Explainable Isaac prepares UCSD students for "Grad Slam"

Explainables associate Isaac Simpson is one of our most experienced teachers. Read here about his latest science communcation project at UCSD. Great job, Isaac!

"We held our fourth Inspiring Research communication workshop at UCSD this January 3­7th on campus in La Jolla, CA! It was by far our best yet. Inspiring Research is a voluntary workshop designed to help PhD students, mostly scientists, but open to all graduate students, communicate their research more ef iciently, more appealingly, and more ef ectively. Many students sign up in order to prepare for the Grad SLAM, a $5,000 competitive TED­style speaking event that showcases grad research across the UCs. We had eighty applications for the course, and selected about half to participate.

My co­teachers and I are always excited to meet the students as their research is so fascinating and potentially world­changing. This time around we had an engineer working on preventing smart phones from blowing up, a computer scientist writing software that detect specific thoughts in the brain, an oceanographer predicting weather via salt, and, my favorite, a neuroscientist proving why music school almost never produces great musicians. The workshop is quite arduous, four straight days of training all day, and not everyone makes it through. While advisors encourage their students to take the course, it is still only voluntary (though we're working on making it a requirement), so we inevitably lose a few as we go. However, watching the improvement of those who do stay on is staggering. Their descriptions of their research often go from totally intelligible to totally exciting. I say that this time was our best because we experimented with a few new things that worked really well. We used a first lines/last lines exercise that was extremely ef ective at highlighting the two most important parts of any communication, the beginning and the end. We also tried a new improv exercise before the interview portion of the workshop which helped prepare students to think on their feet in more conversational situations. Finally, showing the students a recent interview with science communicating master Brian Greene on the Colbert Report proved very ef ective in drilling home the power of science communication. Our next workshop is in March, and I'm looking forward to further perfecting our curriculum!"