In summary

  • Bachelor of Science student Jordan Rai is the winner of Start Talking 2020, an inter-university STEM public speaking competition
  • Start Talking challenges students to present their STEM concepts to a general audience
  • Jordan showcased a presentation on endophytes in a four-minute video created using the Adobe Creative Suite

Swinburne Science student Jordan Rai is the 2020 winner in the cross-university public speaking event, Start Talking.

Following on from 2019, Swinburne’s STEM public speaking competition Start Talking challenges students to professionally communicate and present their concept to a general audience.

In an opportunity to showcase digital literacy, students submit their STEM-focused concept and work with Adobe Digital Coaches to create a four-minute video that will engage the audience and explain the content.

Jordan’s presentation focused on the topic of endophytes and explored their function as secondary metabolites.

“I chose this topic as I was currently researching it in my unit for Grand Challenges in Science. I was really interested in the topic and really wanted to share what I had learnt.”

“Winning the competition was really special. It's an important representation of my ability to communicate with people, and it builds a lot of skills for future presentations,” says Jordan.

Jordan captured his local flora to express the naturally occurring behaviour of endophytes found in every plant’s tissue cells.

Science communication in industry

Majoring in Biotechnology and Chemistry, Start Talking was Jordan’s first major public speaking event.

“As I went through making the video it became a lot easier to use broader terms to act as an umbrella for some of the things I was talking about,” says Jordan.

Jordan shares that public speaking is at its peak when it comes to importance in STEM industry, with employers look for the capability to communicate and present to the general public and target markets.

“When you look at things like marketing, sponsorships, business, it's so important to be able to convey the importance of a research topic to people who can fund you, or your product, to ensure you can progress with what it is you're doing.”

“To able to communicate with the general public on important topics is crucial, a relevant example being COVID-19 and the Australian public as the key communication target. Science communication is essential.”

Start Talking at Swinburne

Completing his third year of study, Jordan got involved in Start Talking after attending an Adobe workshop and receiving some encouraging words from his research project supervisor and the Convenor of the Grand Challenges in Science and Communication for scientists, Lecturer in Microbial Biotechnology and Faculty of Science, Engineering and Technology (FSET) and Academic Director for Student Engagement, Dr Bita Zanferaloo.

Initiated by Dr Zaferanloo and the FSET Student Engagement Team in 2019, Swinburne’s STEM-themed public speaking competition includes experience in the Adobe Creative Cloud and promotes communication via digital literacy by partnership with Careers and Employability, the Digital Literacies program (LTU).

The judging panel for the event was comprised of a group of Swinburne academics and industry professionals including Program Leader for SpaceTech Applications at the Data Science Research Institute, Professor Alan Duffy, Associate Dean of Learning Innovation, Professor Angela Carbone, Associate Professor Clare Dyson, and Manager at Group Technology Insurance Australia, Ms Jean Oi.

“Science communication is more important than ever, and community knowledge is a powerful force. The Start Talking vision is to create real-world impact by applying effective communication skills to STEM development.

Students develop skills for networking, public speaking and pitching their STEM ideas to address a real challenge by participating in the Start Talking competition and in doing so, gain a broader understanding of the importance of communication for science professionals, “says Dr Zaferanloo.

Start Talking 2021

Start Talking is open to all Swinburne students either to participate or support competitors. There will be two workshops available for Start Talking 2021 and submissions for the STEM public speaking competition will reopen in September, with the competition commencing in October.


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