Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Bilingual Research: Science Communication on a Whole New Level

By Anna Mayran
I have spent the past two weeks working on the independent research project as the last portion to this semester, and while it all took place in such a small timeframe (for research that is), I have learned a lot from this experience. Starting with a question, we developed methods for an experiment to gather data that would help us answer these questions. This was not the first time I had developed methods for an independent research project, but it was my first time doing so with a group of peers. This came with benefits and challenges; on one hand, I had people to discuss ideas and troubleshoot with, but on the other, we all had to learn how to communicate and equally hold each other responsible while maintaining a sense of mutual respect, a dynamic much different from the student-mentor relationship that I was used to. This was not helped by the stress that comes with developing methods. Do not get me wrong, field work itself is an incredible hands-on experience especially when doing research in the rainforest. 
From hiking through the rainforest at night setting up traps to sifting through piles of exotic insects under a microscope, the naturalist in me was in heaven. But the process of taking methods from paper to the field is a frustrating one as unforeseen problems require constant problem-solving and modification. 
The hardest and most rewarding part of this project was the presentation of our work to the community. This involved designing a poster and script-explaining our experiment, its purpose, and our results, all in Spanish! We spend most of our time in college learning how to read scientific papers and communicating with other scientists, but rarely do we learn how to communicate that knowledge to the general public. This does not mean skipping over technical steps like PCR and gel electrophoresis, but explaining these procedures without jargon to provide a basic understanding that allows the audience to judge the validity of the results for themselves as well as understand similar scientific findings they may encounter elsewhere. Translating everything into Spanish actually helped me in this process as my own knowledge of Spanish limited me from using complex sentences and jargon that I could not translate. It was gratifying to be able to share our work with the local community in their own language and to see people who were legitimately interested in what we had to say.

Myodocha under the microscope with a giraffe-like pattern

No comments:

Post a Comment