Students Attend ComSciCon

On July 21, 2014 by Grad Forum
Pinar Gurel and Alexandra Giese at the ComSciCon.

Pinar Gurel and Alexandra Giese at the ComSciCon.

Dartmouth graduate students, Alexandra Giese (earth sciences) and Pinar Gurel (biochemistry), were two of only 50 attendees selected to attend The Communicating Science Workshop for Graduate Students (ComSciCon) held recently at the Microsoft New England Research and Development (NERD) center near MIT. ComSciCon is organized by PhD students for PhD students. It is a national workshop aimed to stimulate conversations about how to communicate science to various audiences more effectively.

The three-day interactive event included panel discussions, improvisational exercises to improve communication skills, lectures by prominent speakers, networking opportunities, and an outreach event at the MIT Museum. Panelists represented all avenues of science communication, including journalism, policy, and academia. Some of the inspirational panelists included Soren Wheeler, producer of RadioLab, and Professor Donna Nelson, science adviser for Breaking Bad.

During the workshop, each participant gave a “pop talk”: a one-minute explanation of their research intended for a general audience. The rest of the attendees critiqued the talks in real time with “awesome” or “jargon” signs (see picture). Ten volunteers, including Gurel, were put to the test when they had to present their “pop talks” at the MIT Museum’s first ever American Idol-style “American Sci-dol” competition on day three of the workshop. Gurel advanced all the way to the finals!

Giese and Gurel are already eager to apply all that they have learned from ComSciCon at Dartmouth. Both are working on implementing some of their knowledge with Dartmouth’s Science Technology and Engineering Policy Society (STEPS). Giese has initiated collaborations with the Harvard graduate student organization Science in the News (SITN), MIT’s Science Policy Initiative, and the National Science Policy Group. Gurel, along with other attendees, is initiating an online biology-based blog for college students called BiologyBites.

Giese and Gurel agreed that the conference was an eye-opening and inspiring opportunity. To Gurel, one of the most intriguing aspects of the event was the notion that “What we need to do as scientists is not to convince the public to agree with our science but to get the public to admire and appreciate it.” Giese commented: “I have a stronger sense of my responsibility to serve society through science, and I have a deeper understanding of some of the barriers to conveying a scientific message to certain audiences.” (For more from Giese, see the Dartmouth IGERT blog.)

by Pinar Gurel and Alexandra Giese

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