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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.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Zombie science

Who remembers Monty Python’s Quest for the Holy Grail?  “Bring out your dead, bring out your dead…” How about bringing out the undead - into the scrutiny of neuroscience? The new field of zombie neuroscience combines the public zombie obsession with serious science aimed at teaching the public about brain research through the lens of zombie behavior.

Zombies are hot right now; a friend recently ran a 5K race that involved dodging zombies en route to the finish line.  Postdoc Bradley Voytek and Assistant Professor Timothy Verstynen use this zombie epidemic to their advantage, using bona fide neuroscience concepts to postulate how zombie brains are different from normal humans.  They’ve spoken at Comic Con and other popular venues and they are advisory board members of the Zombie Research Society (who knew?).

Yes, zombie research won’t get you tenure, and Comic Con isn’t exactly an AAAS meeting. But reaching the public in an interesting, meaningful way is important!  What tools or cultural trends do you use to make science relevant?  Are zombies an appropriate outreach subject for serious scientists?  Weight in!

1 comment:

  1. Science is always relevant as I see it. Whether the public or specific individuals are interested in really a matter of convenience. The Zombie/Vampire fad going along is definitely one avenue of reaching people and explaining scientific concepts that can be applied theoretically to fiction. I mean in the end scientists are often able to conceive the most compelling fictions. Simply due to an understanding of underlying principles that can be used to extrapolate "believable" fantasies.