Reflecting on Year Two: ComSciCon-Cornell 2016

August 15, 2016
Group discussion at ComSciCon-Cornell 2016

This post was written by Liz Albertorio who is currently an Immunology Masters Student at the University of Rochester and a member of the ComSciCon-Cornell 2016 Organizing Commitee.

Where to start?

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This is a critical question graduate students ask while deciding how to get involved in science communication.  ComSciCon-Cornell 2016 aimed to provide answers to this question. The conference gathered 45 attendees from several upstate and central New York universities with a diverse range of scientific disciplines. The main goal was to introduce students to science communication tools and initiatives they could take on while in graduate school. An important aspect of the conference aimed to help students create an original written piece that gathers all the elements of communication and writing they learned throughout the conference.

On July 15th the conference focused on communication strategies for sharing scientific ideas with others—in person or in print.  Itai Cohen and Linda Glasser led several interactive exercises where students improved their “research pitch” by making it engaging, without losing scientific accuracy. 

Following this interactive session, Lauren Chambliss presented elements of style and structure used when communicating science in print. Lauren provided students with useful tips to make a written piece resonate with audiences that may not share the same technical background. This session was instrumental to guiding students’ own writing during the workshop.On July 15th the conference focused on communication strategies for sharing scientific ideas with others—in person or in print. 

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Merry Buckley, closed the first day of the conference with an engaging and inspiring account of her (and some of her peers’) experiences while navigating a career in science communication. She presented the challenges and the rewards for those wanting to undertake a career in science communication.  


On July 23rd the conference focused on the areas where science communication as a skill can make an impact in the public.

On the first panel, Kara Verno from the Rochester Museum and Science Center, Hannah Smith from Cornell Alliance for Science and Amy McDermott from Hawkmoth magazine provided insight for students exploring opportunities to getting started in science communication. The panel suggested ideas on how graduate students could get involved with local science museums and use multimedia to communicate science to the public.\Users\Terrie McKelvey\Downloads\20160723_100122.jpg

The second panel, Yaihara Fortis and Diana Friedman from New York Academy of Sciences, Mindy Weisberg from Live Science and Luis Quevedo from NTN24 TV channel provided an overview of the several career tracks within science communication in print or in media.  The speakers provided insights on their daily lives as science communicators and gave advices for those interested in a career within science communication. 20160723_112143.jpg

Our keynote speaker was delivered by Dr. Jim Gates, distinguished Professor at the University of Maryland and current member of President Obama's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In his keynote address, Gates appealed students to use their scientific and communication skills to get involved in the decision making process for the challenges we face as human kind.  With a very personal touch, Jim provided an account of his career path and how he has been able to integrate science education and policy with his ongoing research efforts.

\Users\Terrie McKelvey\Downloads\20160723_133246.jpgAs a closing panel, the conference aimed to expose students to the impact of science communication and the involvement of scientists in the policymaking process. This panel was led by Jim Gates, Ryan Coots and Chris Schaffer all scientists involved at different levels in the policy making process.  The panelists provided insight on the process of policy making, how graduate students can get involved at the local governmental level.

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ComSciCon Cornell would like to thank our generous sponsors: Kavil Institute of Cornell for Nanoscale Science; Cornell University International Students and Scholars Office; Cornell University Division of Nutritional Sciences; Cornell Nancy and Peter Meinig School of Biomedical Engineering; Cornell Center for Materials Research; Cornell’s Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, College of Engineering, Department of Physics, Office of the Vice Provost for Research and Cornell University Graduate School.

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Part of the Organizing committee: Charlotte Levy, Robert McDonald, Liz Albertorio, Frank He, and Elodie Gazave (not pictured: Madhur Srivastava, and Jocelyn Wang)