What I do now: Study for a PhD at the Centre for Science Communication at the University of Otago, New Zealand. My dissertation research considers how winemakers and growers negotiate the jungle of scientific research and information related to their work, how extensions and journals and other communicators could communicate research findings with winemakers and growers more effectively, and what wine science as an intensely and inescapably interdisciplinary field can teach us about communicating science — to professionals and to the public — better.
What I’ve done before: I’m a refugee from an MD/PhD program, deciding to avert a mid-life crisis before it began by leaving med school (with my Masters of Science in microbiology) for a different road. Notwithstanding my love of medicine, I realized somewhere along the way that the life I pictured for myself when I “grew up” didn’t have much to do with the lives of the clinician-scientists I saw twenty years ahead of me. I wanted to be improving the way science is communicated not generating data in a lab (or writing grants for my underlings to generate data). I made the excruciating decision to change fields. After some hunting and pecking — and a lot of flack — I found my way into an English department to study composition, rhetoric, and how we can do a better job of teaching students (and scientists) to write science.
Now I’m something of a hybrid: half-scientist, half-humanist, some days reading about Zygosaccharomyces, some days about Foucault, some days about technical communication, and most days about a little of all three.
Where I hope to be: Shaping some kind of science communication program, be that with a company, a university, or a non-profit research agency. Doing some science writing, but also improving the structures through which scientific research makes it to people who can use it: other scientists, professionals, and the public.
Where I am: Dunedin, the second-largest city on New Zealand’s South Island, the main metropolis in Otago, and still a pretty medium-sized town. A beautiful spot on the coast, and a few hours away from the Central Otago Pinot Noir-growing spots.