What is ComSciCon?

ComSciCon is a series of workshops focused on the communication of complex and technical concepts organized by graduate students, for graduate students.  ComSciCon attendees meet and interact with professional communicators, build lasting networks with graduate students in all fields of science and engineering from across the US and Canada, and write and publish original works.

Recent Publications by ComSciCon attendees or about ComSciCon

Schmitt L. Genetics graduate student enhances science communication skills at regional conference. The Newstand of Clemson University [Internet]. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

College of Science graduate student Rebecca MacPherson, a member of professor Trudy Mackay’s research group, conducts genetics-based research that could someday translate into new approaches for treating children born with fetal alcohol syndrome. She’s also an advocate for increasing science literacy and sharing her results with the public.

On March 12-13, MacPherson was among 50 graduate students from the Southeast region who participated in the invitation-only ComSciCon-Atlanta 2020 conference at the University of Georgia, where she polished her multimedia, writing, and oral communication skills through interactions with professional science communicators and like-minded graduate students.

Rose K. ComSciCon returns to Virginia Tech. Virginia Tech Daily [Internet]. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

If you’ve ever seen the award-winning nature documentary called "Planet Earth," you have experienced science communication at its finest. With strong science communication, scientists are able to capture the imagination, re-establish trust with the public, and spark meaningful discussions that give science a stronger presence in our society.

On Feb. 27 and 28, graduate students and communicators came together to strengthen their science communication abilities at the second annual ComSciCon–Virginia Tech.

ComSciCon is a workshop series that gives young researchers the necessary skills to communicate their scientific research to broad and diverse audiences.

Padavic-Callaghan K. The Coolest Physics You’ve Ever Heard Of. Scientific American Observations [Internet]. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract

When it comes to furthering our overall understanding of the physical world, ultracold quantum gases are awfully promising. As the famous physicist Richard Feynman argued, to fully understand nature, we need quantum means of simulation and computation. Ultracold atomic systems have, in the last 30 years, proven to be amazing quantum simulators. The number of applications for these systems as such simulators is nothing short of overwhelming, ranging from engineering artificial crystals to providing new platforms for quantum computing. In its brief history, ultracold atomic experimental research has enhanced physicists’ understanding of a truly vast array of important phenomena.

One of the revelations of quantum mechanics is that any object can be seen as a wave (even you!) when an appropriate experimental test is used. Properties of these co-called “matter waves” depend on their temperature; at large temperatures they have short wavelengths and look and behave particlelike because all the peaks and valleys are so close together that they cannot be told apart. If we lower temperature to much less than a single kelvin, the wave nature of matter becomes more pronounced and wavelike behaviors more important. What happens then with a large collection of very cold atoms that behave like a large collection of waves? They can all align and overlap to form a single wave, something that was historically called a “macroscopic wave function.” Such a system—a condensate in physics parlance—is a fundamentally quantum state of matter.

Bretl B. An Evolutionary Explanation for Unscientific Beliefs. Quillette [Internet]. 2020. Publisher's VersionAbstract
“Another theory is that humans were created by God,” announced my tenth-grade biology student as she clicked past PowerPoint slides of Darwin’s finches and on to images of a catastrophic flood. After her presentation, I carefully avoided inane debate and simply reiterated the unique ways in which science helps us make accurate predictions. I then prepared for pushback from parents and administrators. Sure enough, the next day the superintendent of the school district came to my classroom with some creationist literature that he was confident would change my mind on the whole theory of evolution by natural selection thing. It didn’t, but it did lead me to pursue a PhD in educational psychology in my search to explain how such beliefs could be maintained in modern times, particularly in the face of such strong counterevidence.
Ayer A. The Secret in Your Veins: The History of Blood Transfusion. Illinois Science Council's Science Unsealed Blog [Internet]. 2019. Publisher's VersionAbstract

Blood transfusions are an essential component of modern-day medicine, saving lives in a variety of situations, ranging from genetic diseases like sickle cell anemia to road accidents. But, the history of blood transfusion is a rocky one. For instance, did you know that a German physician founded the world’s first blood transfusion institute in 1926 because he believed blood transfusions led to immortality?

Dr. Alexander Bogdanov started some crude blood transfusion experiments on himself by injecting blood of other young men into his own system. After 11 such transfusion sessions, he claimed to have improved vision, arrest hair loss, and produce youthful skin. This led him to believe that blood transfusion was the path to immortality and eternal youth. But, as you can expect, this practice, combined with poor understanding of the blood transfusion process at that time, killed him years later.


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