discoveries in the making fullWhat if you could share cutting-edge research from tomorrow’s leading scientists with the people who pay for it, participate in it and who will one day benefit from its potential life-saving results?

That is what Discoveries in the Making is all about – putting UAB graduate students and postdoctoral researchers in front of the community to share the exciting things they have found through their research.

Hosted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham Graduate School, Discoveries in the Making seeks to make these amazing new discoveries more available and digestable for the public through a monthly happy hour at The Lumbar. Discoveries speakers present on a variety of topics, including eating disorders, asthma, diabetes, sea turtles, anxiety and PTSD, breast cancer, epilepsy, and more.

Through the efforts of our talented trainees, the Discoveries series enables UAB to share with the Birmingham community our newest knowledge and discoveries in the making.

  • If you are a UAB graduate student or postdoc, you can help make Discoveries a success by volunteering in one or more of the following ways:

    • Apply to become a "Discoveries in the Making Scholar" and present at the Discoveries Happy Hour at The Lumbar.
    • Polish your science communication skills by volunteering to write about a Discoveries presentation for a non-specialized audience. These stories will post on the Discoveries in the Making blog, as well as on social media channels.

    Please direct questions to Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

    • Fill out the Discoveries Scholar Form. Make sure you talk to your mentor about participating in Discoveries in the Making before submitting your form.
    • Please use the Discoveries in the Making Powerpoint Template. You'll see two already completed introductory slides before the blank title and content slides. Leave Slides 1 and 2 in place at the beginning of the presentation for the purpose of your introduction by Dean McMahon.
    • After you've created your presentation (and practiced at home!), contact Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule a one-on-one prep session.
    • After you've completed your prep session, we will schedule your presentation.

Schedule

January 8, 2019

Katelyn Dunigan headshot.

“Breathing life into preterm babies”
Presented by Katelyn Dunigan

Premature infants need all the help they can get. Katelyn's research focuses on enhancing their natural defenses to help them breathe and grow a little easier.

Raoud Marayati headshot.

“Knocking out the villain: Cancer invasion and metastasis”
Presented by Raoud Marayati

Metastasis is the spread of cancer cells beyond the original tumor and is the predominant cause of death in children with malignant liver cancer. Raoud's research focuses on studying the mechanism that drives cancer cells to invade and metastasize.

February 12, 2019

Fabio Raman headshot.

“Imagining Alzheimer's disease in a nutshell”
Presented by Fabio Raman

Fabio's research evaluates how well a novel brain imaging tool can provide new information on the status of Alzheimer’s disease.

Vishal Sharma headshot.

“... pain, that doesn't let up ...”
Presented by Vishal Sharma

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is a systemic autoimmune disease that affects 1.3 million Americans, with no gold standard of treatment. In order for us to manufacture effective therapies, there is a lot that we can learn about how the body's immune system turns its self on and off during the lifetime of RA.

March 12, 2019

Sithira Ratnayaka headshot.

“Targeted therapy”
Presented by Sithira Ratnayaka

Common cancer treatments are detrimental to those with weakened immune systems, as they are generally administered to the entire body. By packaging these treatments in a safe way, we can have targeted drug delivery which will allow for drug treatment only to cancerous areas, saving the rest of the body from harm.

Daniel Kuhman headshot.

“Walk this way”
Presented by Daniel Kuhman

You may have heard that you have a “spring in your step,” but you also have struts, motors and dampers. In this presentation, Daniel will discuss the incredible mechanical versatility in the human locomotor system by showing you that we have biological units (for example, muscle groups) that can act as springs, struts, motors and/or dampers.

April 9, 2019

Rhiannon Reed headshot.

“Navigation to donation”
Presented by Rhiannon Reed

Rhiannon's research explores the effectiveness and impact of the Living Donor Navigator program, implemented at UAB to increase living kidney donation.

Alexander Hoffman headshot.

“To intervene or not to intervene”
Presented by Alexander Hoffman

Alexander's research looks at bystander effect and college athletes, specifically whether or not there is a need for an athlete specific bystander intervention program.

May 14, 2019

Becky Hauser headshot.

“Controlling your DNA to treat epilepsy”
Presented by Becky Hauser

The goal of Becky's research is to understand how the epileptic brain uses the information stored in your DNA differently than healthy brains, and how we can use this information to develop new treatments for epilepsy.

Anthoni Goodman headshot.

“Hindbrain hinderance”
Presented by Anthoni Goodman

One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease builds up in the brain stem before anywhere else, in a nucleus of the brain that is responsible for the brain’s excitement center. When damaged, it is unable to fine-tune the development of new memories and may be responsible for the earliest issues with memory. Until we understand how this occurs, there is little we can do to slow or stop that damage.

*All Discoveries Happy Hour sessions start at 6 p.m. at The Lumbar.

Discoveries in the Making Scholars

We can't wait to hear about your research! Follow the instructions below to get ready for your Discoveries in the Making talk.

Preparation

Audience: Unlike when you present to other scholars at a research conference, for Discoveries, you will be talking to members of the general public who are not experts in your academic field. So, be sure that you:

  • Engage them with a “hook” (anecdote, statistic, quote, etc.) that gets their attention in the beginning. Don’t open with a joke, as humor is iffy, and avoid salty language. Personal stories are generally a great way to draw in your audience.
  • Define and/or explain any technical terms. It is also wise to limit technical terms to a few main concepts essential to their understanding of your science. Don’t use jargon.
  • Respect their sensitivities and omit details of experimental processes that they might find objectionable. Explain methods concisely and conceptually, unless they are innovative and interesting. Don’t go into details people can’t understand or appreciate.

