describe the detailed, sort of, field that you’re studying, it takes a lot of- it can take a lot of backpedaling and so trying to size someone up and figure out, okay, how much- you know, how in depth should I go and how much do I have to sort of explain in order to just- to even get there.


Alright, so we asked Jennifer to take a listen to a few guests on how language and communication interact with each other and let us know what she thinks.


I thought it was really cool.


Ok, for disclaimer purposes, Jennifer was not directed to say that. We really just asked for feedback. But we’ll take compliments, too.

Now the feedback part.


I like thinking about things that are usually unconscious and breaking them down and thinking,

“Oh, how I do this actually does have an impact and let me actually think about- try to take a step back and think about how am I communicating, what is that permitting- uh, giving to other people, what kind of impressions and are there ways that I should think about this to change the way that I’m perceived.”

So I think this topic is an interesting one and I’ve listened to other podcasts before that kind of break down elements of language, like vocal fry and upspeak, and so this whole area of language and how it affects how people perceive you, I think, is really interesting to actually give thought to rather than having it just be this automatic thing that you do.


Jennifer also pointed out this dance between the speaker and the audience doesn’t necessarily always need words to be effective, something Tony Eng pointed out early on.


Yeah, I think one of the first things that they talked about language that’s not just spoken language, that being such as in a presentation, I thought was fairly interesting.


In terms of a presentation, I always think of it as a two way conversation even though i’m doing most of the talking and the medium that i’m using, i’m using words, right?


That you’re speaking and you’re giving this presentation but at the same time the audience is speaking back to you and that’s actually very important for how you continue to give this presentation, even though you’re the only one speaking.

It’s really, in a way, a two way conversation and I think I hadn’t really thought about that before, and how important it is to perceive your audience when you’re giving a presentation. It’s interesting to think about.


Fortunately, the important points David Peterson and Ted Gibson talked about didn’t go unnoticed, too.


I think there were two other things that I took away. The first one being the “will and testament,” which at first I thought, “What’s will and testament?”


Back in the days of Norman French, you needed to use both so that everybody would understand what you were talking about, even though they meant the same thing.


But then when he explained it I thought it was kind of a nice little play on words, that’s it’s the English word followed by the French word, and when you introduce a new word, or it could also apply to a new concept to sort of directly after say it in another way, a simpler way that your audience could understand, and using that just sort of the first couple times that you introduce a new word, whether it’s a piece of jargon or something that maybe your audience isn’t familiar with, I think is a really good technique to think about. And useful in science, especially.

Another thing that I thought was interesting was the reading your audience, which is maybe something that I thought about before, how you try to size up who you’re talking to and figure out- um, adjust your language for that person.


Depending on what the common ground is enough, I understand what our common ground is, then I will describe things at a very different level, depending on what I think my audience knows.


It’s interesting thinking about how you’ll speak differently to different people based on what their background knowledge is.


Thanks for listening to The Great Communicators Podcast brought to you by The MIT Office of Graduate Education. My name is Adam Greenfield, and feel free to talk amongst yourselves.