Take Note and Take Part: The Graduate Speaker Series

Hamza Taufique

Hamza Taufique (PhD candidate, Molecular Genetics) organizes the Graduate Speaker Series at Grad Room

Are you looking for a new perspective on your own research? Do you want an informal forum in which to sound out some developing ideas?

The Graduate Speaker Series is the place to start. The monthly event at Grad Room is the brainchild of Hamza Taufique, PhD candidate in Molecular Genetics, who pitched the idea to SGS Graduate Programming Coordinator Liam O’Leary last fall. The series kicked off with an evening devoted to the theme “Concussions—Biology and Policymaking.” Since then, it has ventured widely across disciplines, tackling issues through the lenses of sociology and molecular genetics, biochemistry and exercise science, anthropology and education.

On June 28, Canada’s past is in the spotlight when Julia Rady-Shaw and Dale Barbour, PhD candidates in History, present talks in honour of the Sesquicentennial.

Hamza sees interdisciplinarity as the strength of the series. “Many times as graduate students, we don’t know what is going on in other departments,” he points out. “The series is an avenue for collaboration. It brings people together, and can encourage grad students to see their own research topic from an entirely different angle.” Hamza cites the example of a student from the Faculty of Law whose research was in the area of ethics and IP law related to regenerative medicine. He attended a November 2016 talk, looking for avenues to better understand the science of regenerative medicine and stem cells. “The student was able to connect with the speaker from the Faculty of Medicine who was working on regenerative medicine from a biomedical perspective. It was great to see an interdisciplinary collaboration emerge during the event, and both students were able to learn from their respective expertise.” Hamza actively encourages speakers to engage with audience members during their presentations, sparking discussions that may continue beyond the event.

How can you get involved? Attend a session. Contact Hamza (hamza.taufique@mail.utoronto.ca) with suggestions for an upcoming talk. Present an idea you’ve been thinking about, regardless of what stage it is in—and, in the process, get some valuable feedback while practising your skills communicating to non-specialized audiences.

“This series can help create a real sense of community,” Hamza says, adding that sharing ideas in an informal setting is often the best way to encourage new ways of thinking about—and around—a topic.

Hamza is now looking out for speakers to take up the challenge of “Human Geography,” the topic for July. Volunteers welcome!

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