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Article Title

The Empathetic Scientist

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Abstract

How would you describe a scientist? When asked this question, many of us envision wild-haired, brainy, and slightly awkward sorts of characters. In a survey of my Facebook friends, I found that people rarely give scientists descriptors like great orators or teachers. This problem points to a weakness in a key component of being a scientist and following the process of the scientific method – communication.

In one of my graduate courses, we were asked to interview a faculty member about how they communicate science to various audiences. I chose to interview Dr. Joshua Weiner, the instructor of a Developmental Neurobiology course. This molecular neuroscience-heavy class covered how the developing brain orchestrates complex signaling cascades that eventually form the most intricate organ in the body (see Figure), yet Dr. Weiner made the class material clear and enjoyable. I had a hunch that he would have some good suggestions for science communication, so I drafted some interview questions, tested out my recorder for the first time, and set up an interview with him, featured in the audio clip above.

I expected Dr. Weiner's advice to echo what I had heard previously; to tailor your information for the specific audience, to use visual aids, and to reiterate key messages. Although he did agree with all of these communication tools, Dr. Weiner's empathy and understanding towards his students struck me during the interview. This advocacy for compassion in a world of science that can be very detached from emotions and feelings served as a reminder for me to put myself in other people's shoes in science communication and in all aspects of my life.

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'Copyright © 2017 Maria Noterman.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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