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Cornell University

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Saturday, October 28, 2017
Taking charge!

We encourage BEST participants to actively engage in their career development. BESTie Benjamin Cohen, Biomedical Engineering, contacted the BEST Program looking for support to attend "Presenting Data and Information" on October 23, 2017. We want to share why and what he got out of the experience:

Why

"As a member of the Cornell BEST program, I have spent a significant amount of time developing my skills as a science communicator, with a focus on improving the connection between scientists and the public for the benefit of education, policy, and outreach. I have attended the BEST trip to Albany to speak with state level policymakers, and one of the events I witnessed was a presentation from Cornell researchers on threats to the state bee population and what can be done to save them. During this presentation, I noticed that the researchers used lots of pictures, timelines, and simple flow charts, as opposed to the graphs and plots typical of academic presentations. They chose to simplify their imagery to better suit the audience of politicians and agriculturalists, and while I understood and appreciated that, I feel that we need to convey hard scientific data in a method that can be digested by those without a scientific background. For my immediate career future, I am interested in working on startup-level biotech research, mostly within tissue engineering, and I will need to be able to take complex data and statistics and condense them into easily read and understood reports and presentations."

Takeaways

"The Presenting Data and Information course from Edward Tufte covered a variety of aspects of data visualization and information design. Much of the course concerned how to improve information presentation, with the focus being on the content and audience as opposed to the presenter. A major takeaway from the course was a strong dislike by Professor Tufte of Powerpoint and other “front-of-the-room” presentations. While Powerpoint allows for a clear, straightforward method of presentation, it is detrimental to the volume of information that can be conveyed, as you are limited by the short time frame and limited content each slide can contain. In contrast, Professor Tufte emphasizes that a presenter should provide the audience with some form of information that they can read and understand at their own pace, such as a handout that can be studied at the beginning of the presentation. This allows for meetings (or classes, lectures, etc) to be active experiences between the audience and presenter, as the audience can now engage in informed discussion with each other. I hope to bring this experience with me as I move into my future career, where I can use a pre-meeting note reading period to increase my efficiency and ability to disseminate information.

I would recommend this event for anyone who foresees themselves having to present information to an audience, whether it be in a classroom, industry meeting, or communicating to a broader audience."