Brackenridge: Communicating my Research

As summer quickly progresses, it is easy for me to underestimate the progress I have made on my project. As a quick recap, I am studying a protein that was shown to be important for DNA breakage in mice; however, in Caenorhabditis elegans, it looks like it may be a part of DNA repair, which is exciting. During the last few weeks, preliminary genotyping results showed that it looks like a tag placed on the C terminal of my protein of interest was successful, which was added using the CRISPR-Cas9 system. With this tag, the protein can be visualized in vivo, hopefully giving us a better idea of where it localizes.

Okay, I know what you are thinking; those last couple of sentences got complicated towards the end. That is precisely what I am working to improve upon as I start to build an arsenal of discipline-specific vocabulary. When discussing my research with individuals in other fields, I am beginning to try and dial back unnecessary language that may be confusing. For example, instead of saying that I added a tag on the C terminal of a protein using CRISPR, I can say that I used a unique tool that cuts DNA so that I can as a new piece of DNA at the end. This new piece is attached to my protein; since it fluoresces, I can see it glow in the worm. This will show us where the protein is.

With the goal of one day working in a healthcare team, it is crucial to articulate what I am trying to say clearly and concisely, without confusing vocabulary. There may be a time and place for using specific jargon, such as with colleagues, so the conversation encompasses all the nuanced details of the topic. However, the goal is for the information to reach as many people as possible, and it is useless unless it is understandable. For instance, if a new treatment is available to a patient, the complete biochemical mechanism doesn’t need to be explained. Of course, the patient must understand what the treatment is and what it is supposed to do, along with an overview of how it works, but details such as the molecular formula carry little meaning for the patient and the family.

The Brackenridge Fellowship has helped me fine-tune my communication skills when discussing my research over the past weeks. I look to continue improving upon them as the Fellowship progresses.

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