“Meet the BioArtists” recap

Standard

Art and science are intimately intertwined. A great example of the intersection of these two topics is the BioArt contest run by our colleagues at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology [FASEB]. Since 2012, FASEB has handed out awards to the most inspiring, creative artistic images of scientific phenomena, ranging from fungal infections to nutrient uptake by plants to neuronal cell signaling.

IMG_1467

BioArt images were displayed on the walls of the Karl Strauss Brewery in downtown San Diego

Though scientists may be accustomed to such stunning images (and videos), the public at-large has traditionally not experienced the same level of exposure.To bring BioArt to the masses in a truly public venue, the ASBMB recently sponsored “Meet the BioArtists ” at the Karl Strauss Brewery in downtown San Diego. Images submitted by previous BioArt contest winners were printed and hung on display in the brewery for several weeks in April, enveloping patrons with plant stem cells, nerve fibers and even the Ebola virus.

While the brewery staff made a valiant effort to point out the science-themed art, it was difficult (if not impossible) for any of the viewers to make the connection between the image hanging on the wall in front of them and the science that it was inspired by. This passivity is one of the problems with art. Engagement happens only at the discretion of the audience, removing the face-to-face interactions that lead to deeper understanding: you don’t get to ask Picasso how he painted that picture, or Mozart why he wrote that musical piece. Given the overarching goal of science outreach to connect scientists and non-scientists, it is important for such events to take place in situations that allow for direct interactions between the two groups.

Nat Prunet describes his winning BioArt image for attendees

So to add that extra touch of engagement, on the evening of April 5 BioArtist winners Bryan Jones, Nat Prunet and Clarence Wigfall came to the brewery to present their science-themed works of art for the local San Diego community, as well as attendees of the EB conference. Donning white lab coats, the BioArtists mingled with customers, talked about their motivations and artistic inspirations, and described the science behind their images for nearly four hours. The constant flow of engaged visitors coming to talk science on a Tuesday night was impressive, especially considering that a Padres baseball game was taking place a few blocks away. Outreach and engagement, all at once.

After the success of the “Meet the BioArtists” event, the ASBMB is contemplating how to continue bringing science art to the public by potentially developing a BioArtists road show that can visit cities across the country. After all, these days everyone deserves to get a chance to interact with art (and science).

Pictures from the event can be found here.

ASBMB Wikipedia Edit-a-thon

Standard

Outreach from home? It’s actually not an oxymoron. Done properly, science outreach using only a computer can be incredibly effective. A number of scientists have actually had great success using different social media platforms to share their research with the greater public. The online encyclopedia Wikipedia is particularly tailor-made for scientists. Open for editing by anyone, all you need is an internet connection (and hopefully some scientific knowledge) to make a substantial contribution to Wikipedia. The site is increasingly being used by researchers and students alike as a legitimate source of reference material. Which means that Wikipedia is always in need of more content.

Edit-a-thon image

ASBMB members tackle Wikipedia editing

To focus effort on generating this content, organizers have started hosting edit-a-thons that bring together beginner and expert Wikipedians for a set amount of time that is dedicated to a specific topic area. On April 4 at the San Diego Convention Center (during EB2016), the ASBMB hosted its own Wikipedia edit-a-thon, where students and faculty attending the meeting came together to work at improving the quality (and quantity) of Wikipedia articles focused on biochemistry and cell biology. Despite some severe competition from the concurrent ASBMB Game Night, the edit-a-thon had a respectable turn-out from meeting attendees.

As of April 25, the event had resulted in:

  • 5 articles created
  • 45 articles edited
  • 180 total edits
  • 259,000 page views (!)

Even more exciting is how the edit-a-thon was able to inspire attendees to use Wikipedia in their own efforts going forward. “I’m more excited than ever about using Wikipedia in my classes!” exclaimed ASBMB member Sandi Clement from Cal State Poly, San Luis Obispo after attending the event.

Sponsorship for the edit-a-thon came from the Simons Foundation, who has helped to put on edit-a-thons at numerous professional society meetings over the past year, including those of the American Society for Cell Biology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the Wiki Education Foundation as part of their “Year of Science” (you can read more about the “Year of Science” here). As such efforts continue, even more members of the scientific community will be willing and able to get involved and start doing outreach, even if it’s just from their couch.

Meet the BioArtists

Standard

The Experimental Biology (EB) meeting has been a frequent visitor to San Diego. And every time we come to town, the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee puts on a unique outreach event that brings science to the local community. At EB2012 in San Diego, we organized (in conjunction with the San Diego Biotechnology Network) a science-themed tweet-up at the Mission Brewery. Two years later, we worked with the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center to put on an interactive science café at Southpaw Social Club that gave attendees a hands-on look at FoldIt, the protein folding video game.

So how do we top ourselves in 2016? This time around, we’ll be focusing on art. Anyone who has worked in a lab will immediately appreciate the beauty of the natural world and the creative, artistic ways that researchers showcase the wonders of science. To highlight these efforts, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has, since 2012, sponsored the BioArt competition, which invites scientists to share “captivating, high-resolution images and videos representing cutting edge, 21st century biomedical and life science research.”

