sarahkeenihan

Posts Tagged ‘science writing’

Time to shake things up

In September 2016 on September 29, 2016 at 12:17 pm

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Sarah: In April this year I wrote an off-the-cuff post about career pathways and dreams for my future.

Little did I know what was around the corner! I’m delighted to report that this month I will start a new role as Adelaide Life Sciences Editor with The Conversation Australia.

So what’s The Conversation? Taken from their website:

The Conversation is an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public.

Our team of professional editors work with university, CSIRO and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.

My job will be to work with researchers to help them craft well-written, accessible and news-worthy articles that anyone can read for free.

It will be a busy, exciting and quite demanding role, so please bear with me as I settle in and work out my new modus operandi for blogging and social media.

Vive le changement!

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I went for a walk and thought about stuff

In April 2016 on April 13, 2016 at 4:03 pm

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Sarah: Today I went for a walk and thought about stuff*.

The stuff kinda went a bit like this:

Now I’m 43 years old, and have three kids aged 12, 11 and 6. I’ve been married for nearly 18 years. I have a house and a garden and a dog. I do exercise and I eat well.

I’m a grown-up. Really, yes, now I am a grown up.

I’m working as a science writer, which gives me great freedom and flexibility and allows me to earn money, to continue learning about really cool science and to hone my writing skills on an ongoing basis. This is great. I am very lucky.

But I’m really not anywhere near set in my career. I will not be freelance writing forever. I have plans. I have really big plans.

The fact that my big plans are not at all clear at the moment does not stop me. All I know is that all this thinking and writing and learning about audience and thinking and writing some more is giving me skills that have value.

Will I come up with a kick-arse idea and become an entrepeneur? Will I work for a huge scientific or medical institution? Will I write a book? Will I start teaching? Will I go back to research? Will I study medicine?

I don’t know. And that’s ok. For now.

*title and theme inspired by this post by veggiemama , which I heard about through this Australian Writers’ Centre podcast 

Where could science take you?

In March 2016 on March 30, 2016 at 9:11 pm

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Sarah: Research science can be the perfect platform from which to launch a new career. Perhaps you’re interested in marketing, intellectual property, teaching, business management or pharmaceutical sales? After graduating with a biomedical PhD in 2000, now I am a freelance science writer.

Here are my top 6 tips for transitioning from research into another career:

  1. Know yourself. Keep your options broad. Be open to change.
  2. Before you make a move, get extra training if possible.
  3. Offer yourself up for volunteer roles – you’ll learn new skills you didn’t know you didn’t have. And you might love them.
  4. Don’t expect a new career to take off overnight. Aim for a slow transition.
  5. Find great mentors, and work collaboratively and humbly with them.
  6. Be bold enough to design and transition to a career that fits with other responsibilities and loves – whether these are family, an existing job, or a passion such as marathon running or speaking French.

It’s hard to see how each of these points is relevant without a case study. So here’s little more detail of my career history:

I was always the kind of person who was interested in lots of…well…stuff. As a kid and teenager, I read many kinds of books. I played lots of sport. I listened to the radio and loved documentaries. After school finished, I signed up to study Medicine.

But it didn’t work out. Fundamentally, I was unhappy (looking back, I think it was lack of emotional maturity). After switching to a Bachelor of Medical Science, I was lucky enough to conduct an Honours year and subsequently my PhD under the supervision of Sarah Robertson (now Director at the Robinson Research Institute). Sarah R was – and still is – an adept communicator, both in the written and oral forms. She taught me that to cut it as a researcher in reproductive immunology I needed to be able to explain reproduction to immunologists, and conversely to share immunology with reproductive scientists and obstetricians/gynaecologists. This awareness of audience needs was an excellent start to a career in science communication.

Sarah also advised me to join the ASMR, and I subsequently became active with the South Australian branch – including as media officer, my first foray into the world of press releases, briefs and talking to journalists. It was a pleasure working with ASMR stalwarts Moira Clay and Peter O’Loughlin during the mid-late 1990s. And Cath West was a great support from head office.

I became so interested in talking about science to a general audience, that I signed up to study a Graduate Diploma in Sciences Communication (Central Queensland University). Of course this was a crazy move, given that I was mid-PhD. But once started, it was easy to defer it many times and I finally completed the diploma over 10 years later. This gave me an important theoretical foundation in media and communications. And it showed people that mattered I was investing in my communications career – this fact alone was enough for a well-known media identity (Keith Conlon) to give me a brief spot on his local TV show.

