NIU today | Crash Course in Comedy Helps NIU Researchers Communicate Clearly

Science Riot is an intriguing humorous evening where local scientists attempt to stand up for the very first time.

After surviving a crash course in comedy, a cohort of NIU researchers will give their comedy talks on June 11-18. STEM experts from NIU, Argonne National Laboratory and Shedd Aquarium worked with Science Riot, a nonprofit to help scientists harness the power of laughter to connect with large audiences and explain complex research in an engaging manner. On June 11 (in person at the Field Museum) and June 18 (broadcast live), they will share their training results in five-minute comedic lectures.

Tickets cost $ 18 for the in-person event and $ 10 for the live broadcast and are available on the Science Riot website.

“Science Riot has been something the university has been interested in since 2018,” said Gillian King-Cargile, director of STEM Read in the NIU’s Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development division, which coordinated the collaboration. and will be one of the speakers. . “NIU sent me to a Science Riot exhibit at the Field Museum in Chicago and asked me to say if it would be a good training opportunity for faculty and staff. I attended the comedy showcase and had a blast.

Now King-Cargile is delighted that the NIU Outreach, Engagement and Regional Development Division and the NIU Libraries collaborated to bring Science Riot to NIU, supported by funding provided by the Friends of NIU Libraries.

“I have always been impressed by the presentations of the Science Riot interns,” says King-Cargile. “I discovered BioArt and dinosaur poo and how fictional zombie outbreaks help researchers model real outbreaks. I am so excited that we were able to bring this to NIU and our STEM partners and I hope we can continue this unique training on a regular basis.

Patricia wallace

Patricia Wallace, Assistant Professor in the Department of Psychology at the NIU and Research Compliance Coordinator in the Office of Research Compliance, Integrity and Security, jumped at the opportunity to participate.

“I saw an email on Science Riot and thought I should do it. When I was a kid I always thought I would be a comedian someday. I always liked to laugh and make people laugh. people. Instead, I became an experimental psychologist, which isn’t exactly an obvious alternative to comedy! But when I teach – and I teach a lot of courses like research and statistics that don’t excite not necessarily the students – I tell a lot of stories and inject humor into the classroom, and I think that really increases student engagement.

For his comedic speech, Wallace plans to discuss the research process, touching on how scientists develop a research plan to ensure they study what thought they study.

“Some subjects are particularly difficult to study,” says Wallace. “I studied aggression in college, and aggression is hard to test in the lab because you don’t want people punching each other!” So we had to find a smart way of looking at it while measuring aggression, and I like the idea of ​​getting people to think about that process. Most people are not going to go into research, but they will learn more about research results throughout their lives, so they should be critical thinkers.

David Gunkel

David Gunkel, Professor Emeritus in the Department of Communication, will talk about his research on the ethics of emerging technologies (think Robot rights, for example – the title of Gunkel’s 2018 book).

“I got involved with Science Riot because it seemed like a really interesting and unique challenge,” Gunkel said. “Every instructor has had the experience of saying something unexpected in class and making them laugh. And it’s clear that this comedic relief can help create a more engaging classroom experience for our students. This is an opportunity to take control of this process, using humor as a way to connect with your audience and communicate ideas.

According to Gunkel, “The hard part isn’t being funny. The hardest part, for me at least, was brevity and conciseness. Academics learn to write long and complicated explanations containing words like “brevity” and “conciseness”. There’s no room for that in a short stand-up piece that needs to make your point in the first sentence. Getting there took a lot of work and a lot of drafts, but the exercise was incredibly informative and useful.

Wallace, Gunkel and King-Cargile will also be joined by Bethany Cockburn, assistant professor of management at NIU College of Business; Karen Lichtman, Associate Professor of Spanish Linguistics in the Department of World Languages ​​and Cultures; and Oreoluwa Akinbo, graduate assistant in the Department of Psychology; as well as scientists from the Argonne National Laboratory and the Shedd Aquarium. The evening is sure to be a fun introduction to many different fields of study.

Participants enjoyed the opportunity to come together (virtually) to chat informally with each other and learn more about the process of creating comedy.

“It was really cool playing the role of the student and seeing the leader’s approach to making the participants feel more comfortable,” Wallace explains. “I am the group leader so often. It was nice to be a student learning something new – I like the idea that people learn all their lives.

The NIU Science Riot in-person show will take place on Friday, June 11, 2021 from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Field Museum in Chicago. The online show will take place on Friday, June 18, 2021, from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m., broadcast live from the Field Museum. Tickets are available on the Science Riot website. The event won’t be recorded for later viewing, so don’t miss it!

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