Michelle Paulsen Receives Fellowship for Conference on Communicating about Science

Michelle Paulsen Receives Fellowship for Conference on Communicating about Science

Michelle Paulsen at Conference
Michelle Paulsen of the Office of STEM Education Partnerships, who is program director of Reach for the Stars, joined 35 university leaders from around the country, and actor Alan Alda, at an innovative conference dedicated to improving the way scientists communicate with the public. Paulsen was selected as one of 25 applicants to be awarded a fellowship to attend this unique conference.

The four-day Communicating Science Summer Institute was conducted by the Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York, which is developing dynamic ways to help scientists speak and write about their work clearly and conversationally in ways non-scientists can understand. The meeting was held June 5 to 9.

Alan Alda, a visiting professor at Stony Brook and a lifelong science lover, gave the conference’s keynote address, in which he recalled his years as host of the documentary series Scientific American Frontiers, interviewing more than 700 scientists around the world. Many of them, he said, were brilliant researchers doing fascinating work – but were unable to tell their stories in a compelling way. Too often, he said, they reverted to “lecture mode,” rather than talking in a person-to-person, conversational way that engages the listener. Mr. Alda’s desire to help scientists do better sparked the creation of the interdisciplinary Center for Communicating Science in 2009.

These goals are the same broad goals of Reach for the Stars, Northwestern’s GK12 (graduate students in K-12 education) program. Reach for the Stars is funded by the National Science Foundation with the aim of improving communication skills of graduate students in the STEM disciplines as these “resident scientists” integrate their research into school classrooms. Paulsen has already begun to implement the training and skills she received into the Reach for the Stars summer workshop.

By Michelle Paulsen
Last Modified: 7/12/11