Invited Experts

Biographies of individual experts can be found here

DAY 1 – MAY 21, 2015

Improv and Crafting your Message: Lesley Yorke

Lesley Yorke has been helping Cornell scientists talk about their research for a couple of decades, first in the Vice Provost for Research office and now in University Communications. Lesley has coached faculty, staff, and graduate students and hosted speed dating events for scientists and journalists. Some of the best stories, and greatest challenges, emerge from fields where we wrestle with complex problems at the intersection of science and society. For the last year, Lesley has been working on a Charter Day Weekend installation and panel: “Illuminating Images of Science. ” Scientific images have expanded our understanding of the world from nano to planetary scales. Sharing that knowledge with public audiences is the good work of science communication.

Session 1: Engaging Diverse Audiences: Telling a Scientific Story

Gustave Axelson

Gustave Axelson is a science editor at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where he serves on the editorial staff of Living Bird magazine and the All About Birds website and blog. Prior to coming to the Cornell Lab, Axelson was managing editor for Minnesota Conservation magazine, where he won three gold awards for best feature article at the annual Minnesota Magazine Publishers Awards and had one story on Northern Goshawks selected for inclusion in the 2010 Houghton Mifflin anthology of The Best North American Science and Nature Writing. Axelson is also a freelance writer for other publications such as The New York Times travel section and Backpacker magazine.

Miyoko Chu

Miyoko Chu is the senior director of Communications at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. With a love for writing and field biology, she earned a graduate certificate in Science Communication at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and a Ph.D. in Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley, studying a desert bird called the Phainopepla. She spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Genetics Laboratory before finding a home at Cornell, where she could combine her passions for birds and science writing. She is the author of Songbird Journeys: Four Seasons in the Lives of Migratory Birds, and Birdscapes, a pop-up book in stereo sound. Her team at the Lab of Ornithology helps create interactive online and mobile experiences for learning about birds through the All About Birds website, Living Bird digital magazine, Merlin Bird ID app, and live Bird Cams.

Johanna Congleton

Dr. Congleton currently works as a Senior Scientist and Toxicologist with the Environmental Working Group, an environmental and public health research and advocacy organization based in Washington, DC. She has over 17 years of experience working with environmental health organizations including Physicians for Social Responsibility, Clean Water Action, and the Sierra Club. She served as Executive Director of Physicians for Social Responsibility-Louisiana, which provided health assistance services to people impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. She continues to use her expertise in support of programs that advance public health and environmental science education, research, and policies.

Dr. Congleton holds a Ph.D. in Environmental Toxicology from Cornell University, an MSPH in Environmental Science from Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and a BS in Communications from Syracuse University.

Melissa Osgood

Melissa Osgood is the media relations specialist focusing on agriculture, animal science and health, food, nutrition, health, medical technology, and energy, climate and sustainability. Previously, she worked in communications for the American Dairy Association and Dairy Council as well as a private high school in Buffalo, N.Y. She interned for several television and radio stations and holds a bachelor’s degree in communications from Hiram College.

Session 2: The Writing Process and Mechanics

Bruce V. Lewenstein

Bruce V. Lewenstein (A.B., general studies in the humanities, 1980, University of Chicago; Ph.D., history and sociology of science, 1987, University of Pennsylvania) is Professor of Science Communication and chair of the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University. He is also a full member of the Department of Communication. He works primarily on the history of public communication of science, with excursions into other areas of science communication (such as informal science education). He has been active in international activities that contribute to education and research on public communication of science and technology, especially in the developing world. In general, he tries to document the ways that public communication is fundamental to the process of producing reliable knowledge about the natural world.

Keynote Speaker: Roald Hoffmann

Roald Hoffmann was born in 1937 in Złoczów, Poland. Having survived the war, he came to the U. S. in 1949, and studied chemistry at Columbia and Harvard Universities (Ph.D. 1962). Since 1965 he is at Cornell University, now as the Frank H. T. Rhodes  Professor of Humane Letters, Emeritus. He has received many of the honors of his profession, including the 1981 Nobel Prize in Chemistry (shared with Kenichi Fukui). The pedagogical perspective is very strong in Hoffmann’s research. And, as a writer, Hoffmann has carved out a land between science, poetry, and philosophy, through many essays, four nonfiction books, five volumes of poems and three plays, widely produced.

DAY 2 – MAY 29, 2015

Session 3: Accessing Broader Audiences using Multimedia and the Web

Donna DiBartolomeo

Donna DiBartolomeo leads the exhibits and facilities team at Sciencenter, a hands-on, interactive museum in Ithaca, NY. Donna has over 15 years’ experience working in museums. Prior to taking on the role of Director of Exhibits at Sciencenter, Donna developed and managed exhibits and partnership programs at the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and the Exploratorium in San Francisco. Donna has lectured internationally on best practices in exhibit development and presentation.

Donna’s research interests include interdisciplinary education, particularly intersections in art and science, and learning in informal settings. At ArtScience Labs’ Le Laboratoire, Donna conducted research in innovation design and product development using new technologies. Donna has facilitated workshops in cultural literacy and ethical research practices at Harvard Global Health Institute, preparing students for experiential learning fellowships. Donna’s interest in science communication is grounded in cognitive science and constructivist learning theory, with a primary goal of developing effective educational models based on how people understand and learn.

