When I was a child, I wanted to become a writer. A writer of children’s books, to be more precise. Maybe this had something to do with me having devoured most of the books in the children’s library of my hometown in the Netherlands. This dream has faded away over time, but my appetite for writing and communication has not. Getting an insight as an intern into what a professional organisation as VA does on a daily basis to bridge the gap between science and society, feels like being invited into the chef’s kitchen.
Currently I’m doing my PhD at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm. Eager to develop my communication skills, I have been involved in some initiatives, such as Medicor, the magazine of the medical student union, and the researcher ́s blog of the KI Career Service. My one-month internship at Vetenskap & Allmänhet is part of a career development course for PhD students arranged by the KI Career Service.
As a person with very broad interests, I decided to study biology at university. After all, what bigger topic to study than life itself? After just six months of general courses on different aspects of biology, we were all speaking a common scientific language – one not easily understood by the outside world.
As a PhD student, I’ve fallen even deeper into this rabbit hole of scientific jargon. My days are filled with a constant flow of terminology and new methods to learn, but not much of an incentive to take a step back and describe what I am doing in layman’s terms.
Still, whenever I have to do precisely this, I’ve found it to be tremendously helpful for my development as a scientist. When I talk to researchers outside my own field, work with undergraduate students in the lab and teach courses, I’m exposed to unique questions and new perspectives. But when I need to explain my work to my family or to visitors during public engagement events – this is when I really have to think about the take-home message of my research, without getting lost in the details, data and to-do lists that normally occupy my mind.
While I have tried to engage the people around me as an individual researcher, VA has a bigger scope, and importantly, better tools.
While I have tried to engage the people around me as an individual researcher, VA has a bigger scope, and importantly, better tools. During the first week of my internship I felt like a kid in a candy store, attending VA ́s annual member day and taking part in a workshop about Open Science.
At VA, I have been involved in several projects. One example is the VA Barometer, the annual survey on public attitudes towards science and research. This approach reminds me of the basic research that I normally do, where we need to find out the facts before we can try to cure a disease. To bridge the gap between science and society, we first need to know how wide and deep it is. It has been very exciting to be contributing to a piece of this puzzle.
doktorand på Karolinska Institutet och praktikant på VA
Joanne Bakker is a PhD student at the department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. She has a one-month internship at Vetenskap & Allmänhet as part of a career development course for PhD students arranged by the KI Career Service.
Karolinska Institutet har varit VA-medlemmar sedan 2005. Läs mer om organisationen här.