My interest in science communication was sparked at a young age — while listening to National Public Radio on long car rides with my parents as well as impulsively oohing and aahing as Bill Nye, a.k.a. the Science Guy, explained the inner workings of the natural world on PBS. My father, an avid amateur astronomer, introduced me to the likes of Carl Sagan, known for both his brilliant scientific work and his effective and engaging communication style.
Today, living in Southern California, I find myself in slow-moving traffic far too often. And I have found solace in NPR once again — in shows such as Radiolab and Science Friday — and I am pleasantly surprised at how the hosts raise awareness of scientific issues without compromising the science or baffling their audiences. We are fortunate to have a course in science communication … This class not only has allowed me to learn and practice various mediums of communication (oral and written) but also has given me the opportunity to meet with my local representatives, Congressman Mark Takano and Assemblyman Jose Medina, as well as other important figures of the community, including the editor of our local newspaper, the Press-Enterprise, and members of the local school board.
More than ever, I have realized my responsibility as a Ph.D.-in-training to communicate and share the implications and importance of my work in a manner that is engaging for scientists and the public alike. The pressures of competition, lack of resources and slim job prospects after graduation contribute to a cruel reality for the younger generation of scientists. One way to ameliorate this gloomy future is to reignite the conversation between scientists and the public. We must find a way to regain the public’s interest in and support for our work by focusing on one of our most important tasks as scientists: outreach.
Shirin Mesbah is pursuing a Ph.D. in bioengineering.