Tell us a little bit about yourself
I am a scientist+communicator, currently based at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Unites States. Originally from Mumbai, India, I immigrated to United states for graduate school. I have been involved in several initiatives across the United States and India, as a freelance science communicator and public engagement practitioner for more than a decade. Find out more about me at here.
Did you always want to be a SciCommer?
I am a trained microbiologist and geneticist and am still actively pursuing research as a profession. I thoroughly enjoy the process of research, and I love solving complex problems, with cross-discipline teams, using the same shared language for communication. I love sharing science in all its complexity and glory to the scientific community using traditional academic tools like research talks, posters, presentations, manuscripts, so in a way, I have been a SciCommer all my adult life! I can also simplify and translate science for non-scientist colleagues and the public at large. I realized early on that I did not want to commit myself to strict academia, so right after my graduate school, I decided to explore careers where I can apply all my scientific training and communication skills. For the longest period, the scientific community around me made me almost feel that I had to “choose” between the two: science and communications for my career. But, I believe in Einstein’s quote, “Science is not complete until communicated.” So I decided to pivot to SciComm organically as a by-product of my academic journey hence my title: Scientist+Communicator. Over the years, I have also been a part of number of science outreach, education, management and leadership initiatives so I decided to combine all my expertise and passions and build a unique career path for myself.
There’s a lot of different careers within SciComm. How did you choose which direction you wanted to go?
My career exploration journey has always been guided by the principle of “rule of elimination.” I explored many new career options by attending different seminars, career development panels and workshops always with an open mind. I also relied heavily on networking to get to know the nitty-gritties of the said career profile. I then would reflect upon the experiences of all these early exposures to that career options from the point of view of – did I enjoy this experience (talk/workshop/information gathering) today? and realistically, do I see myself in the same position? will I enjoy doing this thing for the next 20 years? and why?
This intentional exposure to various career profiles and self-reflection helped me narrow down my choices. I realized that I enjoy creating and curating communication content in various formats and mediums and I love collaborations and interpersonal communications.
I am also passionate about connecting science and society in a meaningful way, so I decided to combine both these interests and passions and started to get involved in a variety of public engagement initiatives using science communication as my entry point and have been doing so for almost a decade now. I have always been influenced by the power of stories in effectively engaging someone so I now focus on using storytelling approaches to make science+communication more effective. Today, I am a part of several projects across the United States and India, providing my expertise for educational resource and capacity building, content creation and production, civic engagement, and multi-platform communication strategies.
What’s been your favorite part about working in SciComm?
I love the opportunity SciCommers get to connect with their audience through your communication efforts. The mediums, formats, settings, and platforms may vary but if I can make and sustain that connection with my audience, I am a happy soul!
What’s something about SciComm that you wish you knew before pursuing this career?
The thing I have realized is the silos and barriers to entry that exist especially for an immigrant person of color (like me) to get a fair shot at training, fellowships, and jobs in science communication space.
What do you think is your most important job as a SciCommer?
Relating and connecting with audiences, providing relevant information in an accessible and approachable format, and sustaining the conversations for long-term engagement.
Tell us about your favorite SciComm project
Recently, I had an opportunity to work as a faculty for a science communication Bootcamp under “Curious Science Writers Program“ hosted by Americans for Medical Progress, Washington DC. I ran a multi-session workshop on strategies and tools for effective science writing called “Scicomm Workouts.” This was such a challenging but exciting experience because I had 30 high-schoolers to engage and explain the principles and importance of science writing and strategies involved while making the virtual setting lively by including lots of hands-on activities and fun exercises. The workshop also allowed me to experiment with my own communication techniques by customizing them for the specific audience, a process I immensely enjoy.
I also love collaborating with other SciCommers and want to mention Lifeology’s Science communication program that gave me a chance to collaborate with a fantastic illustrator, Abrian Curington, while developing two courseworks on Science Storytelling. How to Tell a Science Story is out now. It has been a very different learning experience as I had never worked with an artist before, so I had to recalibrate and align my thinking to match what was expected by Abrian in order for us to show coherent content and I definitely enjoyed the process.
What advice do you have for aspiring SciCommers?
Go ahead, taste the waters for yourself and if you decide to jump in, be ready to find your own niche and carve your own career path! Also, be a part of the SciComm community by volunteering, networking and collaborating!