Hi! My name is Robin McLachlan, and I am a PhD student in Oceanography at the University of Washington.
Growing up in the Carolina Coastal Plain, I learned to play in the mud, smell the salty air, and appreciate my local landscape. As an undergraduate student majoring in geology, I learned to look at the landscape and sedimentary record as if they were picture books - historical archives of the geologic past that I could read to inform my community's future. Now, as a graduate student, I have received state-of-the-art education from experts in the field of coastal geology. I research the intricate relationships between coastal landscapes, natural process, and human interference.
But, like most other students, I didn't receive formal training in any cross-cutting skills, like communication, from my science department. "What do you do?" became a dreaded question. How could I even begin to wrap the intricacies and wonder of my science into casual conversation. How could I convey the importance of it to my political leaders? How could I communicate my new ideas with my colleagues, or even my boss?
Luckily for me, graduate students are a motivated bunch. Other graduate students at my university already had the same concerns, taught themselves how to be good communicators, and then began a program to teach others. I went through the program, called Engage, and then rose in the ranks to eventually sit on the Board of Directors and serve as program manager. Learning how to articulate my passion for science further fueled that passion. So many types of doors opened for me through my new ability to explain, frame, and network.
Now, I want to share these skills with undergraduate students. They are the ones who are just about to start their careers. Being able to promote their science, their own skills, and their own ideas will surely help pave their way.