Karen Rodriguez

Karen Rodriguez is a film and video artist living and working in Ithaca, New York.  Ms. Rodriguez completed the Master of Fine Arts program in Film and Video Production at the University of Iowa Department of Communication and also has a degree in Broadcasting and Film from Boston University.  She spent six years working in the film industry as a grip and camera assistant on feature films, music videos, and television commercials.  Her films and videos have screened in the United States, Canada and Europe.  She taught film production in the School of Visual Arts at Emerson College in Boston and in the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College. Currently she works with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology editing films on conservation and science.

Molly Webster 

Molly Webster is a producer and reporter at WNYC's Radiolab. After focusing on biology in college, she began to pursue science journalism, writing and producing (radio/podcasts) for outlets like Scientific American, Nature, NPR's Science Friday, and National Geographic Adventure, as well as creating live science conversations over at The World Science Festival, where she specialized in math and physics coverage. Her ability to comprehend and totally immerse herself in complicated issues has helped Radiolab investigate blood donation<>, drug prices<> and one very special jar<>. She also helped launch Freakonomics Radio, where you can still hear her voice at the top of every episode.

Session 4: Careers in Science Communication

Sarah Davidson Evanega

Sarah received her Ph.D in the field of Plant Biology from Cornell University in 2009, for which she conducted an interdisciplinary study combining work in plant molecular biology with science communication. Her dissertation focused on the controversy over genetically engineered papaya in developing countries with a specific focus on Thailand. She came to Cornell after completing a BA in Biology at Reed College. She remained at Cornell University after completing her Ph.D to help lead a global project to help protect the world’s wheat from wheat stem rust. Sarah now serves as the Director for the Cornell Alliance for Science—a global communications effort that promotes evidence-based decision-making in agriculture. She also serves as Senior Associate Director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and holds an adjunct appointment in the Section of Plant Breeding & Genetics in the Integrated School of Plant Sciences at Cornell.

Susanna Kohler

Susanna is one of the founding members and organizers of the national ComSciCon workshop. Her undergraduate degree is in physics, and she received her PhD in astrophysics from University of Colorado Boulder in 2014. As a grad student, Susanna discovered how much she enjoyed sharing science with others, and she has since worked to turn that love of science communication into a career.

During grad school, she became an author and administrator for, a web blog that summarizes current astrophysics research for undergrads. She also added a science communication component to her dissertation, studying strategies for teaching future scientists to communicate science to a general audience (like this workshop!). Susanna now works at the American Astronomical Society in a crossover position between scientific publishing and journalism. As their highlights editor, her main role is to translate recent and exciting astrophysics research for a variety of audiences.

Joe Palca

Joe Palca is a science correspondent for NPR. He comes to journalism from a science background, having received a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California at Santa Cruz where he worked on human sleep physiology. Since joining NPR in 1992, Palca has covered a range of science topics — everything from biomedical research to astronomy. He is currently focused on the eponymous series, “Joe’s Big Idea.” Stories in the series explore the minds and motivations of scientists and inventors.

Palca has also worked as a television science producer, a senior correspondent for Science Magazine, and Washington news editor of Nature. Palca has won numerous awards in science communication. With Flora Lichtman, Palca is the co-author of Annoying: The Science of What Bugs Us (Wiley, 2011).

Chris B. Schaffer

Chris B. Schaffer is an Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Biomedical Engineering department at Cornell University. He runs a lab at Cornell that develops advanced optical techniques that enable quantitative imaging and targeted manipulation of individual cells in the central nervous system of rodents with the goal of constructing a microscopic-scale understanding of normal and disease-state physiological processes in the brain. One area of current focus is understanding the role of brain blood flow disruptions in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Chris is active in developing novel educational strategies to teach science as a dynamic process for discovery. These approaches are used in outreach settings in middle and high-school science classes as well as in his undergraduate and graduate level courses. Chris also has a strong interest in science policy and recently spent a one-year sabbatical in Washington, DC, working as a science policy fellow for Senator Edward Markey in the United States Congress.

Twitter Tutorial: Steve Strogatz

Steven Strogatz is the Jacob Schurman Professor of Applied Mathematics at Cornell University. Among his honors are membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (2012) and the Lewis Thomas Prize for Writing about Science (2015). A frequent guest on WNYC’s “Radiolab,” he is the author, most recently, of The Joy of x. Follow him on Twitter @stevenstrogatz.

Expert Reviewer: Ellen Leventry

Ellen Leventry is the Director of Media Relations for Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She regularly places the college’s research with media outlets such as The New York Times, the Associated Press, LiveScience, NPR, and CNN. Additionally, she finds placement for faculty work within the editorial sections of academic journals and publications such as Science and The Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. Leventry spent the first half of her career on the other side of the media relations equation working as a writer for websites and publications, including, The Denver Post, Spirituality & Health, and Publisher’s Weekly.