The Speaking Science opening day conference offers three tracks tailored to the needs of faculty and research staff; graduate students and post-docs; and professional communicators. Whether you are interested in honing your elevator pitch or using social media more effectively, there's a session for you! While tracks are designed to appeal to and be most relevant for specific audiences, conference attendees may join any session of interest unless otherwise noted.
Conference Day Schedule
Friday, March 24
Coffman Memorial Union
- 8 – 8:30 a.m. – networking and breakfast
- 8:30 – 9 a.m. – welcome
- 9 – 10:15 a.m. – keynote
- 10:15 – 10:30 a.m. – short break
- 10:30 a.m. – 12 p.m. – morning breakouts
- 12 – 1 p.m. – lunch break (BYO)
- 1 – 3 p.m. – afternoon breakouts
Find your track below for a rundown of the sessions that will be offered on March 24.
Visual Storytelling: Communicating Complexity
The world is complex. On top of our intricate systems, metrics, and processes, we humans are easily distracted. No matter how real data is — if we don't perceive it as having a direct, tangible impact on our own lives (and those of our friends and family), scientific topics will continue to be viewed as abstract and removed from our life experience.
Creativity can help connect seemingly abstract data to people's emotions. By putting information into a visual context; storytelling, infographics, and data visualization can inform audiences and garner participation. Creative and visual techniques can bring complex social and environmental content psychologically closer to connecting with audiences on an emotional level. This presentation shares examples of visual best practices – to help people see themselves within your data.
Arlene Birt is the founder and chief visual storyteller at Background Stories, working with change-making organizations in the US, EU, and UK to translate complex ideas, systems, and metrics into clear visuals that help people (especially non-experts) understand sustainability. An expert in information visualization and narrative visuals to communicate sustainability, Arlene is also a professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and a public artist creating participatory, data-focused public artwork on social and environmental topics.
Faculty and Research Scientist Track
Speaking to Industry Audiences
Researchers have more reasons than ever to engage with industry—for sponsored research, philanthropy, consortia, centers, and technology commercialization. Learn how to frame your work in a way that interests a company, how to prepare for your first meeting with a company, how to build productive industry partnerships, and how to work with the University’s Corporate Engagement Center. Session panelists have significant experience creating industry partnerships.
Leza Besemann, UMN Corporate Engagement Center. Leza connects faculty and researchers with companies to create win-win research partnerships. She is a matchmaker, navigator, and innovator with intellectual property, licensing, business development, and marketing expertise.
Todd Fonseca, retired Medtronic VP for Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Technical Communications. Todd is a certified executive and career coach who is passionate about communication, leadership, and maximizing one’s presence. He understands the challenges that technical people face when pitching their ideas. In addition, Todd has presented to the Medical Devices Center (MDC). His company, Thriving 9 to 5, helps professionals struggling with burnout bring back the joy, fulfillment, and excitement in their careers.
Beyond NIH and NSF: Finding and Talking to Mission-Oriented Agencies for your Research
Many researchers are accustomed to going after basic research funding from NIH and NSF. There are also many research opportunities outside these agencies, in so-called mission driven agencies, but these other agencies often speak a very different language that ladders up to their mission. Learn more about agencies like the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, USAID, and other mission driven-agencies, and how to map your work and the agency’s mission and priorities in order to find new areas of research collaboration, identify the right partner agency and effectively partner with them.
Amy Kircher, Associate Vice President for Research, UMN. Dr. Kircher directs OVPR's research development, external affairs and strategic initiatives, including engagement with government and public institutions, national labs, corporate entities, and international bodies. She co-founded and now oversees the Strategic Partnerships and Research Collaborative (SPARC), which works with researchers and practitioners to establish new large-scale programs that catalyze collaboration, innovate for new discoveries, and deliver practical new solutions.
Stephen Streng, SPARC Research Development Strategist. Stephen leads SPARC efforts to identify and evaluate research funding and partnership opportunities, and he helps UMN faculty, staff, and partners with long-term strategic planning as well as developing effective projects and proposals to secure opportunities
Katey Pelican, SPARC Co-Director. Katey Pelican, DVM, PhD was one of the founding co-directors of SPARC in 2019 and has led large-scale trans-disciplinary, multisectoral programs at UMN since she arrived in 2007.
