Alumni profile: Jill Peters leverages her LSC education to land her dream job

Jill Peters, BS ’14, has always been drawn to nature. Peters grew up in a national park in northern Wisconsin, Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where she dreamed of working in the field.  So, when she came to UW-Madison she decided to major in Biology and she got to work studying with the hope of one day doing conservation work in the great outdoors.

However, it wasn’t long until she realized Biology wasn’t quite the right fit. “Biology just felt a bit too broad for what I wanted to do,” notes Peters. Luckily, one of her friends recommended the Department of Life Sciences Communication, and according to Jill it was the perfect fit.  “I always knew I wanted to work in conservation in some capacity, but I also wanted to have a creative outlet. I always wanted to do communications because I love writing and photography – they just come naturally to me.”  So, in her third year at UW, Jill decided to major in LSC and get her certificate in Environmental Studies.

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LSC 515 students campaign to “Clean the Stream” at Union South

Story by Sarah Krier. Sarah is an undergraduate student majoring in LSC and the Department of Life Sciences Communication 2016-17 Lenore Landry Scholar

As the fall semester came to a close, students in LSC 515: Public Information Campaigns and Programs presented their semester’s work in front of a room full of professors, Union South employees, and peers. Four separate teams competed to determine whose campaign to clean the waste stream at Union South was most thorough, well communicated, and cohesive.

LSC 515 is a capstone course focusing on understanding the principles of social marketing and utilizing these principles to plan a strategic communications campaign to promote issues of public interest like environmental conservation and health conscious behavior.

“The curriculum provides the opportunity to bring together communication methods and theory, all that students have learned during their time with LSC, and develop a real-world social marketing campaign,” said Associate Professor Bret Shaw who taught the course last semester.

Students conducted a trash audit of the waste stream at Union South as a part of their project. Pictured here are (left to right) Shelby Kuenzli, Nikki Rasmussen, Sam Marquardt, Madeline Fischer, Bret Shaw, Maria Castillo.

Students conducted a trash audit of the waste stream at Union South as a part of their project. Pictured here are (left to right) Shelby Kuenzli, Nikki Rasmussen, Sam Marquardt, Madeline Fischer, Bret Shaw, and Maria Castillo.

Students were tasked with finding creative marketing communication strategies to enhance Union South’s recycling initiatives. “Clean the Stream” was the students’ slogan, stemming from the idea that waste becomes contaminated because of the lack of proper sorting measures—recycling trash items or vice versa. After conducting both observational reports and interviews with students at the Union, it was observed that an overwhelmingly high number of students reported that they generally felt confused about what items were recyclable, compostable, and what should ultimately go in the trash. Items that are most problematic include plastic straws, silverware, and coffee sleeves.
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From public outreach to peer review, UW–Madison scientists find value in social media

By Kelly April Tyrrell, UW-Madison University Communications

Social media has erased many of the boundaries between leaders and the people they represent, between experts and the lay public, between scientists and nonscientists. It has enabled people to communicate directly and interact in unprecedented ways.

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, a survey of 372 scientists engaged in biological or physical science research shows that scientists are increasingly using social media to communicate with nonscientific audiences.

Nearly 75 percent of the scientists surveyed at UW–Madison between April and June 2016 believe that nonscientists add valuable perspective to discussions about scientific research, which came as a surprise to Dominique Brossard, professor and a leader of the group that administered the survey, the Science, Media and the Public research group (SCIMEP) in the UW–Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication. A report from the survey is published on the SCIMEP website.

“Scientists think lay audiences have something important to say,” says Brossard. “It really reflects the reality of complex science today, where often there are ethical dimensions to consider.”

Dominique Brossard

Dominique Brossard

At the same time, the SCIMEP team found scientists at UW–Madison are also using social media more often to communicate with their peers.

“The norms are changing,” says Brossard. “UW–Madison is representing this quite well.”

Indeed, a non-UW–Madison study published in October in the journal PLOS One shows that scientists from a variety of disciplines around the world report that while they have not widely adopted social media, they believe there are numerous advantages to using it in their work.
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LSC research methods course teaches students fundamental skills for success

You might not expect a single course to help prepare students for careers in advertising, journalism, market research, digital marketing, and public relations among others. But LSC 250: Research Methods in the Communication Industry does just that. The course teaches students the skills needed to synthesize and analyze data – an important skill in a broad range of fields.

LSC 250 focuses on developing research method skills including understanding research reports and data, identifying markets, segmenting audiences, measuring attitudes and developing effective campaign strategies and messages.

According to LSC chair Dominique Brossard, “The skills students learn in LSC 250 are fundamental for future academic research, but it is important to remember students will use those same skills when they graduate and move on to work in the industry.  Identifying and articulating trends in data is critical.”

Assistant Professor Neil Stenhouse teaches students data visualization skills

LSC’s Neil Stenhouse teaches students how to effectively communicate quantitative findings.

Through the course, students learn to design and conduct surveys, experiments and other forms of inquiry, interpret data, and write reports clearly demonstrating data significance.  Additionally, students work in groups to create an experimental or observational study with their peers.

“This course is really helping me. I am planning on getting a certificate in business so this course is giving me a lot of the background knowledge needed for a career in a variety of business fields,” notes LSC major Elizabeth Woidat. “The concepts in this course can apply to a lot of different majors.  It is also good to have this background knowledge when participating in research on campus.”
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SciMep research group teaches real-world research skills

Each Friday during the semester a group gathers in Hiram Smith Hall to discuss ongoing research projects, many lead by graduate students, surrounding public opinion on controversial science issues. The group is the Science, Media & the Public (SciMep) research group which explores issues relating to the social, legal, and ethical implications of scientific issues and emerging technologies.

