New Communicating Science Club, Other Events and Activities Made for an Exciting Autumn

This photo shows two lines of people with a red string running down the middle of the parallel rows. A male performer is interacting with the string.
Daniel Bird Tobin performed in his piece “Laser” at the Cube. Photo credit: Lauren Holt

Happy New Year! Fall semester was a whirlwind, with lots of Center for Communicating Science events, workshops, and projects on campus and beyond.

Congratulations to graduate students and Communicating Science “graduates” Stephanie Edwards Compton and Susan Chen, who have founded Virginia Tech’s first Communicating Science Club! They’ve been working on this idea for several months and got final approval for a student club in November. Their first big event is ComSciCon-VA Tech 2020. Organizing and hosting this conference fits perfectly with the club’s mission of providing students opportunities for professional development, including networking with guest speakers and connecting across Virginia Tech departments, to improve their science communication skills and make them good science advocates to the public. The club’s first fundraiser is January 27: all you have to do is eat at the Chipotle on N. Main Street in Blacksburg and tell the cashier you’re supporting the cause! Contact Susan Chen ( to be added to the club listserv.

Congratulations also to geosciences PhD student Lisa Whalen, who received a National Association of Geoscience Teachers Outstanding TA Award last fall. This award honors undergraduate and graduate students who have demonstrated excellence as Teaching Assistants. Whalen also founded and ran for several years the seminar series Research a la Mode, which provides opportunities for graduate students to speak about their research to people outside their disciplines. Thanks for your commitment to that project, Lisa!

And many thanks to other Communicating Science (GRAD 5144) students who engaged in communicating science work in a variety of ways during fall semester:

  • Kregg Quarles facilitated a communicating science/public speaking workshop at the regional meeting of Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Related Sciences (MANRRS) November 2
  • Ruoding Shi served as our Science on Tap speaker November 4, sharing her research on respiratory health in coal-mining counties in southwestern Virginia
  • Elaine Barr initiated and organized, with Brandon Semel as collaborator, the visit of Sarah McAnulty (the founder of Skype a Scientist) to campus November 15-16
  • 13 GRAD 5144 students engaged some 90 6th and 7th grade students at Eastern Elementary/Middle School in Giles County with activities and talks related to their graduate research November 6
  • 19 GRAD 5144 student gave short research talks to a public audience at the Warm Hearth Retirement Community November 12
  • 10 of our 26 November 16 Nutshell Games competitors were current GRAD 5144 students or graduates of the course

Fall semester also included other Center for Communicating Science activities:

Center faculty fellows performed several “Animating and Embodying Science” collaborative arts/science pieces at the Cube as a pre-event to the September 17 National Geographic Live performance at the Moss Arts Center.

This photo shows the backs of about a dozen people who are standing on a stage and looking out at the house.
The workshop for Nutshell Games and Science Festival participants was just one of many facilitated by Center faculty fall semester.

Center faculty also facilitated a number of workshops during the fall. Host groups included the engineering education department, the biochemistry graduate student association, the public and corporate veterinary medicine track of the Virginia/Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, a special studies graduate seminar course on interdisciplinary pedagogy, the Institute for Policy and Governance, an interdisciplinary graduate education program, 5th year architecture students, Nutshell Games and Science Festival participants, the Preparing the Future Professoriate course, the Organization of Fish and Wildlife Information Managers, and the Nature Conservancy.

In addition, the center hosted Sara Peach, senior editor of Yale Climate Connections, and Sarah McAnulty, the founder of Skype a Scientist, for campus talks and workshops; provided science visitors for Girls Launch!, a kindergarten science program; hosted the fourth annual Nutshell Games, which was attended by more than 300 people; and continued working on across-campus collaborative projects.


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