As the new year rolls in and celebrations pass, we begin to wonder what lies ahead. For some of us this unexplored year brings excitement as well as insecurities that we might not be willing to admit. For most of us, however, we are in sync to the yearly rhythm of life, and neither look forward to the new year nor welcome it with fear. We welcome it as we would welcome any other day; with a gratefulness of being alive. The value of the individual is so often disregarded in our ever so growing population. To tackle the problems of the world we form collaborations and networks including a little something of each individual personality, bringing forth diversity in both intellectual and emotional intelligence, and create a much stronger force to solve complex problems. But we mustn’t challenge the importance and power of the individual. After all, what motivates us, as individuals, to pursue these projects can be a combination of selfishness and aspiration to make a difference to a world that needs much of it.
Explaining our PhD research is as essential as conducting the research in the first place. And it’s already difficult to explain the research to other scientists in the field, but to present it to a non-science audience, in 3 minutes, now that’s the actual challenge!
It’s training us to make fast and quick impact points. But, training us for what exactly? It’s like pitching a business idea to a panel who will interview hundreds in a day. The real question is how to be unique and credible in 3 minutes. What’s the real message that we are trying to say about science?
Often times, we don’t get a chance to explain ourselves. Ironically, when we do get ample time to explain ourselves, we don’t exactly know when to stop. I know, I often run into those moments when my partner in conversation is grinning at me, with a look of confusion on their face. Or when explaining an idea to a colleague, that I should have rehearsed beforehand, but thought I could explain it well. When asked by a job interviewer “why do you want to work here”, those unprepared would have a hard time finding an answer to such a broad question. Even if prepared, getting all the thoughts together, so to sound natural, can be as difficult.
But what if you weren’t allowed to speak naturally? Anyone who has presented their research or interests to somebody with no prior knowledge about it, has surely wondered how much detail should be said or just talked until the other person started to think about anything else but what is being explained. Surely, as scientists, as good presenters, we know that not everyone will have the same training or background for a particular subject. Therefore, to get our word across, we must adapt to our audience.
Here, we take this concept and make it even tougher–skip the intermediates and head to the extremes. An extreme that our early ancestors may have called normal, thousands of years ago–back when hunting patterns or observations were recorded on cave walls. We always like sharing an experience, they make great stories, great conversations. But most importantly, experiences serve as small sticky notes for learning about the challenges that life may bring. We have some of the most unique ways of communicating with each other, with varying degrees of complexity. We live in a world where we can communicate via wired and wireless connections. I don’t remember when the message in a bottle trend died out, but we have come a long way, that it’s almost as if we don’t appreciate the skills that were essential in the past. The patience of writing a letter by hand or on an error-prone typewriter, to waiting days, some times months for a reply, when now it takes seconds to communicate with a friend half-way across the world. Sure, we have other worries like the unforgiving ‘Seen’ at the bottom of the message. We can simply correlate our ability to communicate better because we have more advanced resources of communication today, than we had in the past. And we hope that these resources will develop as time passes.
So the question is: are the skills of our ancestors still within us or have we relied too much on our ability to express ourselves through writing or speech? Or are these skills no longer needed?
Our first challenge tests the ability to present scientific research without the use of technology or relying on speech to communicate research information. The video itself is unscripted and we try our best in guessing what our Guest speaker does in the lab. The video was filmed in a noisy hotel lobby, which made communication and general comfort difficult, however our scientist performed extremely well, considering he had no time to prepare for this challenge. This goes to show that although we may be die-hard fans of technology and chatter, we can still communicate, and others can get the picture, in a manner of speaking.
Every story needs a beginning, but I am not sure where my story begins. I guess we can trace it back to my early days when I was diagnosed with a case of attention deficit disorder, after showing interest in several toys during a psychological assessment. A toy was given to me every five minutes and apparently it would have been normal to finish playing with one toy before moving on to the next. I have always argued that if the doctor handed me a toy to look at, I would look at it, regardless if I already had one to play with. I felt that they rushed their diagnosis and defined me into a category.