The group is housed in Life Sciences Communication and the principle investigators include LSC chair Dominique Brossard, LSC professors Dietram Scheufele, and Neil Stenhouse, and chair of the Department of Communication Arts and LSC faculty affiliate Michael Xenos.  In addition, graduate students from different departments, including LSC, the Department of Communication Arts and the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, participate.

LSC master’s student Chris Wirz presents research findings to the group.

The group’s focus is unique.  According to LSC chair Dominque Brossard, “SciMep is one of the only research groups looking into these types of issues.  We are in an era of rapid technological change and media convergence, so it is important to look at the intersection of science, media and public opinion.  Many of scientific issues we talk about are complex and they don’t happen in a vacuum.  The public is an integral part of the conversation, whether they know it or not.”
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LSC undergrads apply their communication skills at summer internships near and far

Many LSC undergraduate students engage in a wide variety of internships each summer and this year was no exception. Students throughout the department honed their science communication skills in professional settings, interning across the country – from Wisconsin to California and in between. In this story we highlight a small selection of students who demonstrated their knowledge and excellence in diverse fields.

Jordan Gaal in Washington DC with AHEC staff

Jordan Gaal in Washington DC with AHEC staff

One of the fields a degree in LSC prepares students for is health communications. For instance, junior Jordan Gaal was a Statewide Communications Assistant with Wisconsin Area Health Education Centers this summer. Through his internship, Jordan traveled to Washington DC to speak about the importance of health education with our national legislators.

“Classes such as Communication Industry Research Methods with Neil Stenhouse taught me how to effectively communicate science research through reports and presentations. Science, Media and Society taught by Dietram Scheufele helped me understand the strong role media plays in science communication, which led me to recognize the connection between media and healthcare in Wisconsin,” noted Jordan.  Check out Jordan’s full internship story in this feature by Scenic Rivers AHEC. Continue reading

LSC Contributes to Comprehensive Genetically Engineered Crops Study

LSC chair and professor Dominique Brossard served as a committee member of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s latest study on the impacts of genetically engineered crops.  The 20 expert committee investigated the potential economic, agronomic, health, safety, and other impacts of genetically engineered crops and food. The committee’s report, ‘Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects’ was released in mid-May of 2016, and provides an independent, objective examination of a range of issues related to GE crops based on scientific evidence.

Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and ProspectsThe committee members, which also included Biochemistry professor Richard Amasino, made sure to listen to and incorporate a large range of voices and points of view within the report. They examined over 1,000 research and other publications related to the topic; held information-gathering meetings via three in-person meetings and 15 webinars (for a total of 80 presentations); and read more than 700 comments submitted by members of the public.

Brossard points out that the committee took an innovative approach to help increase the openness and transparency of their work, including having a committee website that shared information about the study and the efforts along the way, and making the results easily accessible and widely shared.

The report is available for free download via the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine GE Crops website. According to William Kearney with the Academies’ Office of News & Public Information, the report was the fastest Academies report to reach 10,000 downloads. It has been downloaded more than 16,000 times in 110 countries and covered in more than 200 media outlets to date.

Some of that coverage highlighted Brossards’ contribution, including a MIT Technology Review article and a Washington Post story featuring LSC’s Brossard, among many others.

Brossard and Amasino traveled to Washington D.C. to participate in the congressional and public briefings associated with the release of the report. Brossard is continuing to speak with the media on the report and has talks scheduled into the fall to discuss the results.

For more information or to keep up to date with the discussion, be sure to check out the Twitter conversation at #GECropStudy.

LSC capstone creates campaigns to promote recycling in dorms

Here at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, many hopeful graduates must fulfill a capstone requirement. From engineering to education, capstone courses are a culmination and application of everything students have learned during their college careers. For Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC) undergraduates, one of their capstones offers the chance to develop a marketing communication campaign for a real-world nonprofit client working in a science, health, or environmental area.

Sustainability_4c_L

The client for this year’s LSC 515 class was Residents for Environmental Sustainability (RES), a new organization started through the Office of Sustainability aimed at increasing student awareness and involvement in sustainability.

LSC 515: Public Information Campaigns and Programs focuses on marketing strategies: how to research a problem and target audience, decide which communication methods to use, and evaluate the effectiveness of an implemented strategy. Not only does the course allow students to apply the strategic communication knowledge they’ve gained over their academic careers, but it also comes with the chance to see their final product actually put to use by a client. This semester, LSC’s newest faculty member, assistant professor Neil Stenhouse, is teaching the course. Continue reading

LSC at the top of national rankings for research

The Department of Life Sciences Communication sits at the top of the most recent rankings released by Academic Analytics comparing national communication and media studies programs. LSC ranks among the top 10 departments for articles per faculty member, citations per faculty member, and number of awards per faculty member, as well as in the top 20 for percentage of faculty with a book publication — all despite being one of the smaller departments nationally.

research“Although we are not a big department, these data continue to show we are one of the elite national research programs, complementing our teaching and outreach functions,” said LSC chair Dominique Brossard. “It is great to see rankings like this and know our hard work and expertise are paying off.” Continue reading

Two faculty serve on new NAS committees on science communication and literacy

The Department of Life Sciences Communication is continuing its strong involvement in the National Academy of Sciences as chair Dominique Brossard and professor Dietram Scheufele have each been asked by the National Research Council to serve on new committees. Brossard is on a committee exploring “Science Literacy and Public Perception of Science,” while Scheufele is vice-chairing “The Science of Science Communication: A Research Agenda” with former AAAS CEO Alan Leshner.

Dominique Brossard-2146

Dominique Brossard, LSC Chair

“Science Literacy and Public Perception of Science” will analyze data about science and health literacy and also how, or if, they are linked to public support of scientific issues. It will formulate a final report on the state of science literacy research and also identify research holes where more work needs to be done. Continue reading