CCS Designs Summer Experiences for Undergraduate Researchers

Several seated students are engaged in animated conversation.
Virginia Tech undergraduate students spent time getting to know undergrads visiting from Germany, explained their research, and gave the visitors lab tours.

Center for Communicating Science faculty offered a 10-week set of weekly communicating science workshops this summer to 28 undergraduate students engaged in summer research.

The summer program, funded by a grant from the Office of Undergraduate Research, used improvisation exercises, discussion, reflection, and writing to help participants learn to communicate about their research more effectively. Giving lab tours and explaining their summer projects to Fulbright Fellows visiting from Germany and assessing and evaluating poster presentations at the end-of-summer research symposium were two of the experiential learning components built into the summer curriculum.

Five instructors were involved in the program: Patricia Raun, director of the Center for Communicating Science; Carolyn J. Kroehler, associate director of the center; Daniel Bird Tobin, faculty fellow with the center; and two graduate students, Ruoding Shi and Bennett Grooms, who each helped with one session. Kroehler, Raun, and Tobin developed the 10-week program.

Program participants included 18 Summer Undergraduate Research Fellows (SURF, a Fralin Life Sciences Institute program), 4 computational biology students, 2 students from Hollins University, and 4 Office of Undergraduate Research peer mentors, summer employees who provided support to all the undergraduate student researchers who were on campus for the summer.

Kroehler also facilitated one-time communicating science workshops for summer undergraduate researchers in the National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program in Interdisciplinary Water Science and Engineering and for the Translational Obesity Undergraduate Research (TOUR) Summer Scholars program.

SURFer Taylan Tunckanat, who studied methane-producing microorganisms with Kylie Allen in the biochemistry department, talked about his participation in the program in a VT News interview. Tunckanat, now a sophomore, enjoyed both his full-time research work and his communicating science workshops.

Faculty interested in incorporating communicating science workshops and training opportunities into their NSF REU proposals or other summer funding may contact Raun ( or Kroehler (


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