BY PAIGE JARREAU
Meet David Fertitta, student researcher and science communicator extraordinaire. David not only graduated this year from LSU’s Coastal Environmental Science undergraduate program with a minor in Math, but he graduated as a CxC Distinguished Communicator. He is as passionate about science communication as he is about the ocean.
“My research interests include understanding how ocean circulation is involved with climate change, so understanding how to communicate research is important.” – David Fertitta
The CxC Science Studio recently chatted with David on Twitter about his experiences communicating science as an undergraduate student at LSU. Read our Q&A with David below to learn more about how he got involved with science communication, and how you can too.
CxC Science: Can you tell us briefly about yourself? What are your science interests and passions? And perhaps more importantly, what do you do for fun?
David: I am recent graduate of the Coastal Environmental Science program at LSU. I am interested in oceanography and will be attending the University of Washington in the fall to pursue a PhD in Oceanography. I am passionate about oceans and learning how climate change affects both the oceans and the world, which led to my studying oceanography. But outside of my career path, I enjoy food, travel, and spending time outside.
“I grew up on the MS Gulf Coast experiencing the sea at a young age but seeing the impact of Katrina really showed its importance.” – David Fertitta
CxC Science: You were a Summer Student Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in 2015. You have said that experience taught you the importance of communicating science. Can you tell us more about that?
David: I first learned the importance of communicating science as part of the CxC Distinguished Communicators program. Good communication seemed to be important in every field. However, it wasn’t until I worked as a Summer Student Fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution that I truly became aware of how important it was to know about science communication.
There I saw the distinction between and the different skill sets needed for communicating within my field and communicating to a larger audience. Good communication within my field is exciting as it can share ideas and leads to scientific collaboration. My communication skills have helped me with presentations at conferences.
However, the skills need to communicate to a broader audience is something that many people seem to lack. Since my research interests involve climate change, it seems even more crucial to know how to communicate to broader audiences because of public misconceptions of the topic.
“To me [science communication] meant communicating research results, but have I learned it is a much broader topic than I could have imagined.” – David Fertitta
CxC Science: What is your favorite aspect of your own scientific research? What about science communication?
David: As for my research, I love learning more about the ocean and how the climate is changing our oceans and the world in which we live. It also doesn’t hurt that I get to go to sea from time to time for research.
With communication, I am able to get a different type of enjoyment though. It’s very rewarding when I can tell someone has learned from what I said or if I have unearthed someone’s interest in a scientific topic.
CxC Science: What would you say are some of the most useful, practical or important lessons about communicating science that you’ve learned as an undergraduate student?
David: When I first started out at LSU, I never would have thought I would have been good enough at communication to graduate as a Distinguished Communicator. But I was able to learn from presentations that did not go well at all, and I continued to improve.
I found it best to seek out as many opportunities as I could to learn and continue to practice and become more confident. As I continued to learn more about communication, it became easier and I gained more confidence and was able to bring more of my personal experiences and insights into my communication to better connect with audiences.
“I try to use analogies that my audience will understand or discuss my personal experiences to show why I have an interest.” – David Fertitta
CxC Science: What advice do you have for other students potentially interested in getting into science communication?
David: Seek out as many opportunities as you can. Not every presentation goes well – none of my freshman ones did).
Looking for opportunities to share your research? Visit us at the CxC Science Studio in Coates 151 to learn more about opportunities to present at research conferences, how to start a science blog or how to talk informally about science with others. Follow us on Twitter, @cxcsci, and on Instagram @LSUcxcScience.