Has a nonscientist ever asked you what you do? Did your response sound like a string of incomprehensible words? Or maybe it was absurdly simple. Upon hearing that question for the first time as a graduate student, I felt wide-eyed and tongue-tied, with words like mosaic analysis with a repressible cell marker coursing through my mind. I think I managed to mumble something about dissecting brains out of bugs.
Communicating the importance of your work is a valuable skill; yet, formal training in science communication is not at the forefront of many curricula. We are taught how to follow the scientific method, keep a lab notebook, read a western blot, or write computer code. Hours of coursework drill the details of our disciplines into memory, and we become very good at discussing our work with others in our respective fields. But I would argue that an equally important quality is to be able to review research with nonspecialty scientists, journalists, policy makers, the general public, and even Grandma.
The key is to think about your target audience. For example, a grant reviewer has a different lexicon than a patient. What may be a straightforward sentence to one person might sound like complete gibberish to another. As an NICHD fellow, you have several opportunities to practice science communication (volunteering for this newsletter being one of them!). An excellent resource for NICHD fellows is the NICHD Public Communications Branch (PCB). See, too, the upcoming public speaking workshop offered through our Office of Education!
For those fellows who are unfamiliar with the PCB, Dr. Anthony Hickey offers his interview with PCB Director Paul Williams. Check out their transcribed conversation to learn about the purpose of the PCB and how the branch can help fellows. Continue reading for several intriguing research summaries written by this year’s poster award-winning postbacs.
On a final note, I would like to personally congratulate Kathryn Tabor, graduate student in the Burgess lab, for her exciting first place win at the second annual Three-minute-Talk (TmT) competition. A three-minute talk is the epitome of succinct science communication!
Your Editor in Chief,
Shana R. Spindler, PhD
We always welcome new volunteer writers! Please send inquiries to Shana.Spindler@gmail.com.