Ou 2015

One of the winning images from the 2015 FASEB BioArt contest, by Xiawei Ou, Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center, Arkansas Children’s Hospital (ACH) and ACH Research Institute, and University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, Little Rock, AR

Now for the first time, we are bringing BioArt to EB. Winning images from the past several years will be displayed on the walls of the Karl Strauss Brewery, one of downtown San Diego’s hottest brew pubs. Even cooler, on the night of April 5, we will have several of the actual BioArt winners there in-person to talk about their entries and how they were motivated to translate their research into art. This will be a great chance to see for yourself the intersection of art and STEM (commonly referred to by the acronym “STEAM”).

So if you’re in San Diego looking for something to do on a Tuesday night and want to see what science has to offer, come on down and join us! As anyone who has come to one of our outreach events before can attest, you are guaranteed to have a fun time.

 

Outreach Sessions at EB2016

Standard

Science cafes. Social media campaigns. K-12 classroom programs. There is a whole world of outreach going on out there. The challenge for anyone looking to participate in an outreach event or even start their own outreach program is sorting through this morass to find the opportunity that is right for them. Luckily, the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee has organized a series of events during EB2016 that will showcase and highlight several of these programs that will give you the chance to figure out which type of outreach activity is right for you, and how to go about getting involved.

We’ll start with “Building Your Outreach Program from A To Z” on the morning of Saturday April 2. During this session, we will hear from recipients of the ASBMB HOPES seed grant program, as well as individuals from other community outreach programs, who will talk about how they organize their activities and what scientists can do to get involved. These presentations will give you the opportunity to ask the questions about outreach that you’ve never gotten answered, and to form some real collaborations with others in the audience who are (or have been) in your shoes.

One of the biggest challenges with outreach is how to go from a good idea to a functional, sustainable program. That requires funding. One source is the National Science Foundation (NSF), which requires any proposal to the agency to include a section describing the broader impacts of the proposed scientific endeavor. Traditionally, the Broader Impacts requirement has been a challenge to navigate, so to help you out we have lined up a panel of experts who have extensive experience with the NSF funding process. The panel includes individuals who have been successful in obtaining NSF grants, former NSF program officers, and a university official whose job it is to help researchers prepare their grant applications. This lively discussion will help walk you through the process from start to finish, and provide insight on how best to go about constructing your proposal.

Poster session

If a formal session is too intimidating, or if your travel plans mean you won’t arrive at the meeting until later, no worries. Grab a drink and come hang out during our outreach poster session during the ASBMB Opening Reception on Saturday night from 7 – 9 PM. This informal event will be a great chance to casually interact with members of the ASBMB community who are currently involved in outreach. We have lined up nearly 20 different presenters from around the country who have posters that describe their individual programs, giving you a chance to get your questions answered in a one-on-one setting. Come see the variety of programming that the outreach community has to offer!

These outreach sessions are a great way to kick off your meeting in the right way. See you there!

The Art of the Elevator Pitch

Standard

Giving a talk? Presenting a poster? Networking with potential collaborators or future employers? Communication will be everywhere at EB2016. That means it is vitally important to be prepared to talk, at any moment, about who you are and what you do. And with so much happening at the meeting, you have to be engaging before whoever you are talking to runs off to the next event.

But how can you do all that while still being accurate about your science? This is a challenge for any scientist who wants to communicate, especially in situations when time is limited. So to help prepare EB attendees, the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee has put together an in-depth training workshop that focuses on a specific type of communication interaction: the elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is exactly what it says: introduce yourself and describe your work in the time it takes to ride an elevator down from your hotel room. This type of pressure-cooker situation forces you to focus on what is really important in terms of content and delivery, and realize what can be discarded. Importantly, these lessons can then be applied to any type of communication venue, whether it be a professional presentation or a casual conversation with friends.

For our highly interactive training session on Saturday April 2, we will give you everything you need to pull off a successful elevator pitch by providing insight into all of the key elements, including:

  • What makes a good elevator pitch
  • Things you should NOT do
  • How to know if you made a good impression
  • Ways to follow up

Leading the workshop will be several expert communicators, including members of the ASBMB Public Outreach Committee, so you know you’ll be getting quality advice. The best part of the workshop is that you will get a chance to try these techniques out for yourself before you set off for the meeting proper.

This workshop is a spin-off from our online course, “The Art of Science Communication,” which provides in-depth training on presenting scientific topics to non-expert audiences. If you like what you see during the workshop, we hope that you’ll consider signing up for the full “Art of Science Communication” course to learn how to apply these (and additional) lessons to a whole variety of situations. The next version of “The Art of Science Communication” will run this summer and there are a limited number of slots available, so as an added bonus, attendees of this workshop will get priority when applying!

See you in San Diego!

Details:

Date and time: Saturday April 2 from 12:30 – 4:30 PM

Location: San Diego Ballroom C of the San Diego Marriott Marquis & Marina.

Registration: Sign-up is required for this workshop. Click here to register.