I had a great deal of fun Friday night, 3/11/16, visiting the Baltimore UnderGround Science Space (BUGSS) for their first #BmoreSciSlam. BUGSS is a great citizen science makerspace/hackerspace where members have access to molecular biology lab equipment, 3D printers, and the technical expertise of lab and program manager Dr. Sarah Laun. Founded by Dr. Tom Burkett, BUGSS offers classes, workshops, featured speakers, and many other exciting activities for people interested in biotechnology. If you are in the Baltimore Metro area, join their email list to keep up with the many events they sponsor. There’s an upcoming talk on the science of coffee I need to get on my calendar! They are also co-hosting a microbe-art event. Stay tuned for more details on that! Another sponsor of the event was Project Bridge – a group of graduate students at Johns Hopkins University who have Science Cafes, go to farmer’s markets, and sponsor other events to communicate science to the public.
As a graduate research assistant at the University of Arizona in the ADVANCE program, we featured several “Data Blitzes”. which were 5 minute research talks. I’d seen several and thought it would be easy and fun. Well, fun it was, easy – not so much! I’m clearly used to giving a 45 min talk on my research program. I’m also used to presenting the data so that it can be scrutinized. That’s not the point of 5 min talks – as I learned. It’s to get people excited about the science and convey a few key points. I whittled my normal presentation down to 10 slides, practiced it several times and got it down to 4 min, so I added 2 more slides. Here’s the rub – I’ve finally given enough talks and feel slightly relaxed in front of a crowd. So ironic considering how I was always labeled as “shy” as a kid and how nervous I still get before speaking. After a few poop jokes – I work with the microbes of dung beetles – and can’t resist throwing such jokes in to keep people awake and having fun. In the middle of explaining my first heat map slide – I slowed down more and *beep beep* the timer went off. FAIL. Sarah graciously allowed me to quickly finish up and everyone was kind about it. I liked that the audience was asked to give constructive criticism about the talks. It helped me identify what to change for the next time I do a talk like that. It was also fun that several different people live Tweeted the event and put photos up on Facebook, so I made a storify about it. It’s embedded below.
If you’re ever in the Baltimore area – stop in at BUGSS. It’s a great group of interesting people who are excited about science! Also keep your eyes out for Project Bridge’s events in the B’more area.