Graduate Students Assist Center, Communicate Their Research, Inspire Others

This photo shows four people dressed in academic regalia posed and smiling at the camera. Behind them can be seen the seating of a football stadium and a blue sky.
Left to right: Korin Jones, Sara Richards, and Brittany Nackley (far right) gave 90-second commencement speeches at the invitation of Karen Depauw (second from right). Photo courtesy of Brittany Nackley.

We are always grateful for and inspired by all the great work that graduate students associated with the Center for Communicating Science have done and continue to do. We want to acknowledge some of them here—and know we will certainly fail to mention some that we should! Please send us news and updates about what you’re doing, and we’ll include it in this newsletter.

First, a huge THANK YOU to Susan Chen and Bennett Grooms, both of whom have served as graduate student representatives on our advisory board for the past couple of years. Both have finished their degrees and graduated. Congratulations!

During their time at Virginia Tech, both Grooms and Chen took the graduate-level communicating science course (GRAD 5144); participated in the Nutshell Games; spoke about their research during Blacksburg’s Sustainability Week Pecha Kucha talks; and served as Science on Tap presenters.

Grooms, who earned his Ph.D. in fish and wildlife conservation, also facilitated communicating science workshops for other students on behalf of the center. His research focuses on aspects of communication as well, including the relationships between outdoor recreation groups and government agencies.

Grooms is currently working on publishing his dissertation manuscripts and actively looking for post-doc or teaching positions focused on conservation, human dimensions, and science communication. “I am highly interested in a science communication career,” he said, “and hope to find a position that allows me further opportunities to teach and work with people about effectively communicating science.”

Chen, who graduated with a Ph.D. in human nutrition, foods, and exercise, is now assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging at San Jose State University. She is already extending what she learned with us by incorporating communicating science and community-building exercises into the two graduate-level seminar classes she is teaching at San Jose this semester.

Thanks also to Chen and to Maddy Grupper for their work together to initiate and serve as writers and editors for the ArcGIS StoryMaps project “Food, Water, & Communities: An Atlas of Our StoryMaps,” which you can read about elsewhere in this newsletter. We look forward to working with Alaina Weinheimer in her new role as editor-in-training for the project and with graduate student writers.

And thanks to Chen and Stephanie Edwards Compton, who together started a Virginia Tech communicating science student club and headed up the organizing committee for ComSciCon-VA Tech 2019. Compton is rotating off club leadership this year and turning her attention more single-mindedly toward finishing her degree. Club leadership is being assumed by Frankie Edwards, a Ph.D. student in the Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health program, whose neuroscience and psychology undergraduate degree informs his opioid overdose resuscitation research, and Amanda Hensley, a fellow in the Global Change Center and a Ph.D. student in Translational Biology, Medicine, and Health focusing on infectious disease and public health implementation science. They have more than 30 graduate students recruited for club membership already and are beginning plans for ComSciCon-VA Tech 2022.

Sara Richards took on the challenge of adapting some of the exercises she had learned in GRAD 5144 for a Zoom workshop with undergraduate students in the Orion Living Learning Community, one section of 80 students and another of 60. She also shifted her invitation to be a Science on Tap speaker from a focus on herself to a panel discussion, “Asian & Pacific Islander in Academia: Research Stories and Successes.” Thanks, Sara!

Sara also accepted Karen DePauw’s challenge to give a 90-second commencement speech at one of the graduate commencement ceremonies held in Lane Stadium May 10 and May 11. She was joined by Korin Jones, Brittany Nackley, Sogand Hasanzadeh, Kasey Richardson, and Abby Lewis, with three speaking at each ceremony. DePauw, then vice president and dean for graduate education, contacted the center with her idea for a Nutshell Games-inspired set of stories at commencement, and we were delighted to work with her.

Nicole Bracci, Maria Denunzio, and Mika Pagani joined center advisory board member Katie Burke on the Science on Tap organizing committee last winter and learned the ropes as Susan Chen and Cassandra Hockman prepared to step away. Thanks to Cassandra and Susan for their years of volunteering and to Nicole, Maria, and Mika for stepping in!

Thanks to Abby Lewis, Khanh To, Jenny Appiah-Kubi, and Amber Wendler for their presentation at the Moss Arts Center’s Cube September 10. A recording of “Girls Launch! A Pandemic Response to Providing Female Scientist Role Models to Children” is available on the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology website, and you can learn about the science videos the women have created at the center’s YouTube channel.

Nicole Stark received a microgrant to plan an accessible, engaging, interactive, and educational virtual experience for high school and middle school students as part of National Biomechanics Day last spring. You can read more about the project here.

GRAD 5144 students have also reported winning presentation awards:

  • Xueqian Su won the first prize in her department’s graduate student competition, and Cierra James won second place in her division of this same departmental competition.
  • Moein Borghei won second place in a presentation competition in his field of engineering.
  • Zerin Khan won first place in the 5-minute flash talk category at Virginia Tech’s 37thAnnual Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium and Exposition.
  • Margaret Nagai-Singer won first place in the 10-minute research talks division at Virginia Tech’s 37thAnnual Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium and Exposition.
  • Renata Carneiro won second place in the 10-minute research talks division at Virginia Tech’s 37thAnnual Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium and Exposition.
  • Jia Mi received positive feedback from conference organizers after serving as moderator of a panel discussion about young professionals networking at the International Conference on Ocean Energy.
  • Sadia Ahmed won second place in the STEM Policy division for her presentation at Virginia Tech’s 37thAnnual Graduate Student Assembly Research Symposium and Exposition.

We’d also like to thank the 14 graduate students who volunteered their time spring semester to be interviewed by undergraduates in the English department’s science writing course. You can find the resulting stories on our website Research stories page.

Thanks to all of you for communicating about your research, forming important connections with community members, extending the work of the center, and inspiring others!

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