Thursday, December 11, 2008

science outreach and mentoring

I love talking about science and sharing the process of becoming a scientist. That's why I created this blog. I've also had some opportunities for non-anonymous science outreach/mentoring in the past few weeks that I want to share because they were so awesome.

Right before Thanksgiving, I talked to my friend's 6th grade science class on speakerphone about bacteria. I'm no bacteria expert, but I did do a summer internship that involved bacteria. I was their call-in scientist! My friend told the students a little bit about my bacteria research and the students prepared questions in advance that they wanted to ask me. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone answering their questions. Some of their questions were related to my research, but many of them were about being a scientist in general and I talked about some of the traveling I've done. This was an urban public school, so the odds are good I'm the first scientist they've ever talked to. My friend said that it was awesome to see her 31 students squirming in their seats with excitement and talking about bugs. One of her hard-working students told her later, "Miss X, I think now I want to be a scientist when I grow up." Pretty big payoff for 20 minutes on the phone.

Last week Sam asked me to come talk to his introductory bio class. I went with another student from my program (a minority woman) and we just told our stories of how we got to where we are now and answered questions. I was pretty nervous for this and I think I should've thought more about how to describe my path (starting with "I've always loved nature..." didn't seem to strike a chord with these city kids), but Sam said the students loved our visit. It was exciting to answer their questions, and there was a Latina woman who asked the best questions about grad school. She already knew all about applying to REU programs! Here's hoping she stays in science.

Today I met with a student from my first semester of teaching. She contacted me a few weeks ago to ask if I would write her a letter of recommendation for summer internships. I mentioned this student in a post from fall 2007 and she's taking some of the advice that I gave them about applying for internships! She's interested in a different field of science, but at this point that's not terribly important. She's applying to REU-type programs all over the country, and I hope she gets into one of them! If she doesn't, she plans to stay here and do research in a lab at UBC.

Soon (maybe tomorrow?) I'll have a post about science communication. It seems to have been a theme for me this semester.

1 comment:

Alexandra said...

This is about your future communications post --- When I was at Woods Hole I took a class on communicating scientific ideas and research to the lay person. We had to write articles for the news that were both informative and interesting enough to keep the reader's attention. Also, we had to simplify things so that people could understand them but not simplify them too much so that people got the wrong impression. I was really awful at it. I just couldn't strike the right balance. I think it is a really tough thing to do. For some reason, explaining things in person or in a presentation has always been a lot easier for me.