FIU doctoral graduate Soumyadeep “Deep” Mukherjee is the Written Category winner for the 2018 Flame Challenge. Deep, who received his Ph.D. in Public Health, graduated from FIU in 2016 and is now as Postdoctoral Researcher in the Program in Public Health at Stony Brook University (SBU).
The Flame Challenge, sponsored by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, aims to improve how scientists communicate with the public by challenging them to communicate complex concepts in ways that an 11-year-old would be able to understand. The question for the 2018 competition was “What is Climate?” The contest offered a $1,000 cash prize for winning entries in three categories (Written, Video, and Graphic) and a trip to New York City to meet Alan Alda and be recognized during the World Science Festival.
Deep says it is important for the public to understand scientists and for scientists to understand each other. The need for effective communication in the sciences became clear to him while attending seminars and conferences. There were multiple experiences when he had a difficult time understanding an expert’s research presentation. He also recalls the need to improve his own communication skills.
“I was often at a loss of words myself when someone would ask me about my research or my own interests,” he said.
Deep credits his experiences at FIU as being contributing factors to his success in the Flame Challenge. Presenting at FIU’s Graduate Student Appreciation Week and at local and national conferences forced him to improve how he communicated his work to others. Also valuable was his involvement in the second cohort of the Academy of Graduates for Integrative Learning Experiences (AGILE) program.
“Dr. Lakshmi N. Reddi, Dr. Sonja Montas-Hunter, and Dr. Magnolia Hernandez regularly emphasized the necessity to improve our communication and leadership skills,” Deep said. “One workshop in the AGILE program that I can vividly recall focused on giving our talk in 3-5 minutes without using any jargon or power-point slides!”
As an AGILE participant, Deep learned the importance of communicating research in blogs, community meetings, and other outlets that the public are more likely to access. “Most of the scientific research is funded by the public directly or indirectly,” Deep said. “So, they have a stake in knowing what we are doing!”
At SBU, Deep is working on a project that examines the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and changes in mental health among responders to the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. His long-term goal is to have a career devoted to teaching, science communication, and research.
“I hope to be a able to interface with the community, the media, and policy-makers to promote health equity,” he said.