You are here

Week 7 - Jeff Blaustein and the UMass Public Engagement Project

Submitted by dnavon on Wed, 03/22/2017 - 10:20

I hope you all enjoyed Jeff Blaustein's visit this week.  Jeff is a professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences, a member of the NSB program, and a long-time learner and educator right here at UMass.  His research focuses on the role of hormones, especially estrogen-like hormones, in brain function and mammalian behavior.  He has served as the editor-in-chief of Endocrinology, a top journal in his field.  His work with public engagement began very personally, when his wife got sick with breast cancer.  While in remission, her doctor suggested that she begin taking a very powerful estrogen blocker, as it would reduce her risk of recurrence by half.  Because Jeff knew how important estrogen is, he was concerned that this drastic action might not be necessary, and the couple sought a second opinion.  The second oncologist confirmed that while estrogen blockers would reduce the risk of recurrence by half, Jeff's wife's risk of recurrence was already quite low, around 3%, based on the type of cancer as well as other factors.  Jeff knew then that someone needed to engage the public about the risks and benefits associated with this treatment, and set about talking to both oncologists and patients.  He went through the Public Engagement Project, a small fellowship for faculty that provides money and resources (such as seminars) for those looking to engage the public in a more effective way,  He's written an article for the Conversation US, and spoken to Academic Minute (mp3 embedded in that article, also available here).  He's also worked as a consultant to a litigation firm - not directly about the effect of estrogens or estrogen-blockers - which he couldn't tell us much about, since presumably he's still working with them.  His main suggestion for young scientists looking to get involved in outreach is to find a good balance.

Next week, we begin a unit on blogging.  To prepare for that, please read Irion 2014 (pdf attached), and Jarreau 2016.  You may also want to skim the Cal Newport article that the Jarreau article was based on.  Come to class ready to discuss the risks/benefits of blogging.