This portfolio illustrates my coevolving interests in scientific knowledge and the human contexts in which science is pursued, understood, and applied. My experiences in research and science communication have underscored for me the importance of considering the social dimensions of science, including political and cultural obstacles to scientific pursuits, demographic disparities within the scientific community, and the profound impacts of scientific study on human history.
Independent Inquiry: The first section of my ePortfolio centers on communication of my own research. My course essay on the intersection of infectious disease management and American imperialism at the Panama Canal represents a synthesis of secondary-source research material and an exploration of the social implications of scientific activities. A dossier of my nature photography represents the study and presentation of natural phenomena through a visual medium with great flexibility for creative personal expression. Finally, my undergraduate honors thesis represents communication about primary research conducted using basic science methodologies.
My first forays into science communication resulted from my early endeavors as a science researcher. I presented my own research work, from sixth grade through senior year of college, at research competitions and conferences whose attendees and judges were diverse in their degree of familiarity with scientific principles and who hailed from many walks of life. I relished sharing my thought processes and findings with others and navigating the challenges of communicating to a wide variety of audiences. Through communication of my own research work and through formal study of rhetoric, I came to realize that science communication requires more than simple word-for-word translation from technical jargon into familiar language. Effective science communication also requires the translation of technical material into new value contexts. That is, it requires reorienting the material to focus on ideas and agents that are salient to the audience members. Achieving that second layer of translation requires a deeper understanding of audience—what matters to them and how they make sense of the world—that continues to fascinate and challenge me.
Teaching and Mentorship: The second section of my ePortfolio focuses on my efforts to encourage youth involvement in research and support students of all backgrounds in early scientific pursuits, tasks which require a different flavor of science communication. The two experiences highlighted within this section are my editorial leadership with the Stanford Undergraduate Research Journal and my roles as counselor and Teaching Assistant for the Research Science Institute, a youth science research summer program at MIT.
I was fortunate to receive support from communities and mentors who recognized and fostered my own early passion for scientific exploration. Many students lack access to educational curricula that emphasize curiosity-driven learning—the true heart of science at all academic levels—and many are discouraged from careers in science on the basis of characteristics like gender and ethnicity. Throughout my own career as a young scientist, I have felt a responsibility to introduce other students to research opportunities and provide them with support. Being an experimental scientist requires confidence because it inherently involves a substantial amount of failure as an essential component of learning and discovery. However, students from underrepresented groups within science and engineering and those who face obstacles of discrimination are more likely to internalize failures as evidence that they do not possess the capacity for success in these fields. Mentorship and encouragement can beneficially transform the self-confidence and aspirations of prospective scientists. In addition, coaching and guiding other students through their own research and science communication efforts taught me how to critically examine and refine my own science communication.
Advocacy and Outreach: The third section of my ePortfolio focuses on the application of science for social good through science communication and includes four artifacts. In creating a podcast on the science of altruism and a website about retroviruses, I explored audio and internet media as tools for public engagement to increase scientific literacy and encourage science-grounded critical thinking about social issues. Through an internship with non-profit organization Friends of Minzoto, I created a report on healthcare systems and infectious diseases in Dungu, DR Congo to serve as a guide for the organization’s community health projects. In the fourth and final artifact within this section, I describe my experiences using science communication to advocate for meaningful policy change regarding youth involvement in research and inquiry-based science education.
My research, teaching, mentorship, and advocacy have all been driven equally by my love of discovery and my dedication to applying scientific knowledge to improve the lives of others. By exploring the following ePortfolio, readers will learn more about my science communication work, the elements of my personal background that inspired this work, and the challenges to which I plan to apply my science communication skills in the years ahead.