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I started a new job a month ago, the first one after my PhD employment. Recently, a conference organizer invited an established researcher from our group to give a talk at their conference. The researcher was not available at that date, but suggested that I hold the talk, which the organizer accepted.

Now I am required to submit a "speaker biography", which I assume will be printed in the conference programme. There are parallel sessions, so I expect the speakers' biographies will have an impact on people deciding which track to attend.

The problem is that I have very done little in my career to interest the conference goers, whose background is in a completely different field than mine. None of my previously published research is of much relevance for this conference. The content I will present interests them, but it is the work my colleagues did before I joined the group.

So I see a few options:

  1. Leave the biography at 50 words stating name, institution and current project. It will probably appear very short in comparison to the other speakers' (upper limit is 250 words).
  2. Add previous work, even though it is neither relevant nor impressive (the PhD is not yet finished).
  3. Write a bit more about the current project, which is relevant for them, but not exactly biographical. And also awkward to phrase without giving the impression that I am responsible for the work that has been done so far.

Due to a tight printing deadline and it being vacation season, I cannot get advice from the conference organizers about what they would prefer. I also don't have access to earlier years' speakers biographies, or to any other material from earlier years of this conference (abstracts, programmes, proceedings, etc).

What would be a good strategy for writing the biography in my case?

  • 1
    Have you looked at speaker bios from previous conferences? – Kimball Aug 5 '16 at 13:49
  • @Kimball I don't have access to speaker bios from this conference. Random bios from other conferences list the speakers by boasting about their impressive job titles ("director of research center for X"), current responsibilities ("manages the EU initiative for Y"), or awards. I have none of these. They also mention current research interests. I have not yet found a research interest in my new field, and I am currently filling a mundane role which gets an important job done but is unknown to scientists and is outside of the academic pecking order. – rumtscho Aug 5 '16 at 13:53
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Don't overthink it. It's true that people will be attracted towards some talks because they are given by a "big name", but it's also true that people will also base their choices on the content, regardless of the speaker. The majority of attendees, if they see a talk on a topic that is of interest to them, will not turn it down just because the speaker has an unimpressive bio. In fact, I suspect many people don't read the bios at all, certainly not all 250 words!

I would recommend a cross between 2 and 3. Give a brief mention of your previous work, because it's a part of your background, and if nothing else, people like to know about the different career paths that others have taken. Then perhaps describe why you moved to your current role/area (avoiding phrases like "filling a mundane role"...), with an emphasis on what you find interesting about it and any ways that it links with your previous experience. That should allow you to talk a bit about the project while still keeping it relevant to you personally. You can keep it fairly brief though - don't feel like you have to use up all 250 words just for the sake of it.

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I understand your dilemma but it will not be the last one (sorry to be blunt :-)).

You have been proposed (not for marriage) by an established researcher. He did not give your name out of nowhere, so there must be a reason why he trusts you. The very first thing you should do is to trust yourself.

The length of your resume is not important. You are a young researcher and everyone will be OK with that. Now, did that researcher wants you to be just yourself or to represent your whole lab? I suspect that it will be the second choice so you would be the spokesperson for your lab and, then, you should speak about your lab and not about yourself. Of course that means you should know everything your lab did.

I know you have been in your lab for only 1 month. It is uncomfortable to say the least but be sure that your fellow researchers, i.e. the attendees, will not try to take you down.

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