Center Workshops and Events Build Skills on Campus and Elsewhere

This photo shows an arc of people stand shoulder to shoulder, on a shiny hardwood floor, most looking down at their feet.
Graduate students and others line up by shoe color at the ComSciCon-VATech “Connecting Across Difference” workshop March 7. Photo credit: Alexandra Freeze

Spring was another busy semester for the Center for Communicating Science (CCS). We

  • launched our Improvisation Laboratory, hosting three events during the semester;
  • partnered with graduate students to host Virginia Tech’s first-ever ComSciCon;
  • organized monthly science visits by women researchers to three kindergarten classrooms at Eastern Elementary School in Giles County;
  • accompanied our GRAD 5144 (Communicating Science) students to Warm Hearth Retirement Community in Blacksburg and to Eastern Middle School in Giles County, where they shared their research;
  • enjoyed our monthly Science on Tap speakers and the growing community associated with that project; and
  • collaborated with the English department’s science writing course for a second year to provide undergraduate students with experience interviewing scientists and graduate students with experience being interviewed. See the resulting research stories on our website!

In addition, we facilitated workshops, by invitation, for hundreds of people both  on campus and at other locations:

Our first workshop of the spring semester was on January 29, “Introduction to Improvisation for Scientists,” for 13 visiting scholars from Shandong University in China. Twenty graduate students from the Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation attended a communicating science workshop January 30 organized by a GRAD 5144 student. On January 31 we provided “Powerful Tools from the Arts: Developing Communication Skills” at the Roanoke Higher Education Center. Part of a monthly “Facts and Snacks” series, the workshop attracted 40 participants from the Roanoke area.

On February 12 CCS director Patty Raun provided the keynote address and engagement, “What’s in a Nutshell? Brief Compelling Interactions with the Public,” for 300 faculty and post-doctoral researchers from around the world attending BioXFEL 2019, a National Science Foundation Science and Technology Center international conference, held this year in San Diego.

In response to a request from the graduate school’s Office of Recruitment, Diversity, and Inclusion, we facilitated a 3-hour workshop February 27 for first generation graduate students.  Explaining one’s research can be a challenge for all researchers, and first generation graduate students may face particular barriers to effective communication.

“Get Out of the Elevator!: Succinct and Compelling Interactions with the Public” was the title for an invited workshop at the Entomological Society of America’s Eastern Branch conference, held this year on campus at Virginia Tech. Raun’s March 12 workshop for young entomologists led to an Entomology Today interview about her family connection to the study of insects and her work helping scientists become more effective communicators: “Why Empathy, Connection, and Confidence Are Critical for Science Communication.”

On April 1 we provided a communicating science workshop for 45 graduate students in the Preparing the Future Professoriate course, and in the weeks leading up to the April 19 Dennis Dean Undergraduate Research and Creative Scholarship Conference we collaborated with the Office of Undergraduate Research to provide six workshops (“Communicating your research to a diverse audience”) for a total of 46 undergraduate students who had applied to do poster presentations at the conference.

A workshop on April 18 for graduate students in the College of Natural Resources and Environment’s “Research Dissemination in Natural Resources” course provided skills and techniques for communicating their research briefly and to non-expert audiences.

The Virginia Tech Public Health program invited us to engage their students and alumni in a communicating science workshop April 12, and the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program in Roanoke hosted a communicating science workshop April 24.

Our workshops can be tailored to specific needs and audiences; our focus is helping participants to develop communication that is personal, direct, spontaneous, and responsive. Our website has a Workshops page that provides more information.

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