ComSciCon-Chicago hosts second annual conference

September 10, 2016
ComSciCon-Chicago 2016

On August 6th & 7th 2016, the ComSciCon-Chicago organizing team hosted its second annual conference at Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center. The event brought 50 graduate students together from 12 different institutions including Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago, and the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign. Additionally, a number of attendees came from as far as Oregon State University, the University of Pennsylvania, and the University of South Carolina.

This two-day conference was packed with different sessions on science communication, as well as surprise “pop talks”, where participants had one minute to explain their research in an accessible way.

ComSciCon-Chicago 2016

Day 1

The first day of the conference started with an engaging and diverse panel speaking on Multimedia in Science Communication. Panelists included Museum of Science Industry Curator Olivia Castellini, The Field Museum's Chief Curiosity Correspondent and YouTube host Emily Graslie, and Rivet Radio’s Charlie Meyerson. These panelists talked about their different paths that led them to a career in multimedia and science.

In the afternoon, participants were separated into smaller groups to participate in interactive breakout sessions. Northwestern University’s Steve Franconeri led a workshop on data visualization, where participants submitted and discussed figures from their research. Julianne Hatfield, also from Northwestern, led a session on communicating science to K-12 audiences. There were also technical sessions on how to use multimedia to communicate research. Meyerson led a session on podcasting, while Sheheryar Ahsan of The Brain Scoop led a tutorial on video editing, where participants could screen their video work for feedback.

Attendees then met in peer review groups. Attendees were asked to write an article on a science subject and review other attendees’ drafts before the workshop. The peer review session allowed attendees to further discuss and improve their writing.

ComSciCon-Chicago 2016


The first day ended with an energetic keynote lecture from Emily Graslie. Graslie hosts The Brain Scoop, a show on YouTube that delves into the intricacies of natural history collections at museums. It was acquired by The Field Museum in 2013 and since then, has produced 150 videos for 300,000+ subscribers and more viewers. In her lecture, she discussed her career trajectory and her goals for The Brain Scoop and The Field Museum. You can see the keynote lecture here.

ComSciCon-Chicago 2016

Day 2

Day 2 began with a panel on Journalism & Blogging in Science. Panelists were Illinois State University’s Kevin Bersett, Editor of Discover Magazine Becky Lang, and ScienceLife’s Senior Science Writer Matthew Wood. Later in the day, the third and final panel of the workshop discussed Science Education & Outreach. Experts on this panel included Argonne National Laboratory’s Meridith Bruozas, Robert McNees of Loyola University Chicago, Monica Metzler of the Illinois Science Council, and Northwestern University’s Michelle Paulsen. Panelists talked about outreach and education methods targeted for all ages, from children to adults.

Participants then split up for one of three interactive breakout sessions. In one session, Sara Grady of Helix Magazine coached attendees on science story telling. In another, Northwestern’s Dan Moser gave a tutorial on advanced presentation skills. Finally, Ellen McSweeney of ArtistsHuddle led a session on building an online presence as a graduate student.

The final event of the conference was a second round of reviewing attendees’ written pieces. This time, expert editors joined to lead the review sessions and give professional feedback on attendees’ writing.

ComSciCon-Chicago was generously sponsored by: the Northwestern McCormick School of Engineering, The Graduate School at Northwestern, Northwestern Career Advancement, Northwestern Graduate & Leadership Advocacy Council, Chicago Biomedical Consortium, UChicago Graduate Student Council & Dean’s Council, UChicago myCHOICE, UChicago Center for Leadership & Involvement, National Science Communication Institute, Northwestern Civil & Environmental Engineering, Northwestern Interdisciplinary Biological Sciences, Northwestern Plant & Biology Conservation, Northwestern Chemistry, UChicago Human Genetics, UChicago Medical Scientist Training Program, and UChicago Office of Graduate & Postdoctoral Affairs. The organizing team is very grateful for the support of these organizations.

ComSciCon-Chicago 2016