Post PhD, I stuck with research for about 4 more years, working in Australia and Indonesia. A post-doc with American military scientists in Jakarta was an eye-opener to say the least. Here, I developed better skills fending for myself, and was fortunate to work with a fantastic epidemiologist in Dr Kevin Baird.

But that communication bug kept biting, and so I left the academic sector and started working for an Adelaide science and futures consultancy Bridge8. In this company, business owner Kristin Alford focused on digital and novel strategies to tackle big problems related to science and technology. She encouraged me to take up social media and to embrace new challenges I never would have dared confront previously. With my two and then three young children to work around, she was also highly supportive of my need to work odd hours and from home on many occasions. If you provide new parents with flexibility and options, it’s my experience that they will work hard for you.

It became clear that the thing that made me happiest was writing. So I used a blogging project (ScienceforLife365) to announce to the world that I was a freelance science writer. This blog (now in its 5th year) was crucial in refining my writing skills, reaching new audiences, understanding social media better, and formed a great marketing tool as well. I undertook further training in writing, marketing and social media through SA Writers Centre, the Walkley Foundation and Australian Science Communicators. Now I work with a range of clients in academia, publishing, government, social media and digital news services. Many find me through word of mouth; others I meet through networking and introductions from existing clients.

And the crazy thing is, I’m actually a little bit tempted to look into Medicine again. I guess I just like to keep things fresh.

Have you worked out what stuff keeps you motivated? It just might lead you to a new career.

This post was first published in the March 2016 newsletter of the Australian Society for Medical Research

[Image thanks to Chase Elliot Clark, Creative Commons license]

 

World Science Festival Brisbane was not science worship, and it worked

In March 2016 on March 22, 2016 at 10:49 am
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Image thanks to @WSFBrisbane 

Sarah: I realised World Science Festival Brisbane was a big deal at 30,000 feet above ground level — the flight attendants were discussing how to catch a few events (science-loving airhostesses equals stereotype-breaking at its best).

Co-founded eight years prior by Tracy Day and Brian Greene, in March 2016 the World Science Festival left New York City for the very first time and set up a second home in Brisbane, Australia. In that city to attend the National Conference of the Australian Science Communicators, I was fortunate enough to hang around, catch the vibe, and attend four World Science Festival events over Friday 11 and Saturday 12 March.

Known affectionately amongst Australians as ‘BrisVegas’, Queensland’s capitol was a fantastic host city. The co-location of numerous cultural buildings – The Queensland Museum, The Queensland Art Gallery, The Queensland Performing Arts Centre and The State Library of Queensland – with open grassy areas along the front of the Brisbane River made the entire experience easy. Families and passersby on the water-front were treated to ‘Smart Science’ – pop-up activities and demonstrations encouraging people to ‘explore the fun of science in a hands-on, action packed program.’ More formal activities with ticketed sales took place in the nearby buildings.

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For its emotional punch, I adored Alan Alda’s Dear Albert. Presented by three actors dressed in black and perched on plain wooden chairs, the readings consisted of excerpts from letters between Albert Einstein and his loved ones. It sounds dull but it was most assuredly not so. I was captivated: laughing, gasping and occasionally in tears. Einstein may have been the world’s most remarkable physicist, but his use of language was also breathtaking. His love letters were simple and yet detailed, sweet but occasionally racy (by implication, not directly) and revealing of a passionate and loving man. When his marriage began to fail and professional pressures increased, he did equally well in conveying anger, stress and bitterness. In essence the audience was given a taste of Einstein’s many passions; the selected paragraphs traced ‘an intimate and unfamiliar line across his life and work.’ We also had a glimpse of what expectations were on women in the early-mid 20th century. A young girl pregnant and unmarried certainly had very little choice in how her life played out – the mystery of what happened to Einstein’s first, illegitimate child still remains – and similarly, a divorcee often endured a powerless existence.

Still on physics, but much drier, was Breakfast with the Brians. Science superstars Brian Greene and Brian Schmidt chatted with host Robyn Williams about string theory, dark matter, the processes of science, science communication and magic. The celebrity geek factor was very high – and the audience lapped it up. But for me, again it was the insights into personalities that were the most interesting part of this event. For example, we learned that Brian Greene grew up in a family of vaudeville entertainers—maybe this is why he’s so adept at holding an audience captive? Interestingly, I later learnt that Alan Alda grew up surrounded by his family’s vaudeville/burlesque business as well – this podcast has more on that.

