Communicating Science: Profile of Sierra Clark by Audrey Carleton

Today we have a guest student post, originally submitted as a class assignment for Communicating Science (CCOM 314). With support from Diane Dechief, Faculty Lecturer at the McGill Writing Centre, we will be sharing more noteworthy student writing right here on The Turret.

Audrey Carleton chose to write a profile on Sierra Clark, a graduate student supervised by Dr. Jill Baumgartner in the Institute for Health and Social Policy.


Sierra Clark

Headline: Sierra Clark on indoor air pollution and academic uncertainty

Subhead: McGill Master’s student tests lifesaving interventions for Tibetan Plateau residents

By: Audrey Carleton

Date: December 1, 2017

Sierra Clark has been reading National Geographic for as long as she can remember. Even before she learned to read, she would eagerly flip through the magazine’s glossy pages to admire its photos. From this young age, she had her sights set on someday working for the publication as an archaeologist.

In the twenty years that followed, Clark had a few changes of heart. When she began her undergraduate degree at McGill University in 2011, she was enrolled with a major in Anthropology. But after sitting through a few convoluted lectures in an introductory anthropology course, she realized the program wasn’t the right fit for her. One meeting with an academic advisor later, she settled on a major in Geography, and swiftly fell in love with it. Upon graduating in 2015, she swiftly enrolled in a Master’s Program in Epidemiology at McGill, which she is completing now. All the while, Clark continued to read National Geographic religiously. Continue reading

Presenting with style: Mixing the arts of storytelling & teaching

In 3-minute thesis competitions, participants explain their research projects (the why, the how, and the implications for the real world) to non-experts in three minutes or less. The speaker of the best presentation wins. Great presenters will:

  • speak clearly and unhurriedly;
  • vary their pitch;
  • incorporate a story, include a metaphor from everyday life, and/or strike an emotional cord in the listener;
  • mention unexpected/interesting facts about their topics (e.g., Silver changes the color of your tongue to blue.); and
  • provide tangible examples.

The “CHEE 687: Research Skills and Ethics” class watched some 3-minute thesis competitors in action to prepare for their own presentations. My favourite 3-minute thesis talk was from Balarka Banerjee.showing lung capacityWe also discussed elements of a good PowerPoint presentation, which:

  • has minimal content on each slide;
  • contains descriptive/specific headings (rather than general and predictable headings like Introduction, Background, Results, Conclusions);
  • engages the audience at the beginning of the presentation with news headlines, statistics, or a story;
  • includes consistent formatting throughout;
  • utilizes a light background with dark text;
  • employs graphics to explain phenomena, processes, and/or concepts; and
  • includes citations for any images used (when not your own) on the slide itself.

This is the sixth in a series of weekly posts about topics relating to research skills and ethics. I will be taking a temporary hiatus from blogging and will resume writing this series later on in 2016. Happy holidays!

Image from the Laugh-Out-Loud Cats cartoon strip by Adam “Ape Lad” Koford (creative commons license)

Three minutes to explain yourself

Can you explain your research activities or thesis in 3 minutes to someone outside your field?  Jinna Kim in University Affairs reports that many universities are holding prize-winning competitions that require graduate student participants to communicate their work to judges and an audience in just 3 minutes.  The idea is to teach students how to promote themselves and their research.

McGill University has an annual event called, “3 Minutes to Change the World” that provides a non-competitive opportunity for graduate students to present their research to a general audience.  Below is an example of a presentation from this event: