On Tuesday April 11th, three students from Dr. Kennedy-Metz’s psychophysiology research seminar went head-to-head in The Nutshell Games. Students had 90 second to communicate their current research project “in a nutshell” to a diverse audience of students and faculty from a variety of disciplines.
Undergraduate research is a key part of the Psychology Department’s mission. Every psychology major will conduct research in their senior seminar and more than 1 in 3 students are involved in a research lab each year.
Dr. Kennedy-Metz had a mission to teach her seminar students the importance of science communication through a fun and challenging lesson. I spoke with her about how the nutshell games came to be.
“I’ve always felt that the more high-profile (and potentially impactful) someone’s research becomes, the worse they are at communicating why it’s so important to the world. Science communication is an essential skill that often doesn’t come naturally to us, and, to make matters worse, is chronically under-trained. So, I felt a responsibility to emphasize the importance of science communication to students at an early stage in their career. ”
“I invited Dr. Patty Raun, Director of Virginia Tech’s Center for Communicating Science, to lead an improv day in my Research Seminar class, encouraging students to step outside of their comfort zone, embrace vulnerability, and communicate freely and meaningfully.”
“The goal of the subsequent Nutshell Games competition was for students to put this training to the test, and see how well they could communicate their semester-long projects in succinct, accessible terms to a non-specialist audience. They had 90 seconds to share their research and convey its importance to the larger community, all while being judged by staff and faculty from 5+ departments across campus (including Chemistry, Psychology, Fine Arts, Music, Public Health, and Health and Human Performance).”
Dr. Kennedy-Metz invited students, faculty, and staff from a variety of backgrounds to simulate the real-world challenge of communicating science to people from a variety of backgrounds.
“One of my goals in gathering such a diverse group of staff and faculty was to showcase how difficult it is to distill a body of work and still communicate it effectively to audience members with such diverse backgrounds, along with the relevance and importance of doing so. In the future, I hope to expand the scope of the Nutshell Games at Roanoke College to include competitors from across departments.”
We can’t wait to see how this competition grows in future years!
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