Centering context to inform, explain, answer questions, provoke new insight, and further the discipline
Click to view each artifact (it will open in a new window). Hover over an image to read about my process, learning, and growth.
Of the 30-some Seniors in my department, only 6 of us chose to complete an honors thesis. I had recently taken a course on environmental change and infectious disease, which highlighted the interconnected social-ecological nature of disease systems. I was curious to explore how these interactions mapped onto a zoonotic (animal) disease, which became focus of my independent research thesis.
This was my first experience independently designing and conducting a research project, so the entire process was a tremendous learning experience. I used context to situate my observations and resist making sweeping claims, and to distill information to build a cohesive narrative. Since my audience was academic but non specialist, I chose my words carefully to convey information in a scientific yet accessible manner.
Being able to pick up on trends and connections, and convey them through writing is one of the most useful skills I’ve developed, especially so within a formal scientific context. Looking back, my largest regret is not incorporating more of the human context. This reinforced my commitment that my future work be grounded in tangible applications.
Science of Soils is one of several courses at Stanford that include a community-engaged learning component. My teammates and I put to use our knowledge and skills at soil chemistry by supporting a local home for alter-abled adults in selecting crops for their therapy garden. I created this poster for our final presentation to the class (another teammate designed a separate, more accessible document specifically for our community partners).
Because soil chemistry is dense and difficult to digest, even for students in the class, I learned to use imagery to organize and enhance the significance of the text. By considering the context of each element of the poster, and arranging the components in an intuitive way, I learned to better communicate our work.
This was one of my first attempts at designing a scientific, albeit less professional, poster. My design skills have improved quite a bit since then (I still shudder at the amount of text I used to use) but the principles of context-based organization and graphical presentation remain central. If you’re ever on campus, you can find this poster in the halls of the Environment and Energy building.
During my study abroad in Australia, I traveled from biome to biome engaging in a variety of place-based coursework and field research. Each student conducted a targeted research project, which we formally presented to each other at the end of the term. As you can see here, mine was a lab experiment predicting the impacts of increased temperature and light on sea hare grazing
This was my first experience with the entire scientific process: designing a question, conducting an experiment, analyzing the results, publishing in a peer-reviewed journal, and finally presenting it. When constructing this presentation, I presented my research according to the context of my audience, and considered their knowledge and interests when describing my work, drawing connections, and curating my content.
Since I intend to conduct marine research throughout my career, this was excellent practice at presenting my research to a technical audience in a formal setting. I have since drawn off these context-based slide skills when presenting my research in class, professional settings, and even an international conference.