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New ASPIRE Module on Science Communication!

Posted by on Thursday, February 29, 2024 in Upcoming BRET Office of Career Development Events .

Science communication is the backbone that enables us scientists to do and share what we love. Whether your future career includes grant writing, affecting policy, or getting kids excited about science, the ability to effectively communicate science is essential. This module will explore the key components of compelling scientific communication. It is ideal for trainees interested in:

  • Careers in scientific outreach
  • Applying for grant funding
  • Being involved in science policy
  • Teaching careers
  • Improving their overall presentation skills
  • The ability to actually explain what you do to family and friends

This module will be very interactive; active participation will be expected from each student, in each class. By the end of the module, students will have practiced multiple soft skills. Deliverables, including a three-minute “elevator pitch,” and a visual abstract, will also be created and cultivated throughout the course.

About the module

Apply here  Applications are due on Monday MArch 18, 2024

Do you want to help other people get as excited about your science as you are? In the age of pandemics and widely available (though often misleading) health information, the ability to effectively relate and communicate about science is needed now more than ever before. In this module, you will learn foundational skills that will improve your ability to talk about scientific concepts to a varied audience.

This module includes a unique mixture of exercises to improve soft skills and deliverables. During each class period, we will use interactive games and activities to connect with each other and highlight how fun science can be. The course will culminate in a project in which you tell your scientific story in three minutes or less.

Module objectives:

  1. Learn how to identify key information about the target audience.
  2. Employ strategies for connecting with the target audience.
  3. Practice editing scientific content to connect with the audience in real-time (as opposed to a scripted “spiel”)
  4. Frame scientific discoveries for non-specialists.
  5. Understand the importance of stories as communication tools and learn to wield them.
  6. Employ tools to learn from each engagement and refine communication skills for the next one.

Module dates and times: The first 4 Wednesdays in April, from 1-2:30pm.

Instructor: Jennifer Shuman, Postdoctoral Fellow in Pathology, Microbiology, and Immunology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center

Module structure: Highly interactive sessions intended to build deliverables and practice soft skills

Cost: No cost to PhD students and postdoctoral fellows in the biomedical sciences or chemistry

Eligibility: Open to Vanderbilt biomedical sciences and chemistry postdoctoral fellows and PhD students who have passed their qualifying exams before January 2024.

Attendance is capped at 20 participants

Time Commitment

The total time commitment for this module is 2-3 hours per week, including in-person meetings and time to prepare for and practice material outside of class.

This module will be highly interactive. The interactive components of class may include working as a class, on a small team, or on your own to build communication skills. Please only sign up if you are willing to commit to attending and participating in each class session.

Attendance policy: Because the course is interactive and team-based, and this is a limited enrollment opportunity, please only sign up if you are willing to commit to attending and participating fully in each class session. Participants should discuss time away from the lab with their research advisor in advance of the course. Anticipated absences, such as for scientific conferences, should be discussed with the course director.


All class sessions will be from 1-2:30pm.

Date and TimeObjectiveCome prepared withFor our next meeting, work on:
April 3rdPrepare: identify your audienceA willingness to participate and a rough idea of the story you want to tellExplaining your science in at least 3 different “real life” settings
April 10thConnect: check whether they understandA willingness to participate and an idea of who your audience is/how that influences your approachRefine your main points; create a visual abstract
April 17thEngage: make it exciting for themA willingness to participate, up to 3 main ideas you want to communicate, and a visual abstractPrepare a 3-minute, 1-slide talk about your science
April 24thReflect: improve for the futureA willingness to participate and a prepared three-minute thesis talkPlease fill out the course evals!


Earn a Badge!

ASPIRE is awarding micro-credentials through Badgr! See the webpage for more details.

Recipients must complete the earning criteria to earn this Badge

  1. Attend in all 4 sessions of the module with no unexcused absences.
  2. Be able to explainyour science in at least 3 different “real life” settings
  3. Create a visual abstract
  4. Prepare a 3-minute, 1-slide talk about your science


Please contact Angela Zito (, Assistant Director, BRET Office of Career Development, or Jennifer Shuman ( for more information.

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