Communication: Unlocking the Science

December 2014

ScienceComm graphic

Our graduate programs do an excellent job of providing students with the technical skills required for their future careers as scientists. What has become clear is that communicating science to non-science audiences, ranging from policy makers to lay people, has become ever more important.

The School of Dietetics and Human Nutrition recently launched its first “Three Minute Thesis Competition,” a research communication competition developed by the University of Queensland. The rules? Synthesize your research into a killer “Ted Talk-like” three-minute presentation with the support of one static visual aid. “No props, poems, raps or songs allowed!”

In all, nine PhD candidates volunteered for this inaugural event, representing over half of the research labs in the School. Presentations covered a wide variety of topics including child development and school feeding programs, the improvement of health outcomes through supplementation, and expanding our understanding of how the human body functions.

First place went to Mark Bradley, PhD candidate with Professor Niladri Basu, for his presentation “There is something fishy about mercury.” Bradley’s research work involves simulating the human digestive system in the lab to see if different populations of gut bacteria can affect the absorption of mercury from fish we eat. “By understanding how the absorption of mercury can be so different for different people, we will enable public health agencies to make better recommendations about which fish to eat and which fish to avoid.”

The People’s Choice Award went to Neil Brett, PhD candidate with Professor Hope Weiler, for his presentation “Does adding vitamin D to yogurt and cheese improve children’s health?” The short answer is: yes, it does. Brett explained that he is “now undertaking a six-month trial to see if vitamin D supplementation leads to better bone health and better bone strength and an immune system that functions more effectively. This research has widespread impact. It is already being used towards improving vitamin D health policy in Canada. In the future it can be used internationally with the larger goal of improving and ensuring the proper growth of children all around the world.”

It was a terrific learning experience for both the presenters and the audience. We hope that the idea encourages more such events across the Faculty. Well done!

Comments are closed.