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Similarly, I loved Greene’s insights into how science makes you feel. “Emotion is critical,” he said. “When you’re doing science the ideas tickle the brain, but the real moments come when you feel like you’re staring at eternity, at something that on-one else has seen before.”

And on the subject of releasing a new paper or a novel theory, he admitted it can be terrifying. “There is a great deal of fear, of going out into the world and having egg on your face,” said Brian Greene. Even the big guys have imposter syndrome at times, I guess.

Panel events can be somewhat risky: either they crash and burn into an hour of tedious agreements and confirmation of stuff we already know, or they ignite fantastic conversations and inoculate the audience with lingering ideas. Which way it goes usually depends on the moderator. Luckily the two World Science Festival panel events I attended had excellent hosts – each knew the participants well, was aware of the audience and was motivated to get the conversations kicking.

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Radio National’s Natasha Mitchell chaired a session Where Worlds Collide: Science Values and Ethics. Natasha involved her audience from the get-go – she ran a quick poll, challenging us to make decisions on a series of ethical dilemmas – and then asked her panel to consider the same scenarios. The best thing about the session was that Rob Sparrow, Margaret Somerville, Rob Lamberts, Wayne Hall and Dimity Dornan didn’t speak of science like something that was to be revered, respected and kept apart from the rest of society. Quite the opposite. The overriding message was that science is a living, breathing cultural construct that must sit within a broad human context. And as you might expect in a discussion about values, we witnessed some strong disagreement – check out my tweets if you want a bit more detail.

Natasha Mitchell is a very experienced radio journalist, and it showed. The same is true for John Hockenberry, who chaired the final session I attended – Science and Story: Getting it Write. John lead his panel – James Bradley, Simon Groth, Ashley Hay, George Musser and Niamh Shaw – in rare discussion that explored how writing (or more specifically, narrative) and science work together to help people understand their world. John told us that Earth in 2016 is an uncertain place, perhaps the most uncertain it’s been since World War II. This he attributed mostly to the existence of climate change and rapid technological advances. “Interest in science is a sign people see that the world is in a kind of motion,” said John. “Our understanding of the world is in transition right now.”

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Panelist Ashley Hay agreed, describing writing about science as ‘a means to understand what our future might be,’ and suggesting that ‘we need to be literate about what is unknown.’ (See a few more tweets on this here).

Having worked with futurist Dr Kristin Alford, the need to formally consider and prepare ourselves for diverse future scenarios is something I’m reasonably familiar with. However crazily enough it’s not a subject that comes up often in public discussions about science. This panel was a rare exception.

Science is a funny old thing. All of us who work in science think we have a grip on what it means, how it’s important and why the general public should actually care. Sometimes we put science on a pedestal, and expect others to gather around and worship from afar. But science does not exist in isolation. It cannot function on its own. Science is a human activity that is shaped by human desires and needs, and it is interpreted in a broader cultural context. It’s rare that public science events manage to capture all of these complexities. I’d like to congratulate World Science Festival Brisbane on their achievements in putting together a broad program of events that reflected the many different layers and components of science. I hope future events can push audiences of scientists and non-scientists into new ways of thinking even further.

This post was first published at Real Scientists 
http://realscientists.org/2016/03/21/realscientists-at-world-science-festival-brisbane/

Science writing: what, how, why, when and huh?

In February 2016 on February 22, 2016 at 11:17 am

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Sarah: What does a science writer even do? It’s a question I am regularly asked as I meet new people day-to-day. Some scientists are also intrigued about my work, and interested to know how I made the switch from a research career into a communications role.

Recently I was interviewed by Adrian Carter, Deputy Chair at the Early-Mid Career Researcher Forum at the Australian Academy of Science, as a way to provide careers information to members. Originally published here, I’ve reproduced it below in case you too are interested.

What is your current occupation or position?
I’m a freelance science writer, and live in Adelaide, South Australia. I have an office in my home, and travel to meet with clients as required. Occasionally I work in-house with a client if that suits their needs. My work typically includes a mix of: writing news and feature articles for online and printed publications, putting together or editing grants and prize applications for scientists, copywriting and crafting content and case studies for client websites and documents, writing blog posts and other social media outputs, conducting workshops for scientists looking to improve their writing skills, and more. Previously I worked in immunology research in Australia and Indonesia, and in a number of writing and communication type roles.

