Scientists Learn How to Activate to Captivate

Ayala School Professors Peter Donovan and Leslie Thompson, Neurobiology and Behavior, together with colleague Professor Ping Wang, School of Medicine, recently launched a workshop to provide presentation and public speaking guidance and training for graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and faculty. The “Workshop Series for the Evolving Scientist,” included several sessions for trainees on the Fundamentals of Public Speaking and Presentation Skills and a designated workshop on Interpersonal Communications Skills. The training was the first of its kind for this specific demographic of fellows.

The professors were inspired to develop this workshop because during their careers in stem cell research, they’ve experienced the need for scientists to be able explain their work to lay audiences and to patient groups, particularly because of the potential impact of stem cells to interrogate human development and to treat human diseases.

“Even as an experienced speaker, it was eye-opening to see how a professional performer prepared for a presentation,” shared Professor Donovan, who along with Professor Wang, directs a stem cell training grant funded by the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. “We can really learn so much from professionals and improve this vital aspect of our craft,” said Professor Wang.

“At so many times in your career, interviewing for jobs, giving talks at meetings, presenting science to donors, you are judged by how you present your work. It can mean the difference between success or failure and yet we are seldom trained to present professionally,” added Professor Thompson, who directs a similar program funded by the National Institutes of Health.

UCI alumnae and award-winning actress Bri McWhorter led the training, providing basic communications training to both the fellows and mentors. During the workshops, she worked with each fellow on how to effectively communicate their passion and become comfortable with presenting in a general way. One goal was to leave students with increased comfort and confidence levels when standing in front of a group, introducing them, and using vocal variety when giving an active presentation. The attendees also learned to improve their ability to listen to another person as they communicated and to enter a room with a positive mindset and to respond to unpredictable situations. The resounding feedback from attendees was that they found the training helpful in learning how to effectively communicate their research goals clearly to a variety of audiences.

If you’d like to learn more about how you can support the faculty and research at the Ayala School, please contact Andrew DiNuzzo at 949.824.2734 or adinuzzo@uci.edu.

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