Monthly Archives: April 2012

Do you understand what I’m saying?


Communication is key. Whether you are trying to teach someone, debate your views on a topic or even in our everyday relationships it is important to have excellent communication skills to excel in life. When it comes to the sciences it seems as though there are extremes in communication. At one end of the spectrum there are the amazing speakers that travel the world to advocate for science funding and education such as the astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson or the many great speakers that present at TED (TED: Ideas worth spreading) and then there’s the other end of the spectrum. Those who are extremely smart but unable to communicate in a way the average person can grasp. Maybe you’ve experienced one of these scientists yourself in high school or in college. I personally remember in college not fully understanding organic chemistry. I loved general chemistry and I was pretty good at organic chemistry for the first semester. But the second semester I had a teacher that was so smart but couldn’t teach. He just didn’t know how to explain what he knew in a simple, understandable way. I see that happen a lot in STEM education. For some reason some scientists are not very good at communicating scientific concepts, specifically to the general public that doesn’t have a scientific background of knowledge to draw from. Unfortunately I believe teachers such as these can actually turn students away from the sciences. A student can feel that it’s their fault for not understanding a concept, that they just aren’t smart enough to get it when really it’s not being taught in a way that’s easily understood or that smart scientists are elitist. That’s why I was excited to hear about the Center for Communicating Science. A place that teaches scientists to communicate. They even teach graduate level courses in communicating science. This is so crucial not only for scientists that are educators but also research scientists who need to be able to explain to funders or congress why their work is worth supporting.

This is another reason why I believe using Art to teach Science can be very helpful with concepts that are very abstract. Just like art can be used to explain emotions that words don’t seem to encompass, art can help to portray a scientific concept in a way that a 1000 words cannot. Art can also be used to create excitement for the sciences and introduce research and technology to people who normally would not be interested. Art like this:

A 3D-printed brain scan of a brain tumour etched into a glass block. by Katharine Dowson.

And this piece by Semâ Bekirovic, an environmental artist that tackles the ongoing struggle between culture and nature.

And finally MicroArt: Suctorian attached to stalk of red algae, encircled by ring of diatoms by Elieen Roux at Bob Hope International Heart Research Institute.

These beautiful art pieces can be both informative and thought provoking.

Now that’s the way to communicate science!