Purpose: Unlike when you present findings at a research conference, you are not trying to position your research for publication or funding. For Discoveries, you want to tell the story of your research in a way that communicates its value (and UAB’s) to the public. Focus on one to three important “take-home messages” and package them in a way that is “instructive, interesting and maybe even fun,” as actor and scientific communicator Alan Alda would advise.

Structure & Length: Time your talk to be 10 to 12 minutes. That leaves time for questions from the audience (who may ask questions at any time in the talk). To organize your thoughts, you might try a simple 4-part structure. First, focus on a Situation (current negative or unexplained effects on people, populations, places, systems, etc.). Then explain the underlying Problem that may cause, be linked to, or predict the current Situation. Third, suggest a potential Solution that you have identified in your research question/hypothesis and method. End on an Evaluation of your research that shows implications, i.e. how your findings can improve the situation and lives. You may find it helpful to sketch out or storyboard your talk before you start actually creating slides. The Open Storyboard Worksheet with Prompts illustrates the Situation-Problem-Solution structure that works well for public talks like Discoveries.

Style: Use more pictures, video, and concept images than science charts and graphs, which are not always accessible to the general public. Do not use photos or video of animals in distress, which could offend or disturb your audience. Rule of thumb: Use one main image/idea per slide. Depending on the venue, slides may sometimes be displayed on a TV screen rather than projection screen, which means your slides should be readable even when scaled down on as small as a 32-inch screen. Make text a consistent and readable font and size throughout the slide show (minimum of 24 point for readability). Don’t use bells, whistles, sound effects, irrelevant clip art, etc. Include acknowledgements and sources where applicable.

Examples: Watch a few TED Talks to see how leading scientists communicate with the general public. Think about structure, content and delivery as you watch this Ted Talk given by UAB's own Dr. Sarah Parcak. Find more great science talks:

Presentation

Please use the Discoveries in the Making Powerpoint Template for your presentation. Leave Slides 1 and 2 in the template in place at the beginning of the presentation for the purpose of your introduction by Dean McMahon.

Think like your audience, and remember to focus on visuals instead of text as much as possible. If you get stuck or have questions along the way, feel free to contact Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Practice both with your slides and without. You never know what technical problems could arise, and you should be able to give your presentation regardless. Practice your talk in front of the mirror, in front of friendly fans, and on video. Get feedback. Revise and practice some more.

Prep Session

When you have your presentation ready (and have already submitted your Scholar Form), email Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to schedule your one-on-one prep session. One or more members of the Discoveries team will give you feedback on your presentation and offer revision tips as needed.

Delivery

  • Arrive at least 15 minutes early, test the equipment, run through your presentation.
  • Bring your slides on a thumb drive (the Graduate School or venue will provide a computer for you on which to open your presentation as well as a wireless slide advancer). Email a copy of your presentation to yourself in case of technical difficulties, etc.
  • Conduct an audience check by looking for familiar faces, presence of children, etc.
  • Pace yourself. Speak up and speak clearly. No rushing, but stick to your time limit.
  • Avoid jargon and slang.
  • Make eye contact and smile. Keep your tone conversational.
  • Relax and have fun!

Here are some tips for answering questions during and after your talk:

  • Anticipate questions and prepare possible answers.
  • Pause before taking questions at the end of your talk. (Remember that audience members may ask questions during your talk, too.)
  • Direct your responses to the entire audience.
  • If no one asks a question, prompt them with, “Has anyone had experience with…?”
  • Keep answers brief—no unnecessary details. Offer to continue dialogue after the talk.
  • If someone disagrees, don’t appear to be defensive.
  • If you don’t understand the question, ask for clarification.
  • It’s OK to say I don’t know the answer to that question.

Discoveries in the Making Writers

If you are interested in becoming a Discoveries in the Making writer, email a few writing samples to Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. All students will need to complete a one-on-one writing session before they are assigned to cover a Discoveries session.

Assignment

Your goal as a Discoveries in the Making writer is to describe each speaker’s research for a lay audience in a way that is interesting and engaging to the reader. Check out these resources and models to get started:

Photos

Take at least one quality photo of your assigned speaker. (Cell phone photos are fine.) The photo(s) can be taken before, during, or after the event. You may choose to take a posed photo of the speaker and/or snapshots while the speaker is presenting their research or talking to the public before or afterward. Make the file name(s) include the name of the speaker.

Video

You may also shoot video (again, cell phone video is fine; just make sure you turn your phone on its side to shoot in landscape mode), but video is not required. Videos should be no longer than 4 minutes.

Post Length & Format

Your post should be 700 to 800 words, submitted as a Word document or Google Doc with no special formatting. (Your post will be copied and pasted as plain text, which means it will lose any special formatting.) Do not use tabs at the beginning of new paragraphs; instead, put a return between each paragraph. If your post contains links, do not embed hyperlinks within the text. Instead, put the full URL in parentheses beside the word(s) that should be hyperlinked.

Submission

You must email your post to the speaker about whom you wrote (copying Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) within four days of the event. Email your final draft to Kim within 7 days of the event. When you are ready to submit, email the Word doc and the JPG photo(s) to Kim Eaton at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Kim will publish your post and photos with your byline and photo credit(s) on the Discoveries blog, as well as on the Graduate School’s social media platforms.

Sample email:

Hi [Name],
I have attached my blog post about your Discoveries in the Making talk on [date]. Could you check the article for factual accuracy before we publish it? Because the story must be a certain length, please do not rewrite text or add to the current word count if you have corrections. Feel free to send any necessary corrections using Word’s track-changes feature. Please reply-all (making sure that Kim Eaton – This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. – is in the CC line) within three days to let me know if there are any factual corrections needed.

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