When I first tell someone I work with rat subjects to study addiction pathways in the brain, I normally get a slew of questions. All typically stem from the concept of using rats in an experiment, as well as the research techniques my lab and I utilize. To first help people to understand my research, and then to further understand the importance of my research metaphors are helpful in communicating my research. First, I like to explain that my rats undergo surgeries that help us visualize addiction real time. I have attached a photograph of one of my rat subjects to show the hardware that helps us do so in fiber photometry and cocaine injections. Next, I help people draw from limited knowledge of psychology, my rats use self-administration boxes—they push a lever, they get an injection of cocaine—that help them to learn the addictive behavior. By communicating these two points, I can then dive into why my research is important to someone who knows nothing about my field. The more we understand what occurs in the brain during active addiction and active extinction of addictive behaviors, allows us to better improve therapies and approaches to those struggling with addiction. Knowing more information and seeing which parts of the brain are explicitly utilized during active addiction also allows us to pinpoint areas of the brain that could benefit from direct regulation.
My current professional goals are to become a physician. Medicine is an interdisciplinary field that while focuses on scientific research and tools, needs humans to implement these resources. Medicine requires great understanding of cultural, political, social, and environmental factors that can affect disease and treatment. Physicians must interact with many audiences outside the field of medicine to not only pursue these goals, but in the role of a doctor to become a better care provider. Working with environmentalists, psychologists, and a slew of other fields helps to improve their own practice, work with changing policies that could affect the medications they prescribe, and to adapt to changing political scenes. Doctors are caretakers and while western biomedicine rests on the STEM field for information, the field of medicine is interactive in all other realms. Learning how to communicate scientific knowledge to audiences outside of this field to express concerns of a certain treatment, or to receive advice on how to interact in culturally inclusive ways reinforces the need for communicating research to different audiences.