Paige Jarreau is a social media researcher, a science communication specialist at Louisiana State University and a science blogger at fromthelabbench.com. We spoke with Jarreau via email to discuss why science communication matters and more.
How did you start your blog, and what inspired you to do so?
I’ve always loved writing. When I was a kid, the first thing I wanted to be was a writer! Somehow that slowly morphed into wanting to be a doctor or scientist, which was probably inspired by what I saw all around me. My parents, and especially my dad, always made science, math and computer programming seem so interesting and fundamental to how we should look at the world.
It wasn’t until I was in graduate school as a PhD student in biomedical engineering that I started to second-guess a career of scientific research at the laboratory bench. I was frustrated. I felt like I was only working on a tiny piece of a puzzle of a single scientific research question in a sea of research questions. Remember, I wanted to be a writer when I was young… I thrived on science fiction, storytelling, seeing the big picture and dreaming of what could be. My creativity didn’t have far to go at the lab bench. So I pitched an idea for a blog on science in film and culture to a blog network hosted by Nature magazine at the time, called From The Lab Bench. They liked it, and the rest is history!
What are your top three tips for up-and-coming bloggers?
I love this question! I’ve often blogged about tips for up-and-coming bloggers and have a blog post series for those new to science blogging. But my top three tips would be: 1) Blog about what you are most passionate about. If it makes you smile, laugh, sit up and pay attention, go “oh wow,” cry or get angry, you know you’ve got a good idea for a blog post on your hands. 2) Don’t try to write fancy. When most of us think about writing “well,” based on what many of us learned in school, we think about using fancy words and creative, flowery language. Please don’t use a thesaurus, and don’t write paragraph-long sentences! Write in the most down-to-earth, brief and direct way that you can, and write conversationally. How would you say this if you were talking to someone in person, over coffee? 3) You must promote yourself and your content. Publishing the blog post is only the start of your content’s journey around the internet. If you don’t promote that content on other social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and even Snapchat, that journey may never start and your content will fall flat. Follow other bloggers in your beat or topic area, and they will help share your content if you help share theirs.
How did you get into the field of science communication?
Through my blog! From there, I got so interested in science communication that I decided to get a PhD in it.
What is your job outside of blogging?
My main job is now working as a science communication specialist in the College of Science at LSU. In that role, I create science-related social media content to get students interested in science at LSU, and I get faculty and students to start thinking about science communication as a key to their success as scientists, teachers, biologists, physicists, chemists, astronomers, doctors, mathematicians, museum curators, doctors, public science experts, grant-writers, science policy-makers… you name it.
How is being a science communicator in Louisiana different than other states?
I get to eat amazing food!
In the past Louisiana has’t necessarily been a hub for science communication and science communicators. But that is starting to change, and being a science communicator here on the cusp of that change is very exciting. More people in positions to do something about it across the state are starting to see the importance of not leaving science communication as an afterthought to research, environmental conservation efforts and education. As a state we have an abundance of natural resources but also an abundance of environmental concerns that scientists and engineers can help us address – but only if effective science communication isn’t left as an afterthought.
What topic about science communication interests you most?
While I love to nerd out about science communication itself and how to do it effectively, I also still love the doing of it. Talking to scientists and translating what they do into language and concepts that anyone can relate to—that is the part of my work that doesn’t feel like work! I also LOVE the topic of science and art collaborations. Whenever I see an example of a collaboration between scientists and artists, I get excited and want to write about it.
Photo courtesy of Paige Jarreau.