When considering what makes a good professional, we often focus solely on job-related knowledge and technical abilities. Nevertheless, skills such as communication, creativity, problem-solving, critical thinking, and teamwork are just as crucial in any profession as so-called hard skills. This is no different for scientists. In an increasingly complex and challenging world, the ability to work collaboratively to address common issues and effectively communicate solutions is fundamental to a successful career.

Recognizing the importance of soft skills for neuroscientists’ career development, IBRO provides financial aid to organize training activities through the Support for Soft Skills Training program. This support is available for organizing activities, either onsite or virtual, on transferable skills, including scientific and grant writing, poster design, oral presentation, and team building. In this interview with a 2023 IBRO Support for Soft Skills Training awardee, Elkhan Yusifov, the co-founder and president of the Azerbaijan Neuroscience Society, tells us about his experience organizing an event sponsored by this program and tells us how the award impacted his career.

Elkhan Yusifov

Could you tell us about your background?

After completing my Bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto, Canada, I relocated to Switzerland for my Master’s studies, with both degrees focusing on neuroscience. Currently, I am completing my PhD studies in Professor Esther Stoeckli’s laboratory at the University of Zurich, Switzerland, where I investigate the role of cilia in neural circuit formation in both health and disease.

What motivated you to apply for the Support for Soft Skills Training program?

I have always admired IBRO’s mission to promote and support neuroscience globally through training, teaching, collaborative research, advocacy, and outreach. I believe that soft skills training is fundamentally important for this mission, as it helps researchers, particularly junior scientists, learn how to communicate their scientific findings effectively to both scientific and lay audiences.

Why did you decide to organize your event?

I believe in the importance of efficient scientific communication among scientists and between scientists and the general public. Such communication can take place in three formats: papers, posters, and presentations. This is why we decided to call it “How to make 3P more efficiently?” and dedicated three days to exploring the depths of effective communication in all three modes.

How was the experience of organizing your event?

The experience of organizing the event was amazing. It was a collaborative effort by the Azerbaijan Neuroscience Society, with significant contributions from Sadig Niftullayev, Artoghrul Alishbayli, Shams Farhad, and Jamil Muradov. While we believe that in-person events are highly effective, we also wanted to include individuals who could not attend in person for any reason. Therefore, the event was hybrid, which allowed us to welcome a wider audience. Our target audience primarily consisted of final-year students and early-career scientists. However, we were very pleased to see participation from established professors and medical professionals as well. In total, the event took approximately six months to organize.

Participants of the “How to make 3P more efficiently?” event. 

How did the Support for Soft Skills Training grant help your event? 

The Support for Soft Skills Training grant was fundamental to the organization of this event. We used the grant to rent to rent the conference room, invite speakers, record the talks (which we plan to post open access on our YouTube channel), build the event webpage, and for marketing purposes.

How was the feedback from participants?

The feedback from participants at the end of the event was overwhelmingly positive. More than 95% of participants gave the event the highest rating. This feedback was very motivating for us, as it demonstrated that we are meeting the needs of our audience effectively and should continue our efforts in future years.

How has organizing your event helped you and your career? Has there been any long-lasting impact on your career development?

Organizing this event has significantly contributed to my career in multiple ways. It has enabled effective communication between the audience and the speakers. As a speaker, it gave me the chance to share valuable knowledge and practical guidance for successful scientific communication. Finally, I had the opportunity to connect with a fantastic group of speakers and attendees, which has been immensely beneficial.

What were your expectations about the event and the grant, and have they been met?

I have always known IBRO to support high-quality events, and I am very pleased to see that their support has allowed us to organize a workshop that has helped many students, scientists, and physicians improve their soft skills.

Join Elkhan Yusifov and apply for an IBRO Support for Soft Skills Training. Applications for the current call are open until 15 June 2024.

If you are an IBRO awardee and would like to share your experience, contact the IBRO Communications team at communications@ibro.org.