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Doctoral students make research accessible to the public


Providing science writing that is informative, entertaining, and accessible to the general public is an epic challenge for scientists and engineers, but is also critical to ongoing efforts to broaden scientific literacy and increase public support for research. Four University of Tennessee doctoral students in the NSF sponsored SCALE-IT program (Scalable Computing and Leading Edge Innovative Technologies) have endeavored to do just that.

Austin Milt, Christine Dumoulin (Ecology and Evolutionary Biology), Jon Reyles (Genome Science and Technology) and Stephanie Rickett (Computer Science) wrote and published an article on the journalism site LiveScience: The article describes the concept of machine learning and how it is used in web-related advertising. They also explain how that same technology is being applied to diagnostic medicine to improve human health. Articles such as this, written by scientists for the general public, is a cornerstone of science outreach and works to bring the professional research world that much closer to the general populace. SCALE-IT is funded through an NSF Integrated Graduate Education and Research Training grant (IGERT award# DGE 0801540). This article is the result of activities from the Science Communication Center at the University of Tennessee (cosponsored by SCALE-IT and the Science Alliance of Tennessee) in cooperation with the College of Communications and the School of Journalism.

Address Goals

The popular science writing activity of the Science Communication Center is intended to provide SCALE-IT trainees with real-world practical experience in effective communication. It accomplishes this objective, but it also results in publishable materials, written by students, for the purpose of making an aspect of their research accessible to lay audiences. By encouraging and enabling these students to publish their work in a broadly available forum, they become active participants in the advancement of science literacy.