Interacting With the Media
You have interesting stories to share — stories that can help make the world a better place. And journalists can help you share your story, especially if you help them do their jobs. In this popular workshop, you’ll get to meet, conduct mock interviews with and learn from local and national journalists. Learn how to pitch stories and give a great interview!
Graduate Student and Postdoc Track
Expand the Reach of Your Science Through Outreach Partnerships
Partnerships with organizations that specialize in outreach and public engagement are a great way to build your science communication skills, connect with diverse audiences, and develop a track record of outreach collaboration that will serve you well on future job applications and grant proposals. Learn about local opportunities to engage public audiences, hear examples of successful outreach collaboration, and leave with a pocketful of best practices and ideas to take the next step on your outreach journey.
Britt Gangeness, education specialist, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency. Britt has 15 years of experience helping Minnesotans understand and take action on important environmental issues and solutions. Specializing in statewide collaborative efforts, Britt creates fun, engaging, and BIG events, including the Eco Experience at the Minnesota State Fair and We Are Water MN program.
Dr. Anita Randolph, Community Engagement and Education Hub Director, Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, and Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics. Dr. Anita Randolph is a first-generation underrepresented minority neuroscientist whose research focuses on how methamphetamine-use disorder and alcohol-use disorder, respond only partially to treatment. As a neuroscientist whose community efforts synergize her educational impacts, she has made mentoring and outreach a priority amounting to more than 15 years. She has extensive experience supporting and enhancing undergraduate and graduate education through community engagement, mentoring, research, academic advising, and curriculum development.
Precious Kennedy, (she/her/hers), graduate scholar at the UMN Institute of Child Development. As an employee of the CBS Outreach Department, Precious is actively engaged in STEM outreach and programming in K-12 settings and the greater Twin-Cities community through the Young Scientists Program and Market Science. Precious is passionate about providing relationship-driven engagements with youth and aims to empower youth of color exploration of STEM and healthcare opportunities.
Build Your Network Through Social Media
Social media isn’t just a rabbit hole where you can lose yourself for hours – it’s a useful way to build your professional network, reach new audiences through outreach, and land career opportunities. Meet and learn from other students and early career scientists who’ve successfully seized social media opportunities and leveraged them in all the right ways.
Dr. Angeline Dukes, Assistant Professor, Department of Neuroscience and President, Black in Neuro. Dr. Angeline Dukes is a daughter of immigrants and a first-generation college graduate from a low-income background. She earned her Bachelor's degree in biology from the Historically Black College/University, Fisk University in 2017. Then earned her Masters and PhD in neuroscience from the University of California, Irvine. Upon completing her PhD last June, Dr. Dukes began a teaching faculty position at the University of Minnesota. As an assistant professor, her role includes teaching neuroscience courses, co-directing a post-baccalaureate program for historically marginalized students, and leading her own diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives. In addition to these responsibilities, Dr. Dukes also serves as the current President of Black In Neuro, a non-profit organization that supports Black scholars in neuroscience-related fields worldwide.
Dr. Peter Larsen, Assistant Professor, College of Veterinary Medicine, Co-Director of the Minnesota Center for Prion Research and Outreach. Larsen grew up on a farm in rural South Dakota. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in biology from South Dakota State University and his PhD in zoology from Texas Tech University. Peter is a molecular biologist and his research is highly interdisciplinary, operating under the broad umbrella of Evolutionary Medicine and One Health. Dr. Larsen leads a diverse team whose collective mission is to advance our understanding of zoonotic and neurodegenerative disease. He is Co-founder, CEO and CSO of Priogen Corp., a University of Minnesota spin-off company specializing in next-generation prion diagnostics.
Hailey Shanovich (they/she), Ph.D. candidate, Department of Forest Resources. Hailey is a disabled, non-binary forest ecologist and entomologist. They currently study arthropods associated with hazel and Indigenous food sovereignty for their dissertation research. Hailey has extensive experience and training in science communication and teaching. They are an artist and enjoy creating art that communicates science-related themes and issues in accessible and engaging ways.
