Center Faculty Fellows Enrich Campus Science Communication

Center faculty fellow Daniel Bird Tobin (gray jacket) led a communicating science workshop for public health students and alumni.

Center for Communicating Science faculty fellow Daniel Bird Tobin provided the keynote presentation for the Transdisciplinary Communities Research Symposium held April 2 onstage in the Fife Theatre at the Moss Arts Center. Hosted by the Vice Provost Office for Learning Systems Innovation and Effectiveness and Institute-Destination Areas Seed Grant Fund, the symposium included a poster session, remarks from Don Taylor and Ellington Graves, and Tobin’s keynote.

After his introduction about collaborations between artists and scientists and the possibilities for communicating research and thinking about science in new and creative ways, Tobin performed a piece about lasers and molecular motion that he had created at Arizona State University as part of a collaboration among a dozen artists and ten scientists. He also performed a piece created in collaboration with Coastal@VT and first performed at the Advancing the Human Condition Symposium on campus last fall, in which potential effects of climate change are communicated as the audience is guided to imagine standing waist deep in water on the Drillfield.

Tobin also facilitated a communicating science workshop for Virginia Tech’s Master of Public Health Alumni Weekend. His April 12 workshop engaged returning alumni and current students in a set of improvisation exercises.  Virginia Tech Public Health (@publichealthVT ) tweeted “Thank you to Daniel from @VT_ACT for facilitating an engaging workshop with our alumni and students! Participants have already noted how they learned important listening and communication skills that are vital to being an effective public health professional.”

Cassandra Hockman, who served as a faculty fellow for the center last year, was onstage at Haymarket Theater March 1 as one of the “tellers” for a Story Collider event titled “Public- Inspired Science.” Hockman shared her “game changing” experiences knocking on people’s doors in Flint, Michigan, to talk to them about the possibility of lead in their drinking water. Originally in Flint with a Virginia Tech research team to help others blog about their experiences, Hockman ended up pitching in and asking citizens for water samples to test. Her Story Collider piece connected those experiences to her decision to transition from Communications Director at the Fralin Life Science Institute to English department PhD student, where she is studying the importance of story in communicating science. Other graduate students who told stories that night include Chivonne Battle, Janie Jones, Rebecca Kriss, Kathryn Lopez,  Hannah Patton, and Jeannie Marie Purchase.

Hockman is again helping us with our collaboration with the Science Writing course in the English department. Undergraduate students enrolled in Science Writing are interviewing and writing feature stories about graduate researchers. The stories that resulted from last year’s collaboration are available on our website, where we’ll also post this year’s features once they’ve been written.

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