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Week 2 - Elevator Pitch Workshop

Submitted by dnavon on Wed, 02/01/2017 - 13:52

This week we had 3 very special guests visit our class: Shana Passonno, Alysia Birkholz, and Beth Jakob!  Shana and Alysia head up the Office of Professional Development, which is a fantastic resource if you haven't already been exposed to it, and have been critical in helping me find (and afford) guest speakers for this course.  Beth is the Associate Dean of the grad school.  We split into groups, each with a guest who was intended to be a specific kind of audience: a non-science faculty member you meet at the Blue Wall one day, a science journalist you want to pitch a story to, and a new friend who is asking more about what you do.  The goal was to give them your elevator pitch and spark a longer conversation with them.  Each person had about 2 minutes for pitch + conversation, and then the guest and the rest of the group gave that person feedback on how it went.  It sounded to me (the time keeper) like people were having very involved conversations, which was great!  At the very end of class (we were running out of time, so each student only gave two pitches rather than three), we came back to the bigger group and had a little discussion about the challenges of the exercise as well as other comments about it. 

Next week, we will begin talking about narrative structure.  Read over this article which introduces one type of narrative structure.  It's ok if you've read it before - please give it a second look before class!  Additionally, please find a short, primary lit research article (read: it needs to present original data) to class.  You can bring it electronically or in print, it makes no nevermind to me.  

And as always, don't hesistate to discuss or pose questions about last week's class, next week's class, or the assigned homework by commenting on this post!


Oh!  And there was a question during discussion about how actually researching cool phenomena, organisms, etc. is worthwhile in it's own right, but how can we explain that?  Here are some resources on the subject from Patty Brennan, who has become quite good at explaining why we should fund basic research even when it's not clear what (if any) applications may come out of it.  Patty gave a science cafe on this topic for our program, and she's also written on the subject.  The BioScience article has had a fair amount of popular media coverage - if you Google "Brennan oddball science" you should find those quite easily.  Let me know if you're interested and having trouble accessing either of those resources (but you could also probably find them on your own).

These basic science hooks are extremely important and could definitely constitute a class period of their own (if not an entire course).

What timing! A friend is launching a kickstarter to fund development of his video game that aims to give players an intuitive understanding of his research into rhythmic neural circuits. So, this post is mostly promotion: check out these adorable creatures people created with his game! But, I think the game also tackles the Science Communication challenge of generating excitement about basic research when there isn't a clear application. We want people to maintain funding for basic research long-term. As Patty Brennan mentions in that BioScience article, part of why that's hard is because the funds need to last for an indefinite -- but definitely long -- time. Providing demonstrations and opportunities to engage with the basic research (like the game provides) isn't burdened by a promised future application. The game is just kind of fun to play, right now. So, it seems like knowledge of this literature on basic research that led to applications can be nicely complimented by also generating excitement about the research in its current form.