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Week 2 - Elevator Pitch Workshop

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

This week we had 4 very special guests visit our class: Shana Passonno, Heidi Bauer-Clapp, Dean Krauthamer, and Trevor Baptiste!  Shana, Heidi, and Trevor all work in 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. Dean Krauthamer is the 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 journalist from WIRED you want to pitch a story to, a scientist who is in a different field from you, 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 discussed their pitches at the end of the round.  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 three pitches rather than four), 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 with our guest speaker, Tim Miller. Tim maintains the website Spoken Science, and his book Muse of Fire is freely available online.  Definitely check them out!  He will be giving us the lowdown on what narrative structure is and how to use it to effectively communicate with other people.  We've really enjoyed his talk in the past, so I'm excited to have you all in attendance for it!  Make sure you prepare by watching Randy Olson's TED Talk on a similar topic.  Randy is fantastic - I had a great chat with him once in which he casually talked about having lunch with folks like Barney Frank (a former Massachusetts politician).  I have access to both of his science movies as well as his books on sci comm.  I highly suggest you check them out - let me know if you'd like to borrow any of them from me.  

Please remember that next week's class will be open to the public and therefore taking place in the Campus Center room 162-75!  Ezra Markowitz's class will be joining us for sure and others may decide to sit in as well.

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.