Drexel Professor Creates “Start Talking Science” Event
By Rachel Ewing
News Officer, University Communications
August 15, 2014 —
Philadelphians will soon get their newest opportunity to meet local scientists and learn about exciting advances in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in the region, through an event called “Start Talking Science.”
At the free public event, 11 scientists from local universities will each share their own research on topics as diverse as dark matter, human body clocks, a honey map of Philadelphia and the physics of high-tech airport X-ray scanners. Attendees can stroll throughout the room, where each scientist will stand beside a large poster describing his or her research, ready to engage in discussion about it.
“People don’t necessarily have to sit through a talk, and it’s possible to walk around and ask questions or just eavesdrop on all kinds of different conversations about science and technology,” said Christina Love, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in Drexel’s College of Arts and Sciences who developed the “Start Talking Science” event and serves as its program chair.
Love will present a poster about her doctoral research on dark matter, as well as one about her postdoctoral research on airport baggage scanning technology that can detect explosive materials.
This poster-session format is a common one for technical conferences in academic fields, but at “Start Talking Science,” there is a twist: As they prepared their posters for this event, each scientist worked with a set of volunteer reviewers – some scientists, some trained communicators—who assessed both the scientific content and the clarity of communication, to ensure that people outside the scientists’ individual specialties could understand what they were saying.
Frustration at not understanding scientists was part of Love’s original inspiration for “Start Talking Science.” She had noticed that it isn’t always easy for scientists to communicate with people outside their specialty.
“At a meeting of the local Association for Women in Science, I found myself in conversation with a group of biologists,” said Love, a physicist. “Even though I’m also a trained scientist, with the particular jargon of their field, I found I had no idea what they were talking about. I realized we scientists may use certain terms so much that we forget they aren’t common. How do we make sure we are communicating in a way that non-scientists can understand and appreciate?”
Love hopes to learn from the experience of running “Start Talking Science” to hold more such events in the future with an even more diverse range of STEM experts, including engineers and scientists working outside of academia.
“Start Talking Science” will take place from 6 to 8 p.m. on Aug. 21 at the Chemical Heritage Foundation, 315 Chestnut Street. The event is free, and the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s museum will be open late for attendees to visit. Additional information is available on the program’s website, http://starttalkingscience.com/ and its Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/starttalkingscience.