Every other year, filmmakers, journalists, researchers, and media creators who cover science gather at Science Media Awards & Summit in the Hub (SMASH) to celebrate multimedia science storytelling. This September, MCO grad student Hasreet Gill of Cliff Tabin’s lab at Harvard Medical School will attend the summit as a SMASH 2018 Fellow.
“I’m really looking forward to meeting the other fellows; they all do super cool work!” Gill says.
The SMASH Fellows are emerging science communicators, chosen from a highly competitive applicant pool that includes scientists, journalists, and outreach professionals.
The event, jointly hosted by Jackson Hole WILD and WGBH, will allow Gill, the other fellows, and conference attendees to network with science media professionals, discuss science communication trends, and attend awards ceremonies.
As a G2 student, Gill’s academic research focuses on embryonic development of the gut. “The large intestine and esophagus come from the same initial tube and have different internal shapes,” she explains. “I’m asking whether similar interactions between tissue layers with distinct mechanical features in the foregut and hindgut can explain their respective inner structures.”
In addition to her work in the lab, Gill is also an improv comedian and a science educator. Her previous science communication endeavors include a live comedy show called “Science Thrill with Lali Gill!”, where she plays a scientist character who gives short presentations on recent science findings and deals with various science comedy foibles, such as bees in the laboratory and resurrected dinosaurs who turn out to be really boring. The show grew out of her enthusiasm for improv, connections she built in the Philadelphia improv scene, and conversations with public radio producer Brett Rader , who became a co-writer of the show.
Her performances incorporated prepared monologues, improvised sketches, guest appearances by working scientists, and stop motion animation shorts.
“I chose comedy as a medium for communicating science because it’s fun,” Gill says. “I think people who may find science boring or intimidating will be more inclined to engage with it if they’re laughing.”
“There’s also the fact that the use of analogy is both a huge part of comedy and an effective way to make complex science more accessible, which makes the two fairly straightforward to blend,” she adds. “But, I’d say that’s secondary to just associating learning about science with fun and happiness.”
While working with kids at a science-oriented summer camp in Philadelphia,.Gill, along with one of her colleagues, even taught in character as a “mad scientist”. “Honestly though, the kids were more concerned about the science than our performance,” she says. “They were like “don’t lie to us, you aren’t mad scientists.”
She also did a stint developing activities for a STEAM outreach program called Maker Jawn. “ We had an egg drop competition, extracted DNA, and did a lot of light microscopy–some kids got really into preparing their own slides and drawing what they saw in their notebooks,” Gill says. “It was a great experience.”
Gill encourages her fellow researchers and students who are curious about science communication to get involved. “I’ll just urge anyone interested in science communication and outreach to get into it!” she says. “Follow scicomm people on social media and go to local events. It’s fun for everyone! Also, take an improv class if you can.”
The SMASH ‘18 summit will take place from September 25-27 2018. Students who wish to attend can visit the SMASH website to register or to fill out a volunteer application. (Volunteer applications are due August 1, 2018!)