G R E E S H M A S O M A S H E K A R
As a student in the Notation in Science Communication (NSC) program, I have learned that every communication challenge has its own set of rules. Choosing to work creatively within and around these constraints allows for personalized discourse with various types of audiences.
I was born in November 1993 at a New Jersey county hospital after a strenuous labor and unscheduled C-section. My parents had recently immigrated to the United States from balmy South India and they remember driving me home through a terrible snowstorm. Ironically, they gave me a name that means 'summer'.
Growing up hearing my own birth story as well as other stories from my family has shaped my interests in maternal/child health, cultural differences in medicine, and storytelling. In Fall 2015, I conducted several interviews with moms from marginalized communities about their unique childbirth experiences. My Honors in the Arts project is loosely based on these conversations with families and healthcare providers. Titled 'Melted Jaggery', it is a collection of spoken word poetry that acknowledges and celebrates the many ways in which infants are brought into our world. This year-long capstone project and its many challenges have both informed and benefited from my science communication work.
During my freshman year at Stanford, I presented a poster on the development and spread of Ewing’s Sarcoma (a pediatric bone cancer) at the Bio-X Interdisciplinary Initiatives Symposium. Preparation involved reflecting on our research "story" in order to convey results to Stanford Cancer Institute faculty. We decided to create our own graphics for the background section in order to break up a large wall of text and allow the poster to stand on its own. This NSC artifact, along with two others, requires the creative prioritizing of key results for specialist audiences.
Following a course on design thinking and science communication, I began to think more about correspondence with non-technical, target audiences. In class, we discussed the importance of understanding your audience ("cultural cognition") and using this knowledge to design relevant communication materials. This strategy is best reflected in a group project I completed during my junior year. After interviewing athletes about their needs, brainstorming solutions, and pitching our ideas to our peers, our team built a mechanical model of plantar fasciitis to educate runners and gymnasts about a relatively common injury in their sports. This was not only an exercise in design for a specific community – in this case, young athletes – but also collaboration across disciplines (our team consisted of a mechanical engineer, a bioengineer, an artist, and a human biology major).
Communicating with general audiences allows for the most creativity because there are fewer constraints. One of my favorite portfolio artifacts is a spoken word poem I wrote with a fellow student last year about conservation and sustainable fishing practices. We have since performed this piece, which incorporates both scientific facts and personal storytelling, at various venues on and off campus.
In my current study of childbirth, the process of taking emotional conversations and crafting them into poetry has been taxing. While not inherently scientific, these poems have helped me further explore the idea of creativity versus constraint.
My NSC ePortfolio includes artifacts from a wide range of disciplines. Each artifact - whether it's a research poster, academic paper, 3D model, or poem - has its own set of requirements. Over the course of the last few years, I have learned how to creatively present various scientific topics while adhering to artifact-specific expectations (e.g. a conference may require scientists to present their findings in a particular format).
I look forward to incorporating creative, out-of-the-box elements/strategies while distilling complex topics for various audiences in the future.