A Sleep Scientist’s Journey: From Labs to TV to talking science on NPR


Science communication is not a field many scientists hold in high regard, since it is not within the common confines of the academic or career industry. Scientists are not encouraged to interact with people outside of their field unless it benefits them. When it comes to science communication, I want to understand what speaking to the public about science entails — even if it may not pertain to their area of expertise — and to develop these skills. I believe communities would be more focused on the development of science if we could show them that science is more fun than frightening. 
Dr. Joe Palca was the perfect person to introduce me to science communication. Joe did not realize what science communication was until long into his career. In 1982, Joe was completing his dissertation at the University of California Santa Cruz on sleep psychology when he saw an advertisement for the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Mass Media Science and Engineering Fellowship. This fellowship was focused on training scientists to strengthen their connection with journalists. Not enthralled with his research, he knew he did not want to stay in academia and wanted to try something new. Joe decided to give the fellowship a try; it was an opportunity to explore something new that valued his degree without constraining him to a laboratory.

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