Saturday, February 16, 2013

Communicating My Science and Engineering

Communicating about my science and engineering allows me to combine two important facets of my life. If you've know me very long, you know that I love talking, telling stories, and connecting with people. You also probably know that I love being an engineer and am really excited to work at the intersection of several fields: chemical engineering, computational science and engineering, applied mathematics, biomedical engineering, and pharmaceutical sciences. If you're reading this, you also know that I enjoy blogging about everything from books and exercise to writing and vacations. Recently, I've been inspired to use my blog more to combine my story telling with my research endeavors. Here's a little of the motivation:

This week I've been attending a conference in Boston for the American Association for the Advancement of Science. It's very different from most others science conferences where grad students, post docs, and professors give presentations about the details of their current research projects to others in their narrow subfields. Is this one, mostly very senior researchers and other scientific professionals discuss the impacts of their work to science, society, and public policy and address very diverse audiences with people with advanced degrees in every possible field of STEM including Nobel Prize winners, students, educators, policy making, funding agencies, science writers, and even lay audiences from the general public. Additionally, the well-attended, well-run expo had hands-on science demos for kids and adults of all backgrounds.  It's a been phenomenal experience, and I have three favorite sessions so far: 1) an engaging session about science communication secrets presented by science writers Brian Lin and Andy Torr (key slide), 2) the science of the kitchen presented by Nathan Myhrvold, author of the Modernist Cuisine tomes about why cooking works (acclaimed as "the greatest cookbook achievement of all time" with stunning photography) and that features my favorite equation from heat transfer (what I study) written with flames, and 3) a great talk by Sherry Turkle about how humans have are growing to be more connected with life-like machines and robots while sacrificing connections with other humans.

I've recently discussed my work with a senior citizens group, science writers, and a microscope salesman, besides with other science professionals from a variety of fields. I have upcoming appointments to reach out to other groups and show why they should care about my work: computational researchers in Boston, middle school girls in a math club, and high school girls in an engineering mentoring program. This is all in addition to my corporate research sponsors, current research colleagues, and, in the near future, potential employers and colleagues. While these are all verbal communications, I want to try to engage with my blog readers and friends who live in other areas of the country and the world through this written forum. In the next few weeks, I plan to write two blog posts to tell about my graduate and postdoctoral research and how computational science and applied mathematics have really enabled the work in designing advanced drug delivery devices that can give medicines for extended periods of time with a single dose and in improving pharmaceutical manufacturing practices to lower the cost of medicines. I'm eagerly looking forward to starting conversations with my readers about the tools that I use for my research and the societal benefits of the work and about how this kind of information can be shared effectively with non-technical audiences, including students. Please share your feedback with me either directly on this blog or on facebook.

Stay tuned for the next episode: How computational science and applied mathematics can bring better, cheaper medicines to a pharmacy near you.