The HSRF experience opens doors to opportunities to process and communicate my research in ways that I have not done before. These opportunities create situations through which we communicate our research to a more general audience and develop different perspectives and approaches to explain our work to those who may not have a strong background in our specific field of study. When doing so, I find the best approach is to explain my research in ways that emphasize how my work relates to my audience. In other words, explain to the audience why they should care about what I have to say. This includes establishing a starting point of interest for my audience so they will be more inclined to tune in when I move into the specifics behind my work. The goal is to build a personal relationship between me and my audience by fleshing out the overarching, big picture purpose behind my work, and how it can benefit both the audience and our entire community.
For example, when explaining my research to general audiences I typically begin by explaining how my work evolved from the COVID 19 pandemic, and the value of vaccines. I then ask them to consider their own experiences with vaccines and raise the question of how the vaccine experience as a whole could be improved. After this brief introduction, I then explain how my research specifically looks to address the current limitations in vaccines through the development of skin-targeted vaccines. I find that starting with an introduction most audience members can relate to (the experience of a global pandemic) creates a personal connection between my work and the individual, increasing the likelihood that they will have a greater interest and willingness to listen when I then go into to the details of how my work contributes to improving vaccines in general.
Beyond speaking directly to general audiences, this approach to explaining research also can translate to communication with science journalists and the lay media. By helping an interviewer first understand the rationale and significance of the research, I equip them with the context they need to translate the message to their audience. With these approaches, we may be able to explain our efforts, not just in the context of the science, but in the context of its value to the individual, and then indirectly the value of the science to society in general.
The image featured depicts skin after successful immunization using a microneedle patch. The microneedles used for this immunization deliver an adjuvant integrated into the needle that mimics the danger signals produced by a viral infection. The visible micro-sized needle punctures remaining after the microneedle patch has been removed are consistent with successful delivery of the adjuvant.