Vic Massaglia, Director of Career & Professional Development Center, School of Public Health. Vic is the Director of the Career & Professional Development Center at the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health. He supports students with all facets of their career readiness and job-seeking needs, including how to leverage their social media presence.
Fear, Failure, and Catastrophe: How to Talk With Strangers About Your Science
Whether fielding a question out of left field from a 5th-grader, presenting your work to colleagues you’ve never met, or dealing with someone who is antagonistic toward your work, there are some fundamental reasons we experience fear, failure, and even catastrophe. Lucky for us, there are some straightforward principles and basic practices we can employ to deal with those situations to everyone’s benefit.
Brian Sostek is an award-winning playwright, choreographer, and performer with an ongoing interest in developing a pragmatic pedagogy in science, health, and high-stakes interpersonal communication. He integrates the best practices of the performing arts world and current theories of behavioral psychology to help a wide range of collaborators, students, and clients realize their professional and academic potential. Brian teaches in both the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance and the School of Nursing.
Professional Communicator Track
As communicators, our job is to tell stories. But before we start typing, first we must ask—who is this story for? And what’s the best way to tell it? In this session, we’ll go over how to answer these questions, and how you can best craft engaging, meaningful stories about science using a wide variety of platforms.
Pauline Oo manages editorial and special projects in the U of M College of Science and Engineering. She has also served as editor of Inventing Tomorrow, the college's magazine to 75,000+ alumni, since 2018. Past roles include storytelling at University Relations, University of Minnesota Alumni Association, and St. Kate's.
Deane Morrison is a writer and editor in the Marketing and Branding unit of University Relations, having moved there from the University News Service (now Public Relations). She writes the monthly Minnesota Starwatch column for the Minnesota Institute for Astrophysics and co-wrote a book of natural history essays published by HarperCollins. Her awards from the University Communicators Forum include a gold award for a profile of the late chemical engineering professor Lanny Schmidt.
Savannah Erdman is a public relations coordinator in University Relations at the University of Minnesota. Her background is in PR, social media management and copywriting. She currently works with several groups within the University, including the College of Science and Engineering and the School of Public Health.
Molly Bloom is the co-creator and host of MPR's award-winning science podcast Brains On and the spin-off debate show Smash Boom Best. She and her Brains On co-creators Sanden Totten and Marc Sanchez are the authors of the books, It's Alive, Road Trip Earth, and Earth Friend Forever. She's one of the leaders of the Kids and Family team at APM Studios, and also produces the podcasts Forever Ago, Julie's Library, and Moment of Um. Before working on podcasts for kids and families, Molly was a digital journalist for MPR News.
Social Media: Your Questions, Answered
It’s an interesting time to be a social media manager, and we feel your pain. You might be wondering—is this the end of Twitter? Should I be on TikTok? What platforms are best for communicating science? And also, how do I deal with all these trolls on my unit’s Facebook posts? In this panel session, we’re bringing in experts from across the University to answer these questions and more.
Olivia Hultgren is the social media manager for the College of Science and Engineering at the University of Minnesota. She manages, develops strategy for, and creates content and marketing campaigns for the CSE social media channels, including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. She also writes news releases and stories for the CSE website and magazine.
Jacob Spaulding is the social media manager for University Relations and manages the central channels for the University of Minnesota. He is responsible for setting institutional social strategy, content direction, crisis management, analytics, and reporting.
Jennifer Radke, CEO of the National Institute for Social Media, is an international speaker, author, and strategic business leader with over 15 years of experience in sales and recruitment leadership. The real-world solutions she brings to the business stem from her experience coaching, developing, and training employees and have made her a highly sought-after speaker and trainer for businesses of all sizes. Before purchasing the National Institute for Social Media in 2016, “the social CEO” was the owner and chief strategist at Socially Inspired, a social media training and consulting company that is still serving small and medium-sized businesses today.
Emily Dzieweczynski, Communications Associate, Bell Museum. Emily has spent most of their career working at an intersection of art, media, and science. She manages the Bell Museum's creative assets, including design, videography, and photography. She creates content for and manages the Bell’s social media channels. Additionally, she works as a science communicator and artist, collaborating with teams of scientists who study glacial recession.