Leticia Britos Cavagnaro (CREDIT: Eugene Fratkin [fratkinphoto.com])
You wouldn’t commonly acquisition scenes from a Charlie Chaplin archetypal in a analysis Ph.D. apriorism defense. But Leticia Britos Cavagnaro, who advised at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, isn’t abashed to baffle convention. “We tend to anticipate about storytelling as bedfast to fiction or entertainment,” Britos Cavagnaro says. “But storytelling is a age-old animal activity, and there is no acumen why it can’t be leveraged as an able way to acquaint science.”
But why should scientists absorb added time crafting their talks aback they are presenting analysis to aeon who apprehend a PowerPoint presentation at conferences area alternatives are discouraged?
Britos Cavagnaro acclimated the arch of a adventure — the Charlie Chaplin bashful cine Modern Times — in her Ph.D. apriorism aegis because it created a visually able accession to the accountable of her research: the evolutionary success of bacteria. “In the movie, Charlie Chaplin’s appearance is a branch artisan active on an accumulation line, but again he is accursed and has to survive dearth and acrid altitude on the street. This provided a abundant allegory for bacteria, which are able factories of self-replication but whose evolutionary success is aloft all due to their adeptness to survive acrid conditions,” she explains.
In accession to bearing visually activating presentations, Britos Cavagnaro believes that the act of storytelling can be a able apparatus for scientists who ambition to booty a beginning attending at their own research. “It allows scientists to anatomy and reframe the problems that they are tackling,” she says. And storytelling, she says, is aloof one of abounding agency in which alleged artistic cerebration can beforehand how scientists assignment and present their allegation to their peers.
In the advancing weeks, Science Careers will be publishing a alternation of accessories focused on convalescent the accurate presentation. This is the aboriginal commodity in that series.
Britos Cavagnaro’s affection for artistic cerebration started at Stanford. As a third-year alum student, she was allotment of the aboriginal accumulation of acceptance alleged from a assorted ambit of disciplines to booty allotment in a architecture cerebration cossack affected at the university’s new Hasso Plattner Institute of Architecture (known artlessly as the d.school). “The apriorism of the d.school is that in adjustment to accouterment the circuitous problems that we are faced with, there is a charge for aitionist accord amid disciplines, as able-bodied as the adeptness to begin and appearance solutions that do not currently exist,” she explains.
She fell in adulation with this admission to artistic cerebration and started bringing concepts from the d.school into the laboratory. “She would arise to chic and be so aflame about what she had aloof abstruse that she had to allocution to me about it. We would again absorb a while aggravating to begin bigger agency to do science application these principles,” says Esteban Toro, a biologist who formed with Britos Cavagnaro at Stanford and is now at the University of Pennsylvania. “I bethink one afternoon aback she came aback and told me that the way we arise up with projects in the lab was wrong. Instead of anniversary being advancing up with their own project, with some advice anatomy the adviser, we should sit the absolute lab in a allowance and begin questions that we anticipate are interesting.”
Estoban Toro (CREDIT: Alya Raphael)
Her ability for addition has back taken her abroad from the chic and into a career focused alone on artistic thinking. She explains the alteration this way: “I adore alive with bodies and as allotment of interdisciplinary teams arrest artistic tasks,” she says. “But beginning analysis requires abounding hours alive on your own at the bench.” In 2010, she co-founded a aggregation alleged Lime Design, which aims to advise a assorted admirers to anticipate creatively about accustomed problems. Apprentice admirers board schoolchildren, Google in Education (Google’s educational division), and Microsoft. She additionally teaches a chic in adroitness and addition at Stanford’s d.school.
Unsurprisingly, Britos Cavagnaro faced attrition from accurate colleagues aback she approved to do things differently. “People in our lab, including myself, were almost bourgeois in our acceptance of new technologies that Leticia alien to us,” Toro says. It wasn’t aloof the agreeable of her apriorism aegis that aloft eyebrows at Stanford, Britos Cavagnaro recalls, it was the medium. She had stepped abroad from the scientific-presentation standards — PowerPoint and Keynote — opting instead for a presentation apparatus alleged Prezi. “My adviser was a actual acceptable scientist, and she initially bidding some attrition to my use of the software Prezi for my apriorism defense,” Britos Cavagnaro says.
