Updated: Feb 3, 2019
Six students from McMaster University's Life Sciences Programs join our Experiential Learning Program in Science Writing and Social Media Communications.
The Canadian Institute for Genomics and Society welcomes the first round of incoming trainees as part of its commitment to experiential learning and providing advanced science communication training for the next generation of scientists. In the Winter term of 2019, six students from the Life Sciences Programs in the School of Interdisciplinary Science at McMaster University will complete work placements as science writers (Hannah Horvath, Barkhaa, Anand Rai, Nikkita Mistry) and social media coordinators (Aaron Hayat, Oushna Rab).
Experiential education is a growing trend worldwide and there has been a surge of programs promoting experiential learning in Canadian higher education institutions. A recent study by Universities Canada emphasized the need for "a sustained national vision and an ambitious experiential learning strategy to support our young people and ensure their future success." There are at least eight reasons why experiential education is believed to be the future of learning: it accelerates learning; provides a safe learning environment; bridges the gap between theory and practice; enables mindset changes; enables personalized learning; increases collaboration and engagement levels; surpasses traditional learning programs in return on investment; and has potential to provide accurate assessment results.
The experimental learning placements with Genomics4S provide opportunities for students in the life sciences to build on and enhance the science communication training they have received during their undergraduate studies. The training aims to spark individual creativity, encourage collaboration, and inspire students to become savvy science writers and social media communicators in the area of genomics and society. Some emerging developments in life sciences are highly controversial and have incited intense ethical and policy debates, e.g. CRISPR, gene-edited babies, predictive genetic testing, unproven stem cell therapies, gene drive research, to mention a few. In the current environment of "post-truth" politics and public distrust in science, scientists are challenged to go beyond traditional practices for public outreach and become dynamic public communicators through online and social media engagement. There is an increased need for science communication training that engages scientists in reflection on the rapidly changing scientific and technological landscape and how citizens can be more meaningfully engaged in a dialogue on the future of science.
The incoming trainees clearly see the benefits of undertaking experiential learning placements, pointing out the advantages of applying knowledge they have learned in the classroom to real life situations and cases and the potential to jump-start their professional careers:
"The science writer position will allow me to gain and enhance science writing and communication skills. It will give me the opportunity to learn more about current developments in the life sciences and publish my own ideas and knowledge on the respective topics. The placement is a chance to really use the knowledge I have learned over the past couple of years and apply it in a practical way. It will help me pursue a career in science" - Nikkita Mistry
"Through this placement, I hope to refine my skills in writing and science communication. I feel that many scholars in health sciences and other research fields lack communications skills for engaging with the public and have them be a part of the conversation. By making scientific knowledge meaningful through writing, I hope to contribute towards a world that encourages collaboration between professionals and the public rather than professional elitism." - Barkhaa Talat
"This experience will allow me to practice science communication outside of the classroom in a research-intense environment and provide my own perspective on contemporary science news. Moreover, it is a great opportunity to build my portfolio with science publications, and work towards reviewing scientific literature." - Anand Rai
For more information on our experiential learning programs, contact Dr. Kalina Kamenova at firstname.lastname@example.org