Science Communication: A Semester in Review

Upon entering Dr. Chu's science communication class, I was full of mixed feelings. For starters, I did not have a good grasp as to what science communication was. I had always thought that SciComm was just when anybody would talk about science or science-related matters, however, once the class got rolling I realized there was much more to it than just that.

We started off by reading from a selection of books. The book I chose to read was titled, Made to Stick by Dan and Chip Heath. You can find an honest review in future blog posts. The main idea that I received from this book was there were numerous things that an individual could do to make their ideas "stick" with their respective audience. Although I feel that this book was more focused on the marketing or business sectors, I still was able to find aspects of the book which would be useful when trying to communicate my own science. For instance, the authors suggested that in order for your ideas to better stick with somebody, it would be wise to have a compelling and attention-grabbing opening. This would help reel in the audience and have them become and remain more interested in the topic you are discussing. I found this useful because many time science writing may seem dull and not very interesting, especially to somebody who is not in the sciences. Adding an attention-grabbing detail to the beginning of your writing that addresses a problem gives the reader context to the solution you are presenting from your data. This tip helped me with the next portion of the class specifically.

A few weeks into the semester, we were assigned to make a 3-minute video telling what the basis of our research is. They were titled "3 Minute Thesis" (you can find the links to this year's 3MT on the top of the webpage). During this video, all of us spoke about the research that we are currently doing. The tips that I received from Made to Stick helped me complete this task. My research currently looks at developmental delays from damaged tissues in the tobacco hornworm, Manduca sexta. It had always been a challenge to try and get people excited about the research I was doing let alone why they should care about the development of a caterpillar. Now I was able to relate it back to stories about how human diseases such as cystic fibrosis and irritable bowel syndrome, can be studied by me performing the research that is currently being undertaken in my lab.

The final assignment was our Engagement Project. We as a class hosted a SciComm Showcase this last December where we presented all of our semester-long engagement projects. The engagement project was designed to be fun and informative while presenting things about science. The projects varied from an informative video about SDS-PAGE to ways to be more ecologically sustainable. The main goal was to engage our audiences and get them excited about the world of science. The project that I did focused on the stories of scientists at SFSU and the reasons why they chose to be involved in science. It opened my eyes to the different reasons an individual would want a career in science. The answers I received ranged from a life event that led them on this trajectory to a simple exposure to science at a young age that created a lifelong interest. The main points to I learned from these is that all of our paths may be different, but in the end, we are all in this commonplace. It was eye-opening to hear the stories of the people I interviewed, making the experiences I gained even more valuable.

Sprinkled throughout these assignments were guest speakers, who lent their view on what proper science communication was. Their viewpoints and tips helped shape the way that the class functioned and spurred ideas for our engagement projects. Their advice was invaluable and will be used by me specifically in the future. Overall this class opened my eyes to a vast array of subjects, as my peers in the class came from different fields of science. Now I can say I do understand what science communication is and look forward to using what I learned in my future endeavors.