How did you get into science writing?
It was a field I had been interested in for a long time, although it wasn’t until 2012 that I finally made the decision to become a dedicated freelance writer. At the time, I was employed by Dr Kristin Alford at futures consultancy Bridge8 Pty Ltd (http://bridge8.wordpress.com/). We worked on a range of different science, technology and futures projects, and it became clear to me that it was always the writing work that I loved the most amongst the mix of skills I was applying. I’d been cultivating my science writing capability for many years prior to that, having started a Graduate Diploma in Sciences Communication during my PhD in the late 1990s (I finally completed it over 10 years later!). I did a reasonable amount of volunteer writing work for associations and publications over the years as well, and started a daily blogging project (https://scienceforlife365.wordpress.com/) to improve my writing volume and speed.

What do you enjoy most about working in science writing?
I love that I’m working at the cutting edge of science, across many different specialty fields and that every week is different. Obviously I’m not doing laboratory research anymore (and I do miss it a little), but I have the opportunity to chat with some fantastic people and hear about what they’re doing and what they hope the impact of their research will be. As well as being thrilled by the science, I have a real love of language. I find it very satisfying to craft words, sentences, paragraphs and indeed whole pages that are enjoyable and easy to read, but still accurate. I love the stories of science, and helping new audiences to come into contact with complex subject matter that they may not have encountered before.

What are the most challenging aspects about being a science writer?
Although working alone is a good fit with my slightly introverted personality, at times it can be quite isolating. To counter that, I make sure I mix up my time: I schedule a combination of flat-out writing binges interwoven with in-person and phone interviews, coffee dates with pals and colleagues, and chats about life and work matters with friends and colleagues via Twitter and Facebook. I attend professional events in Adelaide—I’m a member of the Australia Science Communicators and the SA Writers Centre—and travel to conferences or training once or twice a year.

It can also be quite challenging to keep the right balance of jobs on the go. Sometimes offers of work come all at once, and it’s important I make sure I don’t over-commit myself when that happens. However it’s incredibly hard to say ‘no’ to fantastic opportunities, especially when a new client comes knocking. Other periods are quieter, which is useful for administration tasks. Working at home, I do need to make sure I don’t procrastinate in the form of household distractions.

Describe a typical day in your job?
I am an early riser, often before 6am. Some mornings I exercise, others I sit straight down at the computer and get an hour of writing done straight up. From 7am-8am it’s bedlam! My husband and I grapple with breakfast, lunches, uniforms and miscellaneous emotional turmoil for three kids aged 6-12. Once that mob is packed off out the door, I have the house to myself and start on more work. I write best in the mornings, so make sure I use that time wisely to crank out serious words. I aim to schedule phone calls and meetings in the early afternoon when my brain has come off the boil a little. If I have a full day at home, I break it up with exercise (running or swimming) and physical chores around the house. Working from an in-house office is a great way to keep a household ticking over. I recommend it to any working parent. But again, look out for the procrasti-cleaning/cooking/washing!

Between 3.30 and 6pm is taken up with the kids’ after-school activities, although I do pull in help to cover this during busy times when I need to squeeze more hours from each day. If I’m in a particularly crazy patch, I work evenings as well.

Any advice for early-mid career researchers wishing to pursue a career in science writing?
Science writing is not for everyone, and is not necessarily a natural jump from a career in research. The best approach is to take a long run-up and make a slow transition. You’ve really got to know yourself: work out what you’re good at, what conditions you like to work under. You need to be familiar with what makes writing work for different platforms: news, social media, long-form, grants, prizes, website copy and more. You must be able to work fast and to tight deadlines at times. You need great networks in science and media circles, which can be built up over time in other employment and through real life and social media interactions. You should take the opportunity to get extra training if possible, such as through writing courses, science outreach training or media internships. You can also take on volunteer roles to learn new skills: for example, do media or outreach for a science association. Whilst doing that, try and hook up with a mentor or two in the field you’re interested in. Even if you just meet for coffee, it’s valuable. If you have the chance and a bit of spare time, work collaboratively and humbly with them (yes, this usually means not paid!) – it will be worthwhile, as you’ll learn new skills and define your strengths and weaknesses outside of the research environment.

