“So, what do you research?” That was the basic question answered by nine NIEHS research trainees in the 2021 Big Picture, Small Talks Challenge held virtually April 9. During the competition, each contestant gave an engaging three-minute talk which explained their research in terms anyone can understand.
Kamiya Bridges, a postbaccalaureate fellow in the NIEHS Reproductive Development Biology Group, took home top honors.
“Being able to effectively communicate complex science to a broad range of audiences is an absolutely essential skill for today’s researchers,” said Katherine Hamilton, a program manager with the NIEHS Office of Fellows’ Career Development and moderator of the event. “We’ve seen the importance of that throughout the last year with the pandemic. Choosing the right words is important, and it’s up to us as mentors to give our young scientists plenty of practice at that while they’re here on campus.”
As in past years, the participants described their research, while judges placed heavy emphasis on speaker engagement and use of clear language. The judges considered three critical criteria:
- What did the research entail?
- What is the broader impact of the research on science and society?
- What has the presenter personally gained from their overall experience at NIEHS?
Cool under pressure
“This is my first year at NIEHS, which made this my first time competing in the challenge,” Bridges said. “The whole experience was extremely helpful in terms of pushing me to explain my research to individuals outside of science. I also felt like I learned a lot by simply listening to the other presentations because they were all so easy to follow.”
Bridges noted that she has given presentations at other conferences and symposiums, so she felt fairly confident in her abilities as a public speaker. However, given the setting and the level of competition at NIEHS, she admitted that the pressure was still on to deliver a quality presentation.
“I really couldn’t have done this without all the support I got from my mentor and the others in my lab,” Bridges said. “They helped provide great feedback and suggestions on how to make my talk more impactful.”
(Ian Thomas is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Office of Communications and Public Liaison, and a regular contributor to the Environmental Factor.)