Descience is bringing together groups of two professionals that would typically not find themselves joined in a work environment. For me, one of the most fascinating parts of this project has been figuring out how best to communicate my science.
So far in my graduate career I have learned how to communicate to three groups.
The first was the group of my science peers. I learned the jargon that was specific
to the fields of Astronomy and Chemistry. This felt akin to learning a new language,
constructing a new road in the brain upon which to think. Second, was communicating to undergraduates in the classroom and in research. They are just beginning their journey to converse scientifically and therefore I had to learn to use the basic tools of the language, that I had only recently grasped myself, while slowly building up the jargon through the course of their studies. This served to strengthen my knowledge of the roots of scientific language and discourse. Lastly, I had to learn how to communicate to the general public, friends, and family. To do this I had to strip all the jargon away and learn to talk about science based solely on fundamental principles. This taught me to find the central tenants of my research.
During early meetings with designer Autumn Kietponglert, I tried to talk to her about my work as I would to a friend. I quickly ran into a wall, because in this project I had brought raw data from my experiment to the table and I found that I could not explain it with fundamental principles alone. So, I made a power-point presentation. It took quite some time as I kept adding in slides that I might include in a lecture for a
chemistry course, say, explaining the details of a chemical bond.
But then I hit my second wall. I realized that while writing a popular talk that could be given to the general public was not enough, writing a lecture as I would for a classroom was too much. I started deleting slides because getting into the nitty-gritty of all the scientific roots for my study was more than either of us needed. I had to find a new path to communicate. In the end, I realized that I had to relay the key details while remaining on the intuitive grounds of general reason. I feel that this has brought me insight into the most important parts of my work and to a more natural awareness of the principles of Astrochemistry, the study of molecular matter in space.
There is a famous Albert Einstein quote "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." This project and my collaboration with designer Autumn has challenged my understanding of my research and has made me see it in a new light. The bridge between fashion and science has been fun to build and I cannot wait to see its myriad foundations.