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.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Fishy science

Me and a midshipman fish. 

West Seattle is abuzz...literally.  Residents report that a strange humming sound disturbing the peace, and it's possible that plainfin midshipman fish are the source of the sound. Dr. Joe Sisneros, one of my University of Washington colleagues, was recently interviewed by the local news...a great example of science outreach. How did he do?  It's tough to communicate in heavily edited sound bites, but I think he did a good job of explaining some science.  What do you think of the reporter?

This story has garnered a fair bit of skepticism, with comments about conspiracies, but mostly people just had a hard time believing that fish could be so noisy.  This seems like an open opportunity to educate the public, and to have some fun in the process.

Monday, September 3, 2012

To be or not to be…what is the question?

I while back I posted about how to deal with Q&A sessions from the speaker’s perspective. More often, however, we’re in the audience.  As an audience member, how do we ask good questions?

I think the answer is simple, but it’s not always obvious, or at least, not always followed.  Simply state your question, then be silent.  Don’t preface your question with a story or a lot of data.  Don’t make several comments-this is Q&A time, not comment time.  And please, be polite. I’m not saying you shouldn’t engage the speaker if you feel that he or she missed something important, and be all means talk with them if you have findings that fit with theirs, or if you have new insight into their work.  In my opinion, however, these discussions – for that’s what they are, should be left after the talk when there’s time for a lengthier chat, and when a room full of grad students or nervous podium speakers isn’t listening in.

I think that F.D. Roosevelt’s advice on public speaking applies best to asking questions during Q&A:  “Be sincere; be brief; be seated.”