Science Communication Course: Topic Selection

This is post #2 in a series where I’ll be talking about a 4th year undergraduate Science Communication course that I ran from January to April of 2019. After defining my learning outcomes and objectives, the next order of business was to decide on the weekly topics that I wanted to cover in the course. I ended up finding a great paper called “Core Skills for Effective Science Communication: A Teaching Resource for Undergraduate Science…

Continue reading


Launching an Upper Year Undergraduate Science Communication Course

I think that in typical Biology undergraduate programs a fair bit of thought goes into giving our students opportunities to improve their communication skills as scientists, but in my opinion this is usually limited to communicating with other biologists. Some time is perhaps spent talking about communicating with scientists outside of our field of study or discipline, but I think that we are really falling behind when it comes to teaching the skills of how…

Continue reading


DoctorAl Digest #30

A depressing finding in this study by Dr. Holly Witteman and colleagues “Are gender gaps due to evaluations of the applicant or the science? A natural experiment at a national funding agency.” The main finding “Gender gaps in grant funding are attributable to less favourable assessments of women as principal investigators, not of the quality of their proposed research.” The takehome: “To ensure the best research is funded, funders should ensure the design and execution…

Continue reading


Burnout and Errand Paralysis

I read a great article last month that has been getting a lot of attention online, and eventually the piece went viral. The essay is on Buzzfeed and is entitled “How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation” and is definitely worth the read if you are a millennial yourself, or work with or teach millennials. I found a lot of the ideas in this article resonated with me despite the fact that I’m part of Gen-X.…

Continue reading


Cubic Wombat Poop

One of the many reasons why I love biology is when a great and weird story gets told about some kind of living phenomenon. This week I was surprised to learn that wombat feces are cubic. Evidently it’s been known for quite some time that the wombat’s poop is cube shaped and it is hypothesized that wombats use it to mark their territories and the fact that it is cubed means that it doesn’t easily…

Continue reading


Planning a New Course in Science Communication

Next term I’m launching a new 4th year undergraduate course in Science Communication. I’ve wanted to teach a course on this topic for a while as I think that teaching our students how to communicate science to a range of audiences will be useful to them. Ideally we’ll get to a point where they can enter into dialogues with others about science, rather than having the interaction be one sided. It’s been fun to think…

Continue reading


Movies from my childhood: Not as awesome as I remember…

More often than not on Friday evenings my family has a movie night at home. My kids are 15 and 11 and we are finally at the point where we can regularly watch films that are rated PG rather than G. This has been pretty neat and recently we’ve been introducing our kids to several films that my husband and I really enjoyed from our own childhoods. The first one up was The Last Unicorn.…

Continue reading


Putting Dog Waste to Good Use

Our dog Sullivan turned 9 this past weekend. Sullivan is awesome, but like all other mammals, he generates a good amount of biological waste. When we moved to Waterloo, we were happy to see that a green bin program was in operation. We used biodegradable pet waste bags to collect his waste and put them in the green bin. Unfortunately, many weeks the bags weren’t accepted by our waste collectors (not sure why) and we…

Continue reading


Quick Tips for Improving Writing at the Level of Sentences

This term in my course I am having my students write short reflective pieces in response to a writing prompt. As they have gained experience in completing these assignments, the writing pieces have become more reflective, and are usually interesting and engaging. There are a few common problems that I continue to see as the term has progressed and these issues are found at the level of individual sentences. These include typos, switching between tenses,…

Continue reading


Writing for a Media Organization

I’ve always liked writing as an activity. When I was in Grade 5, my awesome story about a young chicken was published by the school board in a collection of children’s stories. Writing style needs to change with your audience. The majority of my writing for the past 20 years or so has been writing academic projects for fellow scientists. Several years ago I attended a great workshop by Shari Graydon who is the founder…

Continue reading