Day 179. Foot in the door

In february 2013 on February 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm


Don’t panic, but I’m about to present some hardcore science.

It’s the title of my PhD. Ready? Here it goes:

Myeloid antigen presenting cells populations in the murine uterus.

If you’re struggling to make sense of it, you’re not alone. Indeed, the language is pretty close to meaningless for anyone other than myself, my supervisor and the other students working with me at the time.

How about if I wrote it this way:

As far as things growing in her uterus goes, how does a female work out what is dangerous – like germs, or cancer – and what is safe, like a baby? 

Hopefully that makes much more sense.

Now that you get the general idea of what my research involved, you could ask me more questions if you were interested in more details. This is called the ‘foot in the door’ technique, as explained in more detail by Melanie Tannenbaum in her blog post for the Persuading the Unpersuadable session at the recent Science Online conference.

It basically boils down to this: if you want to explain complicated stuff, don’t scare your audience off with the full force of the matter in the first mouthful. Use everyday language and phrases, and then work up to more detail if people ask for it.

This morning I asked scientists on twitter to share the subjects of their PhDs too: a description of their work using every day terms, and then the formal scientific name of the project.  Here’s what they came up with:


Foot in the door: Cholesterol is important for HIV because it helps the virus tell the cells to prepare for infection

Actual title: The Role of cellular Lipids in HIV-1 replication


Foot-in-the-door: We are looking at how antioxidants & free radicals are involved in involuntary weight loss in cancer patients, and how fish oil and enzyme inhibitors may be able to overcome these processes, and improve quality of life for cancer patients.

Actual title: The role of xanthine oxidoreductase & antioxidants in skeletal muscle degeneration in cancer-induced cachexia


Foot in the door: Using emerging human genome project data, I mapped the breakpoints of chromosome translocations in leukemia patients; identifying the genes at the breakpoints gives insights into molecular mechanisms of leukemia.

Actual title: Molecular characterisation of translocations involving chromosome band 1p36 in acute myeloid leukemia.


Foot in the door: Discovering molecular mechanisms of key proteins controlling breast cancer spread provides better understanding of the molecular basis of the disease, and forms the basis for better prognostics and drug development.

Actual title: Structure-Fubction Relationships in Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor Type 2 (PAI-2)

[image thanks to marcusrg on flickr]

  1. Hows this one:

    How the basic human cellular machinery that uses vitamin B7 hasn’t really changed that much in 2 billion years of evolution.


    Characterisation of human holocarboxylase synthetase.

  2. […] Blog post by Sarah Keenihan: […]

  3. […] have written responses to the session on ‘persuading the unpersuadable’ (Sarah’s here, Kristin’s here). Which is convenient really, because the one that has been going through my […]

  4. I received some more entries via twitter:

    from @heatherbray6
    Foot in the door: why do sick pigs grow slower than healthy pigs?
    Actual title: Physiological response of growing pigs to pleuropneumonia

    from @steph_bourke
    Foot in the door: I shoot meat with lasers
    Actual title: the development and validation of a probe to measure meat quality

    from @kristinalford
    Foot in the door: Attack of the plant eating rusty sand (thanks to @derekkjw) or Don’t worry about it, just stir it every 12 hours
    Actual title: An investigation of ferrosilicon corrosion in dense medium plants

    from @ChameleonsTongu
    Foot in the door: How proteins work together in groups to make switches to turn genes on and off. To understand cancer & development.
    Actual title: Characterisation of LIM domain binding proteins

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