Communicating my Research – HSRF

Something that I’ve grown an increasing awareness and appreciation of these past couple weeks of the fellowship has been the importance of being able to describe your research to other individuals outside of your field. For example, during the fellowship picnic where we had interactions with students across a wide range of disciplines, I realized that it was very important to be able to effectively communicate the gist of my research in order to provide enough information without causing any unnecessary confusion. It is always very intriguing to learn about what projects and inquiries people are exploring in their respective fields, even if I have no experience with those topics, and being able to explain your research in broad terms during these moments is essential.

When I first describe my research to someone outside my field, I start by explaining the major problem in the health sciences that my research is addressing. For example, my project focuses on uncovering information about the molecular pathways regulating synapse loss in neurons, which has major implications for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. I’ll usually explain how the brain is composed of numerous connections between neurons (or brain cells), and how these connections may be lost in diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease. I may even provide a visual analogy such as how neuronal connections resemble a basketball net with a bunch of cells branching out and connecting to other cells. I’ll then explain that I’m seeking to understand how different molecular substances within neurons cause this loss of synaptic connections to occur. I find that explaining the biology of my research in simple terms such as this, really helps people to visualize what I’m trying to answer through my research. If explaining to someone with more science/neuroscience background, I may further elaborate on how I specifically focus on changes in spines, and provide more details about the known molecular pathways regulating synapses. It’s also important to explain how your research will contribute to addressing the greater problem such as if it will help guide the development for new treatments. Additionally, allowing people to ask questions as well as having them explain your research back to you can help with solidifying their understanding.

I’m currently interested in becoming a physician and potentially pursuing an MD/PhD. Whether I pursue an MD or MD/PhD, I’ve developed a strong passion for research and definitely plan on continuing it in medical school or even as a physician. Because of this, I will have numerous more opportunities to discuss my research with both researchers and other individuals outside of my field, and practicing effective communication of my research will be essential for these moments. Additionally, as a physician, I will need to communicate information such as diagnoses and treatment information to patients in an effective manner. Figuring out a way to communicate important healthcare information to patients and making sure they know everything they need to know without overcomplicating things will be essential as a physician. Additionally, doctors often will have to communicate with other doctors in different specialties and other members of their staff who have varying degrees of knowledge in a specific area, so learning how to effectively communicate in these instances is important as well.

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