Archive for February, 2015

Valued Here

We were asked to reflect on the things that we value.  I value integrity, love, and family.  To that end I seek to challenge myself and have fun doing so.

Integrity sounds cheesy.  I value integrity because it brings honor and value to the work that I do, the education I seek, and to the family that supports me.  Love nourishes.  When someone loves me as a person that seeks challenge because of curiosity, I know that they are in large part, identifying with me and my values.  This love is enduring, supporting, and is what I value.  I find this love in my family, and when I start my own, I will do everything that I can to bring and share that love with my new family.  I have to challenge myself to learn more, to discover, and to satisfy my curiosity.  This whole process can be fun.  When it is not fun, I have to engage myself in other ways to even things out.  I miss working with my hands like when I was a mechanic, so I occupy myself with crafting hobbies.  Desk and lab work can break me down physically so I look to sports to involve my body enough to allow my brain to focus on my other pursuits.  Although it has always been largely elusive, I value balance, and I strive to keep these other values in a healthy balance that helps me to be myself.

It’s All About Me (2/17/15)

Or so it seemed!  We had to do some more difficult exercises today.  We grouped up and spent three minutes talking only about ourselves, starting each sentence with “I am”.  Not like the cute middle school poems, but more like looking into the mirror with someone standing behind you as you vocalize what you see.  While it was difficult to think of me me me, it was harder to watch the others struggle.  I was listening  and I wanted to engage them about what they were saying but the exercise was supposed to be one sided.  One thing I was able to do was relate something about me to the similarities that I heard from my group members.  We talked about filters afterwards, not the kind that keep you from cussing out loud, but more filtering things out for simplicity sake.

We talked more about jargon in communication.  I brought in an abstract from the fellowship application that I just submitted.  The application directions stated that abstract should be approachable for scientifically literate lay people.  I tried to avoid jargon and if I had to use it, I explained it in the text.  My partner had some difficulty reading it but some of that may have been because english is not their native tongue.

Soapbox of Jargon:  I don’t know, I get a little annoyed when the burden of poorly executed science education is shifted to the scientists only.  I understand eliminating words that can be misguiding, complicating, or coarse, but at some point we have to write to an appropriate audience.  I don’t think that my dissertation should be on a level that everyone that is literate should get it (not that I would ever intend to hide any of it from anyone).  I do think that, given the occasion, I should be capable of discussing my dissertation research with anyone that is interested.  The difference is that the dissertation is a treatise from one scientist to another, written in an effort to allow sufficient testing of the phenomena observed within.  I think my disappointment in the accessibility argument stems from the blatant abuse and “Spin” that we see in public media and idiotically self-exposed, social media.  Its when the rigors of science that are worded to be adversarial in nature, and conservative in their claims, are used to the detriment of scientific literacy.  While this is likely not an issue for authors trying to eliminate jargon, it does seem like simplification for communication’s sake can oversimplify to the point that anyone can pass judgement on the result.  This rings all too true when political leaders try to impart their will on the methods of science in an effort to support their own opinion.  Instead of just complaining I will offer a glimpse of an alternative.  We, (educators, scientists, and members of society), can try to promote more critical consumption of media and science.  Identifying a news source with its underlying political bias is not enough.  We have to do something more.  If we start early, when we first teach children about news, history, and literature.  It’s just an idea, but looking at who runs this place, it seems like it is needed.

Hello Hal (2/10/15)

I’m starting this back up for my new “Communicating Science” class.  I had a preview of it last year in Dean DePauw’s class.    It’s not as scary as the Space Odyssey computer but it can get a little intimidating.  I know my science, and I can usually get a point across to a captive audience.  The challenge for me is doing so without having to double back.  Many of the talks I give are in small settings on farms.  I am not the main attraction so I usually get thrown in after all of the extension specialists give their talks.  I have cool stories about the work I do and how it can affect the work that they do, but it can be a real challenge to keep their attention.  I think that one of the goals I have here is to figure out how I can get the “VA___ Society” to pay attention long enough to think about what we are doing with my research.  Of course talking to them after a long-winded extension specialist, and having to give a pesticide update doesn’t really help me out at all.  They might be a little bit of a lost cause but maybe I can get them to read my bug blog as an alternative.

Today I got to get up and give a quick synopsis of what I do.  I went for brief, jargon light, and food specific to try and connect with my audience.  I thought I made decent eye contact but I couldn’t remember afterwards.  I never really dove into the real meat of the research I do, instead I tried to make very clear connections with my area of focus and how it impacts the audience members.  Given the chance again I’m not sure what I would change.  We’ll see when we watch it at the end of the semester.

Listening to others give their talks was interesting.  Every time I heard something familiar my brain cranked up like we were in a conversation.  There was one presenter who got so heavy into the jargon I could not actually place what they studied!  The class should be good if I can keep my energy up.  Next week.