What’s exciting you about science writing?
It’s so exciting living at the intersection of two fascinating disciplines: science and media. Science is so interesting, so diverse and of course incredibly valuable to our society. Through writing, I love feeling that I can help change peoples’ minds about the importance and relevance of science, for example guiding readers to feel less intimidated by climate change, or helping them understand how cancer treatment works. I also feel very lucky to apply my science knowledge at the cutting edge of digital news and communications—the way information is presented and consumed is so fascinating, and changing constantly. Late in 2015 I attended the Storyology conference, hosted by The Walkley Foundation. It was absolutely wonderful to hear from some of the world’s leading media experts, and to be part of such a dynamic field.

How did your PhD or postdoctoral research assist you with a career in science writing?
My PhD training was a fantastic launch pad for a career in science writing. Through many years working with Sarah Robertson—herself a fantastic communicator—and other colleagues, I learnt how to write specifically and concisely, how to organise information, how to tell a story through verbal and written communication, how to reach long-term goals through creating reasonable short-term deadlines, how to manage my time effectively, how to never give up, how to walk into a conference and chat with people I’d never met before…the list goes on! All these skills are so valuable and transferable to many careers outside of research science.

[image thanks to https://www.flickr.com/photos/donnieray/]

The flurry before the calm

In December 2015 on December 3, 2015 at 7:53 pm

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Sarah: My Christmas tree is up, I’m online shopping like a demon, and the house is an obstacle course with half chewed pencils and piles of never-to-be-opened-again school books (thanks kids). It’s December!

There has been a flurry of science in my life in recent months. Creating stories around the science, technology, health and other research that takes place in South Australia is a large part of my work portfolio. Here’s a snippet of recent cool stuff:

Can you guess which story has been the most popular amongst those?

I’ve also been:

I love it all, but looking forward to a summer holiday too.

[image thanks to Kiran Foster]

How Life Works

In September 2015 on September 17, 2015 at 12:28 pm

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Sarah: If you studied biochemistry at university, chances are you used ‘The Biochem Bible’ by authors William and Daphne Elliott. Often it was referred to quite simply as “Elliott and Elliott’.

Elliott and Elliott were quite a team, both as authors, scientists and life partners. Here is the brief precis of their achievements, as summarised by CSIRO Publishing:

William (Bill) Elliott was a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Sciences and Head of Biochemistry at The University of Adelaide for 23 years. In 1982 his department was awarded the Australian Government’s first Centre of Excellence, for research devoted to gene technology. In 2001, he was awarded the Centenary Medal for service to Australian society and science in molecular biosciences. At The University of Adelaide, his legacy and achievements are celebrated annually by the W.H. Elliott lecture and a research fellowship in his name.

Daphne Elliott is an Honorary Research Fellow in the School of Biological Sciences at Flinders University. She was awarded the Chancellor’s Medal in 1994 for her contribution to the education of women in Science and Mathematics and served as Federal President of the Australian Federation of University Women. In 2002, she was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for service to the promotion of women’s education and as an advocate for improving the status and human rights of women.

Bill passed away in 2012. Never one to be idle, he spent his final months and days preparing the first complete draft of a new book aimed not at the science student, but at the general public.

Thanks to the commitment of Daphne — along with her daughter, granddaughter and other family members — that work is now published. I am so very delighted to have worked with the Elliotts to craft some of the figures and tables for this book.

How Life Works: The Inside Word From a Biochemist is available via CSIRO Publishing.

In Bill’s own words:

“This book aims at explaining the fundamentals of life to readers who have no scientific training.”

“It will possibly enable non-scientific decision-makers and the general members of the public to better understand some of the important biological and medical issues that face society.”

I’d say there’s a market for that, wouldn’t you?

[image thanks to Ben Grey]

What makes a great editor?

In June 2015 on July 2, 2015 at 11:18 pm

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Sarah: The editorial in my Winter 2015 edition of Adelaide Hills Magazine tells me it’s the last volume to be headed up by Max Anderson.

Max was an important influence when I was working out how freelance writing was going to pan out as a career for me. He took a chance and gave me a story to write for the magazine (it was a shocking act: I’d just sent him a terrible pitch for a completely unrelated and mind-blowingly boring article idea). Also, he believed in the power of science stories. And he still does – if you have the chance, please do track down Adelaide Hills Magazine Winter 2015 edition: the interview with Climate Scientist and Ecologist Corey Bradshaw is quite outstanding (it’s written by Lainie Anderson – you can catch snippets of it here).

