When I worked at the lab bench slicing paper-thin sections of a mouse brain or spending hours in a dark windowless room imaging on a laser microscope, I would always be listening to podcasts. As I struggled to perform an experiment for the billionth time, I’d be listening to the stories of other scientists who’ve also struggled but overcome their challenges.

For me, communication and science have always been intertwined. Whether it’s communicating science to a funding agency to receive grant money, conveying research results to your boss and lab mates, or attempting to tell your parents what exactly it is that you do all day, science needs effective communication to be useful to anybody.

When I started my blog, Illuminated Brain, I wanted to convey complex science topics in an engaging and understandable manner. I was so deeply entrenched in the jargon of science that I had forgotten what it was like to not know something.

I took a science writing class, started listening to podcasts, and read the work of science journalists. I wanted to take in as much science communication (commonly known as #scicomm on social media) as I could get. Then, I realized that I wanted to write about science in a way that conveys the excitement I felt when sharing a cool science fact with someone else. My LIFE Apps blog Illuminated Brain explores topics of neuroscience, health and physiology as if I were telling a story to a friend, but also backed by science.

So, let’s begin! I’ll first tell you a story about myself and my educational training. I completed my undergraduate degree at Connecticut College in Behavioral Neuroscience. I worked in a lab that studied the stress response, and I was fortunate enough to be able to design my own honors thesis experiment examining the relationship between circadian/sleep cycle and stress on memory in rodents. My master’s research at the University of Connecticut in a  Physiology & Neurobiology lab gave me the opportunity to study how a stem cell niche in the brain forms during development.

A stem cell is a cell that can replicate itself and become any other cell that makes up the rest of the body. In the brain, this stem cell niche is a region that contains stem cells that generate new neurons and other supporting cells during development or when injured. By combining staining techniques to label individual cell types and 3D modeling to track structural changes in this area, we were able to generate a map of this region across mouse and human development.

However, about halfway through my third year in graduate school, my interests started to shift towards science communication. I knew I was passionate about science writing and communicating my work to others, but I also had this gut urge to study the process of science communication itself. And that research question led me down a new path to switch my research focus and start a Ph.D. program in Communications at the University of Connecticut.

Photo of Amanda Coletti.
Photo of Amanda Coletti.

In my upcoming Ph.D. research studying science communication, I want to study the broader impact of how science is conveyed to a wide variety of audiences, such as in mass media and social media. I am driven by the concept of using storytelling techniques to communicate science in a captivating way. But why is science communication so important? Actor Alan Alda’s book, “If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look On My Face?” illustrates the answer to this question by relating ways that we communicate science to everyday life scenarios. In one example, he tells a story of how communication with two very different doctors could have influenced his own medical procedures and led to permanent disfigurement in one case and saving his life in another.

My passion is to communicate science and that’s what I’ll be doing in my blog posts for LifeOmic. From neuroscience and circadian rhythms/sleep to exercise physiology and nutrition, I’ll cover each post to engage and also inform readers on a wide variety of health-related topics.

More to come!