Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sky's the Limit Film Gala

From Jalyn:

Sky's the Limit wrapped up its SciComm-M.Sc Biology  student collaboration with a gala film night that also debuted the fantastic new Living with Lakes Centre.
Let me take you back to the beginning. In January we Science Communication students were split into groups to form film production and consultation teams. The result was a made-up company called "Sky's the Limit" and their three student consulting teams: BioFilms, Reel Science, and SCIMAX.  Each of these teams was in turn assigned six "clients" – students in the MSc. Biology program who had been tasked with producing a TED Talk-style presentation on a science subject other than their own research topic.
But many of the biology students were game to try something more than a science lecture, and we were soon working with budding Bill Nyes and David Attenboroughs. While the biology students were perfecting their on-camera presentation skills, the SciComm students were learning how to script, storyboard, film and edit. Our classes had helped us prepare for scripting and storyboarding a film, but most of us were learning on the fly how to use lighting and camera angles, boom and lapel mics, green screens and editing software. Soon though, the members of each team started finding their niches as directors and producers, camera 1 and 2, script and prop directors, and of course clappers, and we got into the flow of shooting the films.
The final step was editing the footage, and I think we all have a new respect for the editing that goes into even a simple 30-second commercial. Editing is a finicky, time consuming business, and by the end of many hours spent tinkering, zombie-like, with the same few seconds of film, it's hard not to pick apart the video and feel that it's absolutely terrible, chock full of flaws, and not fit for public viewing even as a device of slow torture. But those were just "editing goggles" and once the videos were done and the film gala was upon us, we all got dressed up and watched over two hours of videos that were funny, enlightening, provocative, and professional.
The videos spanned a wide range of subjects including a TED Talk on environmental determinism, a cooking show about diet and evolution, and a piece on the demise of empires at the hands of microbes. After an evening of wining and dining with students and faculty, the awards were presented, and the first annual Eagle Award for Best Picture went to Alex Chan and Reel Science for their video titled "Oxygen: The other silent killer" that explained the complex relationship our bodies have with oxygen, the vital and lethal element.
Congratulations to all our clients in the M.Sc. Biology program and all the members of BioFilms, Reel Science, and SCIMAX, who worked so hard and impressed so many!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SNOLab Visit

(11 April 2011)

It may have been a warm morning for April, but the sight of our SciComm class standing outside in shorts and light shirts at 6 am must have been interesting indeed.  But then again, it is surprisingly warm 2 kilometres underground, especially when our summery clothes are layered under steel-toed boots, coveralls, and hard hats.

Our last field trip of the year was close to home: we visited the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) Labs located just outside of Sudbury. The SNO experiment may not be active anymore, but there are still many experiments being conducted in the underground lab.  Led by Science Communication alumna Sam Kuula, our class got to see various experiments, such as PICASSO (Project in Canada to Search for Supersymmetric Objects), HALO (Helium and Lead Observatory) supernova neutrino detector, and DEAP (Dark Matter Experiment using Argon Pulse)– as well as the stacks of 5 kg boxes of water that insulate them against the interference unwanted particles – and learn more about the search to uncover the mysteries of neutrinos and dark matter.

An interesting footnote is the cleanliness of the lab.  Once you leave the mines and enter the laboratories, you are entering a dust-free zone.  We were required to leave our street clothes behind, shower, and wear issued coveralls, boots, and hairnets.  Halfway through our tour there was even an air-shower to rid us of any dust or crumbs (such as cookie crumbs from our snack break) that might have clung to our clothing.  The tunnels have been hand-troweled, painted, and cleaned – even some of the ductwork was fabric for easy-cleaning!

"So that's what a neutrino looks like..."
Single file for a hike through the mine.

Lorraine dons SNO-issued outfit.

Class photo at the boot wash station!
 Photos courtesy of Jalyn Neysmith and Brandon Gray.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

SCOM on-call

From Steph:
If there's one thing we 'Scommies' have learned this year, it's that story telling is  a must!  First hand accounts of cool science are the most engaging and fun way to get science 'out there'.  I was lucky enough to visit the Arctic, traveling through the Northwest Passage with my parents, the summer before I entered this program.  Now that was cool science.  I have endless stories to tell of that adventure, much of them involving science - marine biology, climate change, ecology, and the list goes on.

Truth be told, it "ain't easy" to go visit the far north.  It's expensive, uncharted, unpredictable.  So how the heck is most of the population supposed to tell stories about places like this in an attempt to raise awareness and explain the science?  Well, on March 22, Josh Osika and I got to experience a great science communication tool first hand.  "This Week in Science and Education" is an internet science show for teachers and students.  

Teachers, students, you, me...we can all access this great website and watch podcasts involving all sorts of interesting scientists.  Learn about their research, their adventures, how they got to where they are, etc. etc.  Dr. Dave Pearson, Josh, and I discussed the Science Communication program and the importance of story-telling.  We also did some neat science experiments (some successful, others not so much), before Dr. Dave explained Sudbury's geology.

More and more of these fantastic educational tools are becoming available.  Technology is our answer to getting at stories we can't tell first hand.  Thanks to the internet, your story-teller doesn't even need to be in your neighborhood, which makes life a lot easier.  So if you have a science story to tell, but you want an eye-witness account - its your lucky century.  Podcast your way into science communication!
You can check out Josh and Steph's T-Wise podcast here.
For more information about VROC, click here.