Virtually all ComSciCon participants are striving to bring their own research to a wider audience, seeking to produce impacts that reverberate far beyond the limited group of specialists in their own academic field to the broader public.
Some ComSciCon grad students achieve this through interaction with mainstream media outlets that have large established audiences. Others develop multimedia projects that can appeal to more than just the hyper-science literate through film or the web. And some translate their work into accessible and engaging terms that present their science in a radically different light than the staid language of research journals.
In March of this year, just a few months after we met her at ComScICon15, a special edition of PhD Comics was published featuring Becky and her research group's work on supermassive black holes. In addition to Jorge's comic strip, the web version was accompanied by a fully animated video walking viewers through the challenges and motivations inherent to her work, overdubbed with an audio interview with Becky.
A graduate of Whitman College and an NSF Graduate Research Fellow, Becky is currently a third year graduate student in astronomy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her thesis research with adviser Julie Comerford focuses on the supermassive black holes that power the incredibly energetic, roiling accretion disks at the cores of galaxies throughout our universe, active galactic nuclei.
Becky participated in ComSciCon’s inaugural mock interview session at ComSciCon15. Her five minute conversation with PhD Comics (actually boiled down from a few hours of interaction), appearing alongside Cham's exquisite animation, was viewed about 50,000 times in its first 4 months on YouTube. She leveraged her experience from ComSciCon in that conversation, as well as years of practice from her science blogging work and interaction with the public through planetarium series at Boulder's Fiske Planetarium.
Since her feature on PhD Comics, Becky reports that her personal commitment to interacting with the general public has increased. She says, "I've become more involved in the planetarium and am taking over as the grad student in charge of the 'Above and Beyond' talk series at the planetarium this coming fall. I'm really excited for my vision for this series which will involve open discussions of diversity in STEM as well as a shift to discuss popular science fiction in books, movies, TV shows, and video games."