About Me

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I'm an assistant professor of neuroscience at Washington State University in Vancouver, where I use tiny zebrafish (the size of an eyelash!) as a model system to study human hearing loss and how we can prevent it. I'm also a long-time Toastmaster and I teach communication workshops. This blog represents the merging of my two passions - science and communication, which has really become one central passion - the science of communication. There's a revolution in science right now...the idea that we scientists should sometimes leave the lab and talk about what we do, and why we do it, to real people. This blog looks at why we should do this, and how to actually talk about science with non-scientists (and with each other!). Portions of this blog are also featured on Qualia, the AAAS MemberCenter blog site.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Smart slides, smart audience

Standardized, easy to understand data slides can help your audience to grasp your talk and internalize your message.  They can also make your audience feel smart, because they can determine the take-home message of your slide before you mention it.  My previous post looked at how to effectively use text on presentation slides.  Here we’ll look at a few other features of a good slide-based presentation.

I recently attended Sean Georgi’s dissertation defense at the University of Washington.  Sean’s work features gorgeous multi-color fluorescent images and really interesting data on retinal development.  Here I want to highlight three tools that Dr. Georgi used during his talk to enhance audience understanding. I've pointed out several of these features on one of Sean's slides, shown on the left.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Texting by PowerPoint

I’ve talked a lot in this blog about how to structure and deliver a great scientific talk (and there’s more to come!), but it’s time to tackle the elephant in the room (or perhaps the elephant on the screen)…PowerPoint and other computer-generated visual aids.  We all use them, and I’ll be the first to admit that visual aids are useful.  Imagine describing a multi-year trend in climate data or the location of a protein inside a cell without an accompanying visual…possible, perhaps compelling, but tricky.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Put your money where your mouth is

Sometimes even the most well-intentioned science communicators need a little incentive. The Center for Media and Interactivity at Justus Liebig University provides just such an incentive with their competition Performing Science 2011.  The goal of this contest is to recognize scientists and other academics for true performances that incorporate modern technology and that entertain even as they instruct.  And the best performance is rewarded – to the tune of 5,000 euros!

I think this contest raises some interesting points.  Should we strive to entertain during our talks? What is the difference between a talk and a performance?  When we enter the public arena, are we performing?  What do you think?