Swinburne student shines in science communication

Monday 21 October 2019 by Kaitlyn Blanchard, Communications and Media

Science student and Pridmore Women in STEM Vacation Research Scholarship recipient Meaghan Smith.

Science student Meaghan's winning presentation focused on her research into fast asbestos detection using artificial intelligence (AI).

In summary

  • Science student Meaghan Smith won Let’s Torque 2019, a public speaking competition for university students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM)
  • Meaghan developed a passion for science communication while working with Swinburne researcher Dr Rosalie Hocking, as part of the Pridmore Women in STEM Vacation Research Scholarship
  • Meaghan wants other students to get involved in science communication by participating in Swinburne’s STEM public speaking competition, Start Talking

Swinburne Science student Meaghan Smith is this year’s winner of the inter-university public speaking competition, Let’s Torque.

Let’s Torque challenges Victorian undergraduate students in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) to present their ideas to a generalist audience.

Meaghan’s passion for science communication was ignited after she successfully applied for the Pridmore Women in STEM Vacation Research Scholarship, supervised by Swinburne Vice-Chancellor’s Women in STEM Research Fellow and chemist, Dr Rosalie Hocking.

Meaghan used the Let’s Torque competition to discuss the research project she worked on with Dr Hocking, which focused on the instantaneous identification of asbestos using artificial intelligence (AI).

“Let’s Torque was an amazing experience,” says Meaghan.

“The win aside, I got to meet some very interesting people, and share my own research with an audience for the first time, which is something most scientists don’t get to do until undertaking a PhD.”

“I have always enjoyed my studies and public speaking, but it wasn’t until I was involved in a research project that I had something I really wanted to talk about, the knowledge to do it justice, and the confidence and passion to get anyone I talk to just as excited about it. “

“It was fortunate the research project perfectly aligned with the competition’s prompt – ‘innovative science with impact’.”

Meaghan and the other competing Swinburne students were supported throughout the competition by Swinburne Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology (FSET) Deputy Academic Director (Student Engagement) and Let’s Torque Advisory Board Member, Dr Bita Zaferanloo.

“I would not have got involved in Let’s Torque without Dr Zaferanloo’s encouragement,” says Meaghan.

Start Talking at Swinburne

Now Meaghan wants other Swinburne students to get involved in science communication.

“Meaningful science communication is not just the ability to explain complex research to a generalist audience,” she says. “It’s also about making your audience care about what you are telling them, and understand why they should care.”

Meaghan will host Swinburne’s inaugural STEM public speaking competition, Start Talking, in which students are invited to deliver a four-minute presentation on ‘STEM with impact’.

Start Talking was initiated by Dr Zaferanloo with the support of FSET Associate Dean (Learning Innovation), Professor Angela Carbone, to further grow emerging science communicators at Swinburne.

“Start Talking encourages FSET students who want to create real-world impact to share their STEM ideas with the wider Swinburne community, and will help improve their confidence and employability skills,” says Dr Zaferanloo.

The competition will enable the students to apply their learning from Communication for Scientists, a unit taught by Dr Zaferanloo, designed to enhance students’ ability to effectively communicate scientific information to a wide range of audiences.

The judging panel for the best presenter includes Swinburne experts in STEM Professor Angela Carbone, Associate Professor Alan Duffy, Dr Bita Zaferanloo, Dr Francoise Malherbe and Dr Caslon Chua.

The best presenter will receive $400 and sponsorship for next year’s Let’s Torque competition.