To Better Communicate Science —-Voices from Our Volunteers

By Xinjun Zhang

Since founded in September 2016, NYC Science Communication (NYC SciComm) has grown to have 174 members from more than 12 institutes across New York City and beyond. On behalf of our Board of Directors, I would like to acknowledge our volunteers over the past year. Without them, the growth of NYC SciComm would not have been possible. In this special post, many of our volunteers also share their insights into science communication.

                                                                                  The Family Tree of NYC Science Communication


Yue Liu | Founder/President             LinkedIn

Yue earned her PhD in Neuroscience from The City University of New York (CUNY) in 2017. Inspired by her strong passion for science communication and the 2016 Science Alliance Leadership Training (SALT) experience at The New York Academy of Sciences (NYAS), Yue founded NYC SciComm in 2016 with tremendous support from SALT alumni and The New Media Lab in the CUNY Graduate Center. Communicating science in a clear, engaging, and accessible way was an essential part of Yue’s doctoral training, and she hopes NYC SciComm can help more PhD students sharpen and leverage science communication skills. Yue recommends a three-step strategy for science communication: 1) starting from the big picture to build the context (e.g. disease burden), 2) explaining how the science (e.g. new findings) can fill in the gap (e.g. unmet need), and 3) ending with real-world significance to go back to the big picture. In February, Yue landed a job as Scientific Associate at Chameleon Communications International and is currently helping NYC SciComm recruit a new President.


Xinjun Zhang | Vice President of Public Relationships (VPPR)           LinkedIn

Xinjun Zhang is a Research Associate at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC). As the VPPR of NYC SciComm, he has helped build and maintain the website, and is also in charge of the publicity and strategic planning. To simply, effectively, and explicitly deliver the significance and applications of scientific research to the public is challenging. The skills can only be acquired through practice. Xinjun believes that practicing tailoring the same scientific story to various audiences is the key.


Tristan Fehr | Executive Editor; IR, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai          LinkedIn

By day, Tristan investigates the brain as a PhD candidate in Neuroscience at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. By night, he strives to enliven science for non-scientists through his role as Executive Editor for NYC SciComm. Tristan believes that everyone deserves access to the wonders of scientific discovery, and aims to further this right by facilitating communication between scientists and the public. Tristan’s favorite method to hone sharing science is to teach it to others in person, and to explore creative metaphors for visualizing scientific findings. Please find his edited work here.


John McLaughlin | Administrative Manager              Linkedin

John earned his PhD in Biology from the Graduate Center, CUNY, in 2017. Believing that effective and clear communication is important for any career path taken in the sciences, he joined NYC SciComm when it was founded, as Administrative Manager to organize board meetings. John believes one critical skill for communicating science to a popular-level audience is the ability to translate scientific jargon and concepts into ordinary language. In March, John accepted a position as Medical Writer at inVentiv Health.


Zhaohui Yang | Membership Chair; IR, Weill Cornell Medicine/Cornell University               LinkedIn

A PhD candidate doing the daily wet lab on basic biomedical research, yet Zhaohui keeps hearing a voice deep in her mind calling her to spread science to a broader audience. From genetically modified products to personalized CAR-T cancer therapies, numerous questions puzzle people, but it is always the scientists’ responsibility to broadcast the right answers to everybody. As a good listener, a compassionate scientist, and a patient communicator, she feels lucky and passionate to be part of NYC SciComm. As the Membership Chair, Zhaohui oversees the membership drive and newsletters.


Anand Devasthanam | Social Media Manager         LinkedIn

Anand is a scientist and writer with a passion for storytelling. Science communication is important, without which there would be no way to bridge the knowledge gap between the public and the frontier of science. His science communication skills have improved greatly through one simple exercise: He approaches strangers and asks, “what do you think about when you hear the word Science?” Their answers have vastly broadened his perspective of what really matters to people, and he uses this information to target his communications to specific audiences.


Justine Calise | Institutional Representative (IR), Feinstein Institute for Medical Research         Linkedin

Justine is a PhD candidate at the Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine. She has been involved in teaching, tutoring, and improving presentation skills with various audiences in her graduate training. As IR, Justine has organized an interactive workshop on the elevator pitch. Justine finds strong science communication is essential in all career fields within science, and important for teaching people to think critically, to shape policy, and to invoke passion in science.


Jiye Son | Program Planning Chair for Workshop on Essential Skills in Job Search and Career Advancement                            LinkedIn

Jiye is passionate about biomedical applications of nanotechnology, promoting science communication, and engaging with the NYC start-up community. Jiye enjoys sharing research progress with scientists, designing nanomaterials based on discoveries in clinical research, and increasing public awareness of nanomedicine. Through these, she makes her time in lab meaningful. To improve her public speaking skills, Jiye embraces all opportunities to practice in front of her peers.


Preshita Gadkari | IR, Rutgers University              Linkedin

Preshita is a 4th year PhD Candidate in Microbial Biology at Rutgers University. She is invested in science communication since it is essential for every STEM career. She was a summer medical writing intern at BGB Group. She was also in the 2016 SALT program at NYAS, where she met several student leaders who helped found NYC SciComm. Preshita moderated NYC SciComm’s first event, career panel on medical communications. Science communication to Preshita is integral in every part of her career, from establishing museum exhibits and teaching to publishing research.


