Launching the Next Generation of Engaged Scientists, and some Food for Thought

December 2017

Confabulation Workshop

In these days of instantaneous exchanges of information and ideas, effective communication skills have become essential. Thanks to the generosity of E. Edward Lister, BSc(Agr)’55, MSc’57, and his wife, Teresa, the Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative is cultivating the communication skills of Macdonald students and faculty, enabling them to make more effective contributions to public conversations and policy decisions.

Students have had opportunities to learn new skills in both technology and communication. They are learning to communicate their science using analogy and narrative as a way to get people to understand and to make a resonant point – from evolution to climate change, scientific truth needs advocates who can speak in a common, personal language.

Students at the microscope workshop

Three workshop series were held this fall:

  1. Storytelling: Ten students worked for a month (four 90-minute workshops) with master storyteller Matt Goldberg and storytelling coach Leigh Kinch Pedrosa, of Confabulation. The goal of this workshop series was to help participants learn to tell their stories – their interests, their passions, their work. Learning to peel back the layers of their stories to find that 15-second heart was no easy matter.  But the rewards of telling (as opposed to narrating, explaining, or reviewing) were evident in the spellbinding moments we all experienced. Enthusiasm ran high in this series.
  2. The art of scientific photography and graphic design (posters): Students and staff were taken on a journey from gestalt to copyright law by way of photography composition basics. Avi Charzan, of Red Button Photo, opened our eyes to the power of shape arrangements and their ability to command our attention.  Now students are eager for hands-on practice.
  3. Basics of scientific microscopy: McGill postdoctoral fellow Youssef Chebli gave curious students a hands-on introduction to the basics of microscopy: physics of light, microscope components and adjustment, pixels, resolution, image capture and processing. Mac students brought their own samples to observe and photograph under the microscopes.

Next on our agenda, the Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative is teaming up with Skillsets (McGill Teaching and Learning Services) for three training workshops where graduate students will learn to deliver their theses in three minutes flat! Participants will have a chance to compete on the Mac campus before heading downtown for the McGill-wide contest. See you on January 11, 2018 for the Macdonald Campus 3 MT Competition.

Red-letter 18th season for Food for Thought

This year’s theme – Nourishing the Body: the inside story on nutrition and health – took audiences from the landscapes where our food is produced through its many transformations into healthful energy and back again through the policies and regulatory structures governing food in Canada.

Building on the Lister Family Engaged Science Initiative, two of our speakers were McGill graduate students: Tizziana Cambiotti, in the MSc Applied Dietetics Credentialing program, and Salam Habib, PhD candidate, McGill School of Human Nutrition.

Participants were enthusiastic about Tizziana’s smoothies: vibrant colours, good flavour and awesome, nutritious ingredients! Everyone enjoyed the quiz questions before each tasting.

Salam’s talk was broadcast live from our campus Facebook page. With live streaming, we are tapping into a whole new audience and educational experience, as Sue Kimpton Beauregard’s question attests:

“While watching your presentation I prepared two batches of sauerkraut. Can you talk about the time it takes to develop the probiotics through fermentation and compare the quantity of probiotics in fermented foods to probiotic supplements?”

We also had the pleasure of hearing from four former McGillians. Three engaged us in their successful entrepreneurial experiences as food producers. Frédéric Thériault, BSc(AgEnvSc)’04, MSc’08, MiTi (Macdonald Innovation for Teaching Improvement) support, Distinguished Young Alumni Award 2011, Ferme Tournesol; Richard Gilmer, BScAgr’75, Gilmer Farms, South Mountain, ON; and Luc Hobson, Inventor/Partner, NewTree Fruit Company, LP.

The fourth, Isabelle Germain, DtP, MSc’01, PhD’17, Saint-Hyacinthe Research and Development Centre, opened our eyes to the complexities of both our physical capacity and our psychological will to swallow. “This is amazing!” was heard from the audience as we got a close-up camera view of food descending from the mouth down to the stomach opening. Isabelle’s talk was also broadcast live via our Facebook page. A young researcher in France caught the broadcast and is working on developing an internship opportunity with Isabelle here in Quebec.

We also heard the passionate life story of Jean-François Archambault, CEO and Founder, La Tablée des Chefs, who is bringing food knowledge and skills to Quebec youth. Jean-François took us on his action-packed journey, finding ways to recover nutritious uneaten food from hotel, hospital and public venues and send it directly to local food banks. His heartfelt dismay at the lack of food security within Quebec’s at-risk youth has blossomed into a spectacular chef training program, run on campus at the McGill Food and Nutrition Labs. A question from the audience: “How can I participate in food recovery?” Jean-François’s answer: “It starts at home! In how you mentor to your family in your actions toward food, its value, your procurement and growing of food, your joy in sharing the preparation and preservation of food, and your respectful treatment of residual matter.”

Dr. Kevin Cockelle, Adjunct Professor, School of Human Nutrition, and Division Chief, Nutrition Research Division, Bureau of Nutritional Sciences, Food Directorate, Health Protection Branch, Health Canada, brought our theme full circle, illustrating the depth and breadth of research, surveillance and regulation bringing healthy nutrition to our Canadian population.

We look forward to an equally exciting 19th season in 2018!

Comments are closed.