Communicating My Vascular Biology Research

Throughout the Brackenridge fellowship, I’ve encountered people from a myriad of different fields and a wide array of research topics. In my cohort, there are people doing research on topics such as particle physics, art history, sociology, oncology and child development. I myself don’t have much background in any of those topics but I’ve been able to understand what people are doing because of how they have communicated their work. 

During the fellowship, we were exposed to different examples of how to present our work, such as presentations that others have done, and tips for how to reduce jargon and unnecessary information when communicating to a general audience. This has taught me that the selection of information is very important when communicating anything. What you choose to expose your audience to, and what you choose to leave out, are two vital decisions you must make before speaking to an audience, or else you risk rambling and bombarding people with a needless amount of information. Additionally, watching others present and analyzing what they chose to do has also been helpful. One thing that was common across the presentations we watched were the use of metaphors to explain our research, by using something that the audience was more familiar with. 

For example, with my research on blood vessels, instead of attempting to teach my audience all of the key words in my field, I could instead relate my research purpose, problem and significance to a metaphor about pipes. You can think of the body as a complex system of pipes, each delivering blood to different places, such as organs and limbs. When one of the pipes get clogged and blood can no longer get to that place, the body’s response system is activated, and work begins to create a new blood vessel. The key materials for the pipe, the plumbers, screws and metal, are part of the puzzle that I’m trying to solve. What regulates the production, delivery and behavior of these key materials? And what is happening to them in diseases where the body’s response system is malfunctioning? 

In the future, I anticipate that I will communicate my research to a broad range of audiences. Other than the academic and scientific community, physicians and scientists must also speak about their work to other people, such as policy makers, administrators, and patients, in order to educate them about various diseases. In this case, most of the individuals listed may not have had further education in biology and genetics, past their high school science classes. Therefore, having good communication skills is an essential part of research, and is as important as the research work itself.

Image source: istock.com

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