But best of all, Max — along with other editors in my life — provided a chance for me to see how a great editor can help your own writing progress.

Here’s a quick list that summarises 5 of my thoughts as to what makes a great editor:

  1. A great editor doesn’t leave you floundering, wondering what he or she wants from you. He or she is clear in what the word count should be, provides examples of similar articles, gives a little bit of early guidance and options as to what it might turn out like, and then leaves it up to you.
  2. A great editor doesn’t accept exactly what you’ve written the first time. She or he provides a critical appraisal – tells you which bits work and why, and then gives it back so you can make it better. All of it.
  3. A great editor might change his or her mind as to what the piece should consist of after the first or second draft. This feels terrible as a writer — you’re in the zone, you’ve created what feels like a good story…and then suddenly BANG. It needs a new section?! But yes, it does. Once you reach the final version, you will see it.
  4. A great editor insists on a kick-butt beginning and an unforgettable ending. There’s no point in having a brilliantly crafted meat in the sandwich unless the reader actually gets through the top layer of bread, right? Similarly, it’s utterly disappointing to finish a meal with a bad taste in your mouth. Open with a bang, finish with polish.
  5. A great editor asks you what you think of other stuff in the magazine and the world, and actually listens to your answer.

[image thanks to pexels.com]

To share or not to share

In May 2015 on May 10, 2015 at 11:24 am

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Sarah: How much of ‘you’ should you reveal when you’re a blogger, a journalist or a writer? In a world of social media — where connections and share-ability matter — it’s an issue that I grapple with regularly.

I trained as a research scientist during the 1990s. Whilst things are slightly more liberal now, back then I was taught that come hell or high water, I should never dare to use personal pronouns or include my thoughts and opinions in any written materials. Science is objective. Science has procedures. Science is not influenced by emotion or personal experiences. Science has a reputation to uphold!

When I started blogging and writing for more general audiences, it took me many years to be work out the right balance of ‘being me’ in a public space. Me a scientist; but also me a writer, a citizen, a daughter, a sister, a wife, a mother, a runner, a cook, a netball coach…I think you get my drift.

Gently, slowly, I started to wrap my head around writing in the first person. Still thinking from the perspective of science, through this blog I shared experiences from my home life, my working life and many other things in between. Now I’m quite comfortable with revealing a little of myself through my words. Not too much….just a little, and only in the right context.

Like scientists, wine writers on the whole are not renowned for being liberal with personal details. Sure, they’re inclined to get a bit emotional about the 2008 Penfolds Grange, but overall they keep a lid on it.

When wine aficionado Nick Ryan began writing a regular column for Adelaide’s Sunday Mail newspaper, he too felt nervous about revealing too much of himself. Here’s a story I wrote about Nick’s shared experiences of parenting, losing a partner and the benefits that can come from letting an audience get to know you.

[Photo credit: Got Credit]

Day 346. Tree

In July 2013 on July 23, 2013 at 10:07 am

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Educator and science communicator George Aranda (on twitter as @PopSciGuyAus) prompted me to use the word TREE to write approximately 100 words from my own science perspective.

Here goes:

As I stand at the base of the tree and look up, I see branching.

The solid trunk splits to become several arms, and then branches of smaller and smaller diameter spread towards the sky. Finally, small twigs – the most numerous of the woody tree elements – form the perimeter of the tree. The aim of the branching is to give every single leaf on that tree the best opportunity to become exposed to light, hence fuelling the growth of the tree overall. The leaves also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and release oxygen as a waste product of photosynthesis.

Picture an image of a perfectly formed tree, and now flip it 180 degrees. This is what your lungs look like. The trachea leads from your voice box down into the chest, then branches twice and then further to form passageways of smaller and smaller dimensions. Bronchi give way to become bronchioles, and then finally alveoli. The alveoli are the leaves. But instead of access to light, these teeny tiny pockets are all about access to blood. Across microscopic cell membranes, oxygen crosses from the air in the alveoli to your blood, and carbon dioxide from your blood crosses back to be breathed out.

Trees have been called the lungs of the world due to their production of oxygen. But the two structures also have a design element in common.

{word count – 230} 

[image thanks to bptakoma on flickr]