The past two weeks of the Brackenridge Fellowship have been heavily centered on articulating research ideas to diverse audiences. In our cohorts, we worked together to develop memorable, unique, and often humorous metaphors for various aspects of our research. From referencing scenes from the 2001 movie Shrek to describing how arcade claw machines work, we were able to come up with interesting ways to elaborate our work.
When I first became interested in participating in research, I had no idea how much time went into communicating your work. Now that I have been working in a lab for over a year, I find myself talking about my research on a weekly basis. A year ago, this would have been something that intimidated me. I remember being unable to stop my hands from shaking the first time that I presented in front of members of my lab. I was unsure if my presentation slides were organized correctly or if I was making any sense at all. Following that presentation, I received and continue to receive constructive advice on how to better communicate with my audience. Since that first presentation, I have presented my work formally several times to my colleagues, to undergraduate peers, and to judges and interested passersby at poster sessions. I have learned to break down field-specific terms, to explain common abbreviations and jargon, and to adapt explanations of my work to best suit my audience.
However, I would not say that communicating my research is a skill that I have perfected. There is always room to improve. Recently, in a meeting with my co-sponsor for research for credit, we were catching up on how my research has been going this summer. I was telling her about the timeline for my current experiment including the time point at which I would “sac” my mice. She stopped me to ask me what I meant by that term. To me and to anyone who works with rodents, this term is second nature. To “sac” mice means to euthanize them, often with the purpose of analyzing certain tissues following an experiment. However, after she asked me to clarify the term, I realized that “sac” is not self-explanatory, that “sac” is a term to be categorized as jargon that must be explained or avoided when talking to an audience with no prior knowledge in my field of interest. I adjusted my discussion of my work accordingly, and together, we talked about how to ensure that I do not leave my audience in the dark.
Participating in the Brackenridge Fellowship has allowed me to share communicative skills that I have learned with my peers as well as gain and practice new ones. As the fellowship nears its end, I am excited to utilize my competencies to confidently share my work.