Renee Symonds | IR, Albert Einstein College of Medicine                LinkedIn

Renee is a PhD candidate studying how to make sense of sound in noisy environments. Because science is about telling stories, Renee hopes to tell engaging stories to share not only her own work but also the knowledge scientists have gained with the public. She presents her research as much as she can with different audiences. Through practice, Renee finds that talking to people and hearing their questions about her work are both helpful to improve her skills for formal presentations or writing.


Kate Bredbenner | IR, Rockefeller University                   LinkedIn

Kate is a graduate student studying HIV and an online science communicator. There are more than 1.5 million scientific papers published per year, but only a limited group of people can access and read them. Science communication helps integrate all that information into the rest of society. Kate improves her science communication skills by always trying new ways of communicating. She has a TwitterInstagramYouTube channel, and website, so she can see how various forms of communication engage people in different ways.



Shruti Sharma | IR, Stony Brook University              LinkedIn

Shruti is a STEM outreach enthusiast and PhD candidate in the Department of Material Science and Chemical Engineering at Stony Brook University. Science is a collaborative process. The public needs to be informed to make conscious choices about global and personal environments. Future generations need to be inspired to pursue science and solve the mysteries of the universe. Shruti believes that practice makes perfect. She actively participates in science communication, such as STEM outreach to children. One important skill is to have a GOAL identified (e.g. one or two key takeaways for the audience) and weaving the talk/presentation/story around it.


Yoko Bian | IR, CUNY         LinkedIn

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” – James Humes

Yoko Bian is a PhD student in Nanotechnology at the Graduate Center, CUNY. There are many innovative research projects worldwide. To make research progress accessible and digestible to people of all backgrounds with the fastest speed of dissemination, scientists need to fit in the big picture by using simple and concise language to communicate with the public effectively. Yoko hopes that through volunteering at NYC SciComm, her joint efforts with other volunteers will eventually evolve into sources of inspiration for scientists.


HaYeun Ji | IR, Columbia University      LinkedIn

HaYeun is a PhD student in Biomedical Engineering. She is passionate about communicating science to both fellow scientists and the public. Science communication can bridge scientific discoveries and their social impact. HaYeun takes every opportunity to practice science communication skills, such as writing articles and presenting scientific research to a broad range of audiences. HaYeun found the most effective way to improve is constant practice, which has helped her master various techniques to deliver scientific information to various target audiences. HaYeun also recommends attending lectures or participating in workshops in the field of science communication.


Anand Vasudevan | IR, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL)       LinkedIn

Anand received his PhD in Neuroscience from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore in 2016 and recently moved to Long Island, where he is pursuing his post-doctoral training at CSHL. Science communication is critical to ensure to that advances in science are communicated to the wider public, so that science remains relevant outside academia and industry. Anand’s interest in science communication has led him to work as a freelance editor for Cactus Communications, where he helps review and polish research articles for publication. One way to improve science communication skills is to explain research to someone who has little expertise in the field.


Monika Buczek | Blog Writer and Editorial Board Member      LinkedIn

Monika Buczek is a PhD candidate in the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology program at the Graduate Center, CUNY, as well as an Associate Writer for the American Society for Microbiology. Science Communication is important because science does not happen in a bubble. Science has enormous implications for politics, humanitarian efforts, and the economy, so it should be accessible to as many people as possible to make sure scientific knowledge is being used to the highest capacity. The best thing to remember about communicating science is to start and end with the big picture. Reiterate the message at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the communication, in whatever medium that may be, so that the audience can truly understand and remembers the point. Please find her edited work here.


Julija Hmeljak | Blog Writer and Editorial Board Member         LinkedIn

Julija Hmeljak is a postdoctoral scientist at MSKCC. She always thinks about how to explain science to grandma without blowing her mind. Listen to the audience, editor, and mentor. All scientists can talk about science, but the point is that the audience understands it. Please find her edited work here.


Melissa Deri | First Event Reporter       Linkedin

Melissa Deri is a PhD in Chemistry with a focus on radiopharmaceutical science. She is also a chemical educator and studies how people teach and learn chemistry most effectively. A big part of teaching is knowing how to communicate ideas to the audience, and science communication gives her the opportunity to not just talk to her students but also to everyone. Melissa had the opportunity to write an event summary as a blog. During this process, she not only learned a lot but met a whole new network of science communicators. Her advice is to always think about the audience.


In a nutshell, our volunteers believe science communication skills can be improved through continuous practice with various audiences with the following techniques: figuring out what really matters to the target audience, tailoring the language, and starting/closing with the big picture.

At last, NYC SciComm appreciates other volunteers for their contribution to the its growth: Nikolaos Machairas (IR, New York University), Emmanuel (Mani) García-Lesy (Vice President, Sept. 2016), Lital Chartarifsky (IR for CSHL, Sept. 2016–Feb. 2017), Fang Xu (Program Planning Chair, Sept. 2016–Nov. 2016), Eric Vieira (Adviser), Ushma Neill (Adviser), Yaihara Fortis Santiago (Adviser).

Special thanks to The New Media Lab in the CUNY Graduate Center for its technical support.


Editors: Yue Liu & Tristan Fehr