Alan Alda and Communicating Science to the Public

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In Spring 2011, Alan Alda gave a lecture at the NIH Bethesda campus, just as I was getting ready to move to the west coast. I had seen him a million times on TV and in movies, usually as a comedian. Most people probably just wanted to see an entertainment giant and were not there to hear his message. Continue reading

Serendipity in science: A great story!

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You inoculate a couple petri dishes with a bacterium you are studying and then go away for a few days on vacation. When you return you notice the bacteria are not growing around a colony of fungus that has contaminated the plate. Nuts! Continue reading

Stop the Suffering!

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To suffer…we all know what this means, right? According to Wikipedia, “suffering is the basic element that makes up the negative valence of affective phenomena.” In humorous irony, that definition is painful…and made me suffer!  This is the problem with most science presentations…they’re hard to understand…and painful. Continue reading

First Impressions     

How important are first impressions? Last night I heard a professional actor explain why he didn’t return to Toastmasters, saying the people he met there on the first night didn’t even make eye contact with him as he was greeted at the door. As a result he thought that all Toastmaster clubs must be the same and if so, he was not going to waste his time with these people. In another example, a wealthy philanthropist told me that researchers who barely acknowledged her presence at a party and this discouraged her from making a donation to that university. Continue reading

Practice Communication Skills

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Each time I attend or give a workshop on communication skills, I always leave with a nagging feeling.  Communication skills are not something that you learn in one day.  In fact, no matter how good we are at making presentations, we can always get better.  To improve, we must practice these skills over and over again. Continue reading

We are connected!

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The importance of communicating science to the public cannot be minimized.   As professional scientists, we must remember that we have this unique position because of the efforts of a lot of people.  Let’s call them the “public”.   Our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, mentors, supervisors, patients, students and assistants have all done many things to help us achieve our science stature.   Taxpayers, legislators, decision- makers at companies, philanthropists, and donors who have funded our expensive projects deserve much credit too.  We must look at our career and realize that it is a gift to be a scientist … and like any gift, we should say thanks to those who presented it to us. Continue reading