article Fall 2020

Science Beyond the Lab

In the fast paced, ever changing world of science, effective communication could not be more important. Bridging the gap between the research in the lab and the diverse audience of the general public has its challenges, as has been highlighted in the past year with the Covid-19 pandemic. As we move forward, more work is needed to refine these communication channels to allow the public a greater understanding of the science and its effects on our everyday lives.

I am a senior at UW-Madison, and I am here to highlight how you can become a part of the solution. My major is Life Science Communication: a major that focuses on developing strong communication skills within the sciences, in order to effectively understand, develop, and reach all types of audience in response to science.

The world has an infinite amount of career possibilities, so lean into the process of getting to where you will end up and learn as much as you can along the way.

— Brooke Verfuerth

Before pursuing this major, I came to Madison to study Genetics and Genomics. To help enhance my learning in the classroom, I began to work in a Medical Microbiology research lab, specifically a fungi lab. I was an undergraduate research assistant and in love with the work I was doing. For a long time, I found the work in the lab fascinating. I grew as a scientist, but, more importantly, I grew to understand how science could come alive in the lab and how the scientific process actually happens.

Brooke Verfuerth, Senior in Life Science Communications. Photo by Annie Krillenberger

I enjoyed talking to others about the complex biological systems that I was working on in a way that they were able to understand and connect to. The longer I worked in the lab, however, the more I came to realize that I loved talking about the research I was doing more than I loved doing the actual science. After coming to this conclusion, I was faced with an opportunity to pivot in a different direction that helped me continue to build and refine these communication skills within science.

This has led me to the major that I am currently pursuing. This major allows you to grow as a science writer and work to gain effective general communication skills. You work in classes to grow in a variety of science disciplines like marketing, mass communication, social media, and community engagement. These parts come together to create a well-rounded science communicator in any type of platform that you are using to reach people. In our society where you have a broad range of communication platforms and each person has a different level of accessibility to and understanding of these options, it’s crucial to have a grasp on the many platforms to help contribute to the greater understanding of science.

This pivot in my life that has allowed me to become reignited in the path I have chosen. I am passionate about helping more people bridge the gap in their life between science and how they understand it. I have found that listening to yourself to discover what you love, whether it’s in college or the rest of your life, is key to finding your purpose and passion. Though, generally, I think this is something that is less talked about in college. It’s so common for students to grow in another direction once they get to school and start to experiment with a diverse selection of classes. So, I encourage you to try and, even if you don’t love it as much as you thought, to take the valuable experience you gained there and work to uncover more of your skills. Find out where those skills can be applied and how you can create a career path that excites you. The world has an infinite amount of career possibilities, so lean into the process of getting to where you will end up and learn as much as you can along the way.

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