Maryse Thomas – Part 2 – Science Communication in Academia

In Part 2 of my interview with Maryse Thomas, we talk about the role scientists can play in disseminating sound scientific information. We also discuss the UsefulScience.org and how being director of this science popularization platform has beciome an integral part of her academic career.

Academia, science communication, popularization

Maryse Thomas is a post-doctoral research fellow at the Massachussets Eye and Ear and Harvard Medical School in Boston. Originally from Montreal, she received her PhD at McGill University in the field of auditory neuroscience. Maryse is interested in digital media and science communication and has been the Director of the website UsefulScience.org since 2018. Useful Science publishes short summaries of scientific research relevant to everyday life and also produces a podcast that dives into the science behind those studies.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • The process of applying for postdocs
  • The job talk and how to prepare for it
  • The power of volunteer websites if you want to find projects to contribute to
  • How student-led initiatives are leading the way turning graduate researchers on to science communication and how some universities are following suit
  • How you can gain science communication experience while in graduate school

This episode’s pearls of wisdom:

“I feel like it is, unfortunately, in some ways, the students who have picked up the slack and who have created these opportunities for other students. For example, a workshop that I attended in my last year of my PhD at McGill was run entirely by other graduate students. It was a science communications workshop called ‘Spell Your Science’. And so now, I do see those opportunities advertised much more, so I would suggest anyone looking to get into them to scan those newletters that you get from your program. And I think more of them are also university sponsored.”

“There are more traditional ways to gain experience in writing that would help you in science communication. For example, I participated in student newspapers – I was a design editor, so I wasn’t a typical editor like you might think of, but I was doing the graphic design and the layout, but I got to see the process and how it worked. And after that I also participated in some undergraduate science journals. So those are more established groups that have been around for a longer time, but those can give you the same kind of skills and meybe, even, connections to a scicomm path, eventually.”

“The skills that you learn as a researcher, even if you’re doing basic research, include analysis of texts, of scientific articles – knowing how to read the artilce and to parse it, and knowing how to look into the statistics. And those skills apply to any field.”

“Not every scientist has to be the best communicator to the public, but if at least a fraction of us try to do so and try to develop those skills, then it could make a difference and help us in those conversations that we happen to have with our family, with our friends, or even on the bus. And one way to develop these skills of science communication, maybe through attending an online workhsop or an in person workshop, or reading a bit about it, or practicing by becoming a volunteer for one of these organizations. I think all of it could, in sum, make a difference on how people perceive scientists, both in their community and the ones that they see on TV.”  

Maryse’s links: Linkedin.com/in/maryse-thomas-8a2b9752; UsefulScience.org. To submit an article to Useful Science, go to: www.usefulscience.org/submit; Scicomm Board.

You might also like the following episodes:

Clarissa Wright – Publishing: PapaPhD.com/34

Fiona Robinson – Patient education: PapaPhD.com/6

Liliana Vitorino – Industry: PapaPhD.com/31

Tamarah Luk – Entertainment Law: PapaPhD.com/10

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