About Me

My photo
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.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Sailing the C’s of Science Communication

Image modified from www.clker.com
A good public talk about science should both inform and entertain (in my opinion, any scientific talk should do both!). At FameLab, with three minutes and no PowerPoint crutch, contestants seek the right balance of information and fun.  The judging criteria really hit this balance using the three C’s of science communication: Content, Clarity, and Charisma. These C’s form the backbone for any good talk, and we’ve looked at components of all of them before.  Here, I want to remind readers that they all fit together. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

FameLab: share your science in 3 minutes or less

Last week I competed in FameLab USA, a science communication contest sponsored by NASA and National Geographic.  Each contestant gets 3 minutes, and only 3 minutes, to talk about research that interests them.  No powerpoint, no graphs, just you, maybe a basic prop, and the audience.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Filler mosquitoes

I once had a colleague who liked the phrase “sort of”…a lot.  He once recorded a record 81 “sort of’s” in an hour-long talk. Not only did these unnecessary qualifications weaken his presentation, but the regular use of a filler word (or phrase, in this case) hindered communication of his message.

We’ve all used them…the ahs, ums, and you knows that creep into our speech when we’re searching for the right words. An occasional filler word is like a solo mosquito - possibly annoying, but not much of a concern.  Too many filler words, however, are like a swarm – the audience is too distracted swatting them away to pay close attention.

Lately I’ve noticed a new filler word cropping up in my own speech; actually. Yes, this is a legitimate word, but I (and several friends) seem to use it as a crutch.  Why say something is “actually over there” when simply “over there” would suffice? Even real words, when used as fillers, can detract from our point.