Learning the Art of Communication

Jerusa presenting her abstract next to Professor Waljit Dhillo from Imperial College

On 12th – 14th July PhD student Jerusa Brignardello attended the 8th National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Infrastructure Doctoral Research Training Camp titled the Art of Communication. The specific aim of the event was to equip delegates with the skills and ability to successfully defend and communicate their research effectively with a range of people including fellow scientists, research funders, the media, patients and the public. Jerusa talks about her experiences of the training and why communication is so important.

“I believe that communication skills are essential to disseminate and communicate our research to different audiences, to make it accessible and understandable for everyone, also previous fellows who’d attended strongly encouraged me to participate. I learnt more communication skills, about how to deal with different types of media in different communication scenarios like TV, radio, simulated NIHR interview panels.”

“I’m working with samples from an NIHR project of one my supervisors Dr Isabel Garcia-Perez so was eligible to apply and after submitting my abstract to the Clinical Academic Training Office (CATO) I got a place to represent Imperial. I was selected to give an oral presentation at the event for which I received a Highly Commended MPHrp Presentation Award for my abstract called “The effect of dietary patterns on short chains fatty acids (SCFA) concentrations: A targeted approach.”

Jerusa receiving her diploma next to Dr Tony Soteriou, Head of Research Faculty Infrastructure and Growth, Science, Research and Evidence, Department of Health- NIHR and Dr Lisa Cotterill, Director, NIHR Trainees Coordinating Centre

“In my PhD thesis, I’m studying how the consumption of different dietary patterns as healthy, unhealthy, vegan and omnivores are influencing the production and metabolism of diverse metabolites in the human body. I presented my preliminary data about short chains fatty acids (SCFA), which are the end products of microbial fermentation that play a key role in health and disease. My preliminary results have shown that these compounds can be modulated by diet and their production varied during the day.”

Why is communicating your research so important?

“Science communication is fundamental in all research fields and researchers are more exposed to media than before. This means that it is imperative to be trained properly to communicate effectively and make our work accessible to the public. Scientific experiments provide one small part of a puzzle that may help to explain one scientific problem. However, it is common to see scary headlines or panacea solutions for health problems in the tabloids or on TV. This is a serious issue, research distortion is a threat that can affect our scientific credibility generating a vicious circle of controversies and sneers between researchers and public.”

“In my field, nutrition is a topic commonly misused to engage susceptible people to believe in bogus diets without any scientific evidence behind it. For example, the case of the alkaline diet for the treatment of cancer. Science communication can solve and prevent this type of myths, providing an understanding of science that has to be extended to the society. Later on, science communication can help to bridge the gap between.”


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