Despite an unprecedented first year at UW-Madison, LSC assistant professor Sedona Chinn excelled in her new position and learned a lot along the way.
Chinn joined LSC as an assistant professor in science communication beginning in the fall of 2020, directly after receiving her Ph.D. in Communication and Media from the University of Michigan. Though COVID-19 caused Chinn to spend her first year teaching and conducting research in a virtual format, she did not allow it to slow her down! During the fall of 2020, Chinn worked on her research examining politicization and polarization in climate change and COVID-19 news coverage and designing our new course, LSC 375: Misinformation, Fake News, and Correcting False Beliefs about Science, which she taught during the spring 2021 semester. Additionally, Chinn presented her research during the LSC 700: Science Communication Colloquium during the spring 2021 semester. Through all of this, Chinn has also made an effort to prioritize honing in her work productivity and efficiency skills.
Recently, Chinn shared with us some reflections from her first years with LSC:
LSC: Reflecting on your first year, what accomplishments are you most proud of and why?
SC: I am very proud of the content analytic work I published over the last year. I think my studies of politicization and polarization in climate change and COVID-19 news coverage contribute important insight into how public attitudes on these topics became politically polarized. I am also very excited about a recently accepted paper written with Dan Hiaeshutter-Rice at Michigan State University and LSC’s Kaiping Chen about how social media platforms shape the content posted by actors known to spread misinformation.
I am also very proud of my students’ misinformation reports for LSC 375: Misinformation, Fake News, and Correcting False Beliefs about Science. They investigated topics from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and climate change to COVID-19, explaining why people may hold inaccurate beliefs and designing insightful strategies to correct misperceptions and curtail the spread of misinformation online. They did a great job with these projects.
LSC: What were the courses you taught with LSC? Do you have a favorite (virtual) classroom memory?
SC: This spring, I designed and taught LSC 375: Misinformation, Fake News, and Correcting False Beliefs about Science. The class had four units: defining misinformation, understanding why people believe misinformation, investigating the role of media in spreading misinformation, and effective strategies for correcting misinformation.
Before we start diving into misinformation, there is often a belief that things are black or white, true or false, and that people who refuse to believe accurate information are illogical, uncritical, or crazy. There is a tendency to write them off. My favorite moments of this class were when students shared how they began to understand why people held misperceptions, developing understanding of the social and cognitive processes that led to those beliefs, as well as noticing those patterns in their own thinking. Students shared how the content we covered in class led to more empathetic and productive interactions with friends and family members who hold unsupported views.
LSC: What kind of research are you focusing on with LSC? What research groups are you involved in/collaborating with?
SC: My research explores the myriad reasons why people question scientific knowledge. To date, much of my work has focused on intersections between scientific uncertainties and trust. In addition to looking at how features like agreement and disagreement in science news coverage shape attitudes, I’m increasingly exploring social media. Ongoing work is investigating how patterns of social media uses are associated with science beliefs and trust.
LSC: How did you prepare for your first year? What is your trick to success?
SC: I am a big proponent of working smarter—not harder. There is increasing research underscoring that long working hours leads to less productivity, not more, particularly for cognitive labor. Efficient work looks different for everyone. I set very clear working and non-working hours, and I organize my work so that I only see the immediate next task, rather than getting overwhelmed by the whole project. I also write regular reflections about what I have accomplished and what I am looking forward to, so I don’t feel bogged down. Then I try to get outside as much as I can.
LSC: Now that you have been here a year, what is something you wish you would have known before coming to UW-Madison?
SC: That summer kayak rental memberships sell out in WINTER.
LSC: What is something you are excited about getting more involved with in LSC or at UW?
SC: I’ve been here a year but have only been able to meet a handful of people! I’m really looking forward to Hiram Smith Hall being reopened and getting to chat with people in the hall, as well as brown bag talks, and meeting people across campus.
LSC: Any advice to an incoming faculty member at UW?
SC: Take advantage of the Madison Teaching and Learning Experience (MTLE), which is great for developing courses and making friends across campus.
After such a busy and eventful first year, we cannot wait to see what the future holds for Professor Chinn here in LSC!