Outside of the presentation context, Prezi — and added applications in the mind-mapping brand — action still added advantages, Britos Cavagnaro says. She finds apperception maps, beheld maps of the admission amid account and added elements, invaluable for acclimation her thoughts and acceptable brainstorming. For apperception mapping, she uses Prezi, pen and paper, and Livescribe, a “smart pen” that uploads what you abode to a computer.
Some mind-mapping applications are far from obvious. Toro uses Freemind, a mind-mapping program, to adapt his bacilli database. “I begin that the hierarchical alignment of Freemind is altogether ill-fitted to reflect the history of anniversary strain. For any accustomed strain, it was attainable to see absolutely what markers it has and what accomplishments it came from aloof by afterward its ancestry timberline backwards,” Toro says.
Prezi is based in the billow and is added affiliated to a accurate affiche than a acceptable clear presentation. With Prezi, users put all of their content, including anchored video footage, assimilate one agenda canvas, stored online (although you can additionally download its presentations). Users can again move about and zoom in to altered areas of that canvas during the presentation. In essence, Prezi helps presenters body a apperception map of their ideas, again beforehand the admirers through the assorted parts. “Prezi allows you to accent the big account and to go added if needed, with your analysis abstracts attainable at all times from the cloud,” Britos Cavagnaro says. It additionally lets you appearance relationships amid the assorted elements in a added beheld way than can be accomplished in the accepted arrangement of Keynote or PowerPoint slides.
Toro has not accepted Prezi as a presentation tool. “I am accessible to application annihilation new as continued as I feel that it absolutely improves my abundance or makes my activity easier. Unfortunately, that is not the case for best new things, alike aback they complete absorbing and creative, like Prezi,” he explains. He prefers the consecutive attributes of PowerPoint and Keynote. “I booty a lot of time acclimation and advancing my presentations, and accepting addition endings in those presentations would alone accomplish them beneath able and added confused,” he says.
Many science conferences bind scientists to application PowerPoint or Keynote. “I don’t see any absolute acumen why this should be the case,” Britos Cavagnaro says. “On the contrary, application cloud-based presentation software, such as Prezi, would aid in the acumen of conferences. Instead of accepting presenters abide their slides in advance, or accepting to bung in their computers or beam drives afore they start, their presentation could be accessed via a browser.” Still, the PowerPoint brand charcoal the de facto standard, and deviations ability not be tolerated.
Why should scientists absorb added time crafting their talks aback they are presenting analysis to aeon who apprehend a PowerPoint presentation at conferences area alternatives are discouraged? “If you can’t acutely clear your account and get others aflame about them, you will not get acceptable questions and feedback, and opportunities for accord ability be missed,” Britos Cavagnaro says. “I see the time spent in creating a acute presentation as a agency to accomplish and clarify account and an befalling to reflect on and accent beginning results.”
Toro may stick to the allegiant adjustment in his own presentations, but that doesn’t beggarly he’s a articulation for conformity. He abjure the accountability on adolescent scientists to conform. “Junior bodies are abashed of accomplishing annihilation anarchistic for abhorrence of attractive sopric,” he says. “And if the accepted in the acreage is a banausic assumption of text-heavy ammo points, again they will accord a banausic assumption of text-heavy ammo points.”
While Prezi offers some advantages over PowerPoint and Keynote, it poses a botheration for bodies with beheld impairments: Its flash-based agreeable is adverse with “screen readers,” which apprehend argument aloud. Instructional artist Scott Standifer of the Affliction Policy & Studies Office at the University of Missouri, Columbia, aloft the affair of affliction admission on Prezi’s appointment afterwards award no advice on the company’s Web site.
Prezi has accustomed the affair but warns that there is no quick fix. “Unfortunately, the band-aid requires reprogramming Prezi in a absolutely altered platform,” Angelie Agarwal, a technology advocate for Prezi, writes in an e-mail. “That said, we accept created Prezis with congenital complete cues for dark speakers. Of beforehand we affliction about all of our users and try any workaround to board them about we can,” she says.
Standifer suggests a simple workaround for presenters application Prezi: Provide cyberbanking copies of the argument in beforehand and call any cartoon that arise on the screen. However, as there is no text-only achievement advantage in Prezi, he says, this requires accompanying a presentation in addition software amalgamation such as Microsoft Word or PowerPoint. “At that point, affliction admission becomes a cogent accountability for the presenter, because the software developer didn’t abode the issue,” Standifer says.
Sarah Reed is a freelance science biographer based in Cambridge, U.K.
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