Did you say caring?

I learn from the participants what they value or enjoy experiencing in an improvscience workshop. Yes, even those who find doing interactive exercises uncomfortable and awkward find value in the communicating science workshops: improv for STEM professionals or professional presentations. Here's some of the things they say: "One of the things I learned, even though it wasn't explicitly mentioned was the importance of responding and letting people impact what you say or do." Jay Bardhan, Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in the Dept of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering. Bardhan was introduced to improvisation via the Communication, Collaboration and Creativity workshop held as part of the Department of Energy's Computational Science Fellows Program managed by the Krell Institute.

"I was really struck that in a workshop of over a hundred postdocs, you could feel us rooting for the guy. You don't often get to feel that." Hud Freeze of the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute is passionate about bringing science out to a public audience. He knows that people who are able to understand and be moved at a human level about our work and what science offers the general public are the ones who become partners, colleagues and investors in science research. That's why he came to the UCSD Communicating Science workshop organized by Alexandra Bortnick as Communications Chair of the Postdoctoral Association. It's building of an environment in which scientists can share their work and their hopes for their work that has us experience the human element.

"I found myself really wanting the student to do good, to succeed. You could feel the room caring." Daniel Segre, Associate Professor in the Bioinformatics Program at Boston University commented on the professional presentations workshop led by Mia Anderson of Mia Anderson Coaching and myself. I realized there was a theme developing for one of the characteristics of an improvscience workshop and it is that scientists get an opportunity to be part of, and create, an environment in which they care.

I mean we all start by caring about our work. We then figure out ways to protect or advocate for ourselves that often don't take people on the other side into account except for how what they say or do reflects on our own work. I am using the royal "we" here. So, let me change this to. I know that in my own graduate school days (and honestly, even at times now), I operated this way. It's part of what creates the experience of isolation and part of the science culture.

In an improvscience workshop, STEM professionals get to experience creating and working in an environment in which they care about the success of one another. Our ability to give better talks, to be more creative in our research and to collaborate are all tied to our willingness to build an ensemble. It's moment to moment, deciding what do I pay attention to, what will strengthen what I'm doing with the person I'm working with, and how do I let them impact me. This kind of focus builds a team and "we're in this together" experience. Does that experience persist? What do people do with that experience? Is it helping to create a new kind of science culture? Dare I say, a kinder science culture? I believe so.

Newsletter Tags: 
Sign up for our Newsletter© 2011-2017 improvscience