What I enjoyed most during my PhD was sharing science with others and seeing learners of all backgrounds find and feed their own interest in STEM. Here are some of the experiences that brought me to a career in science public engagement.
Humboldt squid dissections
As Program Coordinator and Educator of our lab's outreach group, Squids4Kids, I have coordinated, organized, and led squid dissections at a number of local and national events since 2013. Squids4Kids brings large Humboldt squids to learners of all ages, and we teach audiences all about squid in order to improve ocean literacy. Squids4Kids provides Humboldt squid specimens to teachers locally and sometimes nationally, and we offer online educational materials to guide teachers through a dissection. In addition to training interns and other lab members on squid dissections and logistics, I developed content for our modules on squid swimming and physiology.
With Squids4Kids, I have performed squid dissections at the Monterey WhaleFest, Monterey Bay Aquarium, California Academy of Sciences, Bay Area Science Festival in San Fransisco, American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting, and USA Science and Engineering Festival in Washington DC.
STEM inside and outside the classroom
I love devising hands-on activities that encourage students to work with each other and learn through seeing, listening, and doing. Squid Races, an activity I helped develop, have proved popular from 4th graders up to PhD candidates! After learning the basics of squid anatomy and the physics of how they swim, students create balloon squid, all decked out with tentacles, fins, funny faces and names for a race. Seeing that the fastest squid doesn't always go the farthest, students explore biological tradeoffs and adaptations.
I've brought Squid Races and Humboldt squid dissections to K-12 classrooms and out-of-school STEM workshops, and I actively seek opportunities to engage underrepresented groups. As a woman of color in STEM, I strongly believe in the power of representation. I regularly guest-taught at local high schools including Santa Catalina, an all-girls high school, and Ceiba Prep, a primarily first-generation-serving institution. I have also led workshops at Expand Your Horizons, an annual weekend STEM expo for 6th-12th grade girls in the San Fransisco Bay Area.
I have also taught in a more formal capacity by guest lecturing twice a semester at California State University, Monterey Bay in the Vertebrate Physiology course. I designed my classes to be interactive, with think-pair-share activities, Q&As, and the occasional meme (laughter definitely aids in recalling material!).
In addition to giving research presentations at scientific conferences, I strive to communicate science many ways. I've been interviewed twice on Science Friday, and I've been invited to speak about science communication and research at museums and conferences. I also maintain an active twitter presence!
As a graduate student, I founded High Tidings, a blog for Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, to highlight research and courses at the station. Prior to High Tidings, I wrote for the marine biology section of The Dish on Science, a blog by Stanford bioscience graduate students.
So much exciting science goes on behind our fence at Stanford University's Hopkins Marine Station, but we weren't maintaining a way for community members to connect with us. In 2017, I co-led the effort with 2 other graduate students to put on an Open House for the marine station, where Stanford's marine biology labs reside. Featuring over a dozen activity booths all over the marine station, the Open House was a great way for us to showcase the diverse and dynamic research going on here. Science cannot effectively thrive isolated in academia -- we need open dialogue between scientists and non-scientists alike!
With my co-leaders, I managed booth planning for our ten labs, procured activity materials, merchandise, and volunteer sweatshirts, and liaised between students, faculty, and staff to put this station-wide even together.
With the success of our 2017 event attended by nearly 2,000 visitors, the Open House has since become an annual tradition, and I've helped train the new leadership team.
Part of helping people meaningfully engage with science includes mentoring and training young scientists. I've been fortunate to be able to mentor high-school and college students not only in research but also in outreach.
Research conducted by my mentees has contributed to scientific publications, conference presentations, and even a national radio interview. My outreach mentee has quickly learned the ropes of Humboldt squid dissections and has piloted a new way of shipping our 40-pound squids to teachers across the US.