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The Clarity of Communication in Science

by Dr. Amy Cornell, Science Teacher and Robotics Coach

“It was horrific!”

“I was a bundle of nerves!” 

“I forgot my first name!”

“I wasn’t able to eat for two days!” 

This was me, the introverted Ph.D. student, living in a small room next to the morgue. The prospect of talking about my years and years of scientific research on stage, in front of more than three people, reliably caused that all too familiar gut-punch feeling of existential dread, anxiety, and profuse sweating that no antiperspirant could cure. 

Most scientists would agree: The point of doing science is to be able to communicate the science to others. Learning to communicate clearly in science is challenging but essential. Being able to articulate, project confidence, and thoughtfully field questions about science, takes time to nurture and develop in young people.

Part of our work in Biotechnology at The Country School is to practice and emphasize the importance of developing clear communication of difficult scientific topics. We practice polishing presentation skills and organizing PowerPoint slide layouts. We teach techniques for answering questions from an audience.  

We were fortunate to have Peter Burch P '20, P '22 present his work on muscular dystrophy to the 7th Grade science class. His engaging presentation gave the students an excellent model, in preparation for presenting their results at our final field trip in April to 4Catalyzer in Guilford.  4Catalyzer is a “startup accelerator” founded by Dr. Jonathan Rothberg.  Drs. Jonathan and Bonnie Rothberg (P ‘13, ‘15, ‘23, ‘25) recently donated the Rothberg Catalyzer for coding, engineering, and robotics at Country School.

Students gave four microtalks to Jon Schultz P’23, P’25 and additional faculty of 4Catalyzer. All talks were designed to demonstrate and assess student learning in areas of biotechnology. Microtalk topics included, electrophoresis, restriction enzymes, PCR, and proposal writing. 

We are fortunate to be able to take our students on a journey beyond the traditional one-time lab experience. Our generous parent community at TCS, enriches exposure to authentic, real-world biotechnology, and crosstalk among our students, by offering their time, energy, and support. The science department is grateful for this pilot year, and we look forward to year two of our Middle School Biotechnology Program at Country.

presenting slides