Center for Communicating Science at Virginia Tech Opens!

Graduate students gave 90-second research talks in the first annual Nutshell Games, NPR’s Joe Palca shared his experiences as a science correspondent, and Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, Dean of the Graduate School Karen DePauw, and Director of ISCE Karen Roberto each offered their own 90 seconds of wisdom at our center opening events March 2, 2017.

Nearly 60 graduate students responded to the campus-wide call for participants in the Nutshell Games, the first 28 of whom prepared and presented  90-second talks about their research to an audience of more than 100 people gathered at the Graduate Life Center.

By the time Joe Palca spoke, a crowd of about 250 was on hand to hear him congratulate the graduate student speakers for their courage. As he put it the next morning when he spoke on our local NPR station, “That was amazing bravery. . .some of them were just absolutely fantastic!”

Palca and assistant producer Madeline Sofia met with graduate students earlier in the day, speaking at two seminars about the importance of sharing research with the general public and telling engaging stories about science. Palca and Sofia are working to build a network of science communication across the country.

Listening, Palca emphasized, is a critical part of communication that scientists may not think about when they imagine communicating their research.

“Don’t lecture them,” he said. “Don’t tell them what they ought to think. Find out what they are interested in.”

The Nutshell Games, judged by Palca and Sofia along with President Tim Sands, Dr. Laura Sands, Dr. Karen Roberto, Dr. Karen DePauw, and Dr. Katie Burke, digital editor at American Scientist, resulted in a three-way tie for first place, each speaker receiving $500.

Caitlin Colleary, geosciences, told the story of her biomolecular paleontological research with a talk titled “Why is There an Alligator in my Freezer?”

Anza Mitchell, science education, related her studies on how school kids engage with engineering in her Nutshell talk “That’s Engineering?!”

Max Ragozzino, entomology, used images from the film Alien to describe his work in his talk, “Emerald Ash Borer, and How We’re Stopping it with the Chestbuster from Alien.”

President Sands told the Nutshell Games speakers and the rest of the audience about  having been required earlier in his career to write summaries of his research that would make sense to non-scientists. That skill has served him well, he said, and is even more essential today.

“There’s never been a time in my lifetime when communicating science concisely, efficiently, and in an engaging way has been more important,” he said.

Other events associated with the opening of the center included a two-part communicating science workshop for the Virginia chapter of the Wildlife Society the week before, a workshop for Virginia Tech faculty who are affiliated with the Global Change Center, and a workshop for graduate students to help them prepare for the Nutshell Games.

You can see the winning Nutshell Talks here.

(article, much of which appeared first on the center’s website, written by Carrie Kroehler)

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