As I near the end of my PhD in molecular biology, I begin reflecting on my past 10 years in post-secondary science education. Like many new doctoral graduates out there, the hope of finding a “real” job consumes your everyday thoughts, and quickly you begin evaluating what your next steps should be professionally. For me, I have always had two constants in my life, science and education. This lead me to completing a dual degree (Concurrent Education) in university which resulted in obtaining both a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Education. My original plan was always to become a high school science teacher (just like my dad), but as I moved further along on this journey, I was stopped dead in my tracks by research.
At 20 years old, and in my final year of university, I fell in love with the research taking place in a molecular biology lab. I decided that scientific research could be my calling, and I immediately switched paths and enrolled in a Master of Science program with hopes to transfer directly into a PhD. As time went on in grad school I quickly realized that the glamour of scientific research was wearing off and wondered why I didn’t know more about what really went on as a grad student. This lead me to starting my personal blog on Instagram to showcase what the journey of a PhD student working in science looked like.
As I began sharing my experiences as a PhD student on social media, I quickly learned that what I was doing was called Science communication! As an undergrad and grad student I always loved volunteering for various STEM outreach events and sharing science information, but I never knew it had a formal name. From here, I began learning more about how to effectively communicate science in a variety of different setting and to diverse groups of people. You would think as someone who has 10+ years of science education, that communicating that science would be easy. When in reality it is far from easy. You see, my undergraduate courses taught me the hard science – and for many biology students – how to efficiently memorize the details of information. What was lacking (that I didn’t notice at the time) was formal training on how to communicate the science I have learned, and specifically how to break it down for high level explanations. This was the “gap” in my degree.
I began thinking, why was I not taught how to write and communicate science? Surly, communicating science is just as import – if not more important – as learning it. As biology students, we are required to take ethics courses to understand the ethical implications of scientific practice. So, it only makes sense that a communications course is also required. If I never completed a Bachelor of Education – which is uncommon for many science students – I would have never learned these best practices for teaching and communicating science.
As I near the end of my PhD I finally feel like I have found my calling. It was there from the beginning, I just didn’t know how to execute it. My goal is to advocate for science communication for undergraduate science students and implement new courses to supplement this need.