Fruitful Collaborations Extend Center’s Work to Many

Spring semester 2018 has been full! With help from many collaborators, we have extended the work of the Center for Communicating Science (CCS) to faculty, staff, and graduate and undergraduate students on campus here and in Roanoke; to members of the general public through our Science on Tap series and graduate student outreach; to young researchers at the Mid-Atlantic Mitosis Meetings in Maryland; to conference participants at Science Talk ’18 in Portland, Oregon; and to researchers and policy makers at an environmental toxicology conference in Memphis, Tennessee.

Our Wednesday Workshops series allowed center faculty fellows and others to share knowledge and experience from the worlds of the visual arts, data analysis, media interviews, social media, press releases, acting, children’s books, Twitter, and more to 150+ workshop participants and expanded, by invitation, to the university’s Roanoke campus. A total of 14 workshops in this series reached undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, and staff. Center for Communicating Science undergraduate student interns Luci Finucan helped with organization and Nicole Elbin with writing accounts of these workshops.

Center director Patty Raun and associate director Carrie Kroehler, with help from graduate student Ellen Garcia, responded to requests for another dozen workshops from all over campus and beyond, helping graduate students in many programs, scholars visiting from China, undergraduate students from science and engineering living/learning communities and from food science, young professionals, and many others develop their communication skills. New center faculty fellow Daniel Bird Tobin conducted a half-day workshop for the Society of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry in Memphis on behalf of the center in May.

Virginia Tech post-doctoral fellow Todd Nicewonger presented his ethnographic study on our graduate course Communicating Science (GRAD  5144) at Science Talk ’18, the 2018 annual science communication conference in Portland, Oregon, March 1-2, and led a workshop using improv exercises from the course at Social Innovation, Social Justice: Rethinking Design Anthropology, a symposium at the University of Cincinnati March 29-30. We look forward to continuing our work with Todd as we work toward publishing this research.

Post-MFA Fellows Daniel Bird Tobin and Nicole Dietze, with center director Patty Raun, taught one section in the fall and four sections in the spring of the undergraduate course Introduction to Applied Collaborative Techniques (TA 2404), developed by Raun and aimed at providing undergraduate students with the tools they need for effective and productive collaboration with others.

Allison Hutchison, instructor in the English department, Cassandra Hockman, faculty fellow for the Center for Communicating Science, Chris Valluzzo, multi-media director and producer with TLOS (Technology-enhanced Learning and Online Strategies), and CCS staff members worked together to provide undergraduate students opportunities to conduct interviews of researchers–and for graduate student researchers to be interviewed.

The CCS-sponsored February visit to campus by science comedian and communicator Brian Malow attracted nearly 600 people to his comedy performance, 175 to the panel discussion on “The Role of the University in an Era of Science Skepticism and ‘Fake News'” moderated by Malow, and another 100 to his talk at the vet school on communicating science. Virginia Tech representatives Audra Van Wart, Sally Morton, and Sylvester Johnson, along with news anchor Robin Reed, served as panelists.

Science on Tap-New River Valley, initiated by American Scientist digital editor Katie Burke in collaboration with the center, brought research on bees, contaminated water, and driving while black to audiences at the River Mill Bar and Grill and Rising Silo Brewery.  Mark your calendars for the summer Science on Tap events: “Beyond Blaming the Dog: The Science of Animal Farts” on May 24, “Ghost Streams” on June 28, and “Science and Spirits during the 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic” on July 26, all 5:30 p.m. at Rising Silo Brewery.

Graduate students  visited kindergarten classrooms in Giles County to share their research as part of our Girls Launch! Project, in collaboration with graduate student Caitlin Colleary and psychology faculty member Vanessa Diaz. Started in November, Girls Launch! has provided monthly visits by women graduate students to three kindergarten classrooms.

After last year’s fun and successful program, the German/American Fulbright Commission selected Virginia Tech to host another 24 German undergraduate students for a communicating science program this summer (“Communicating Science: Communication, Collaboration, and Connection across Differences and Disciplines”), and planning with Cranwell International Center, the Language and Culture Institute, the Office of Undergraduate Research, and the Global Education Office is underway.

Through their work in GRAD 5144, Communicating Science, Virginia Tech graduate students this semester have talked about their research with 90 middle school children, 55 kindergarten children, 60 undergrads in a Leadership in Science course, and elders living in the Warm Hearth retirement community.

Many thanks to our advisory board, steering committee, graduate students, Science on Tap speakers,  faculty fellows, student interns, graduate representatives, guest speakers, researchers, panelists, and others for all their participation and collaboration this semester!

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