Ariana Eily
Ariana Eily



A monthly event in which we explore interesting, novel aspects of science communication in an informal setting.

What is SciComm Lunch-and-Learn?

SciComm Lunch-and-Learn is a monthly event in which we explore interesting, novel aspects of science communication in an informal setting.  These are not lectures, but rather discussions with invited presenters (from both within and beyond Duke) who are doing interesting work, asking important research questions or pushing boundaries in some realm of science communication.  Presenters are encouraged to spend no more than 15-30 minutes on any sort of formal presentation, leaving the remainder of the hour for audience interaction and Q&A, so please come prepared to ask questions and share your own thoughts and perspectives.

Who does it serve?

SciComm Lunch-and-Learn is open to anyone in the Duke community (student, faculty, staff) who is interested in hearing about, and discussing, interesting aspects of science communication and its relevance to the role of science in society.

Where and when is it held?

These events will be held once per month during the academic year (September through May) from noon to 1:00 PM.  The date varies, depending on availability of our desired presenters.  Please see below for a list of upcoming and past events.  All events will be held on West Campus in North Building, Room 232 (unless otherwise indicated).

Do I Need to Register/RSVP?

All events are free to attend.  We will provide lunch for all attendees, but we ask you to register in advance so we can have an accurate headcount.


Upcoming Events in 2019

SciComm Lunch & Learn – with Dr. Andrew Aghapour

Thursday, October 10, noon – 1 p.m.

If you’re a fan of Radiolab or have ever become engrossed in a TED talk, then you have experienced how storytelling can be a powerful tool for science communication. Storytelling is a genre that draws on anecdotes and personal experience in order to convey a big idea. Storytelling has become a popular way for scientists and scholars to translate their work for a general audience. This installment of the SciComm Lunch-and-Learn series will offer some tricks of the trade. Join us to explore how storytelling can make you a better communicator and educator.

Dr. Andrew Ali Aghapour is a comedian and a scholar of religion. He teaches improv, stand up, and storytelling, and has performed alongside comedians including Maria Bamford, Kevin McDonald, and Emo Philips. His one-person show Zara, about religion and immigration, premiered earlier this year in Durham. Andrew’s scholarship focuses on the intersection of religion and science. He is the managing editor of Harvard’s Cosmologics magazine and a consulting scholar with the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.



Why 50% of parents who have children with autism believe a vaccine is at least partly to blame: The shocking and untold story

Monday, November 11, noon – 1 p.m.

As with many “controversial” areas of science, the vaccine/autism story is fundamentally a story of the challenges of effective science communication. But there is a fascinating and surprising chapter in this story that you might not know. Come to the November SciComm Lunch-and-Learn to hear more about this from Duke immunologist William Parker.

Dr. Parker has studied biochemistry, microbiology and immunology at Duke University since 1993. Best known for the discovery of the function of the human vermiform appendix (a safe-house for bacteria), William has spent the last 15 years looking at fundamental causes of inflammation in Western societies. His work on “biota alteration”, a concept which evolved from the “hygiene hypothesis”, has been aimed at evaluating the role of the gut ecosystem in mental health. William’s work covers a variety of mental health issues, and his conclusions regarding causes of autism spectrum disorders have received considerable attention. He has published more than 120 peer reviewed papers, including a paper in 2017 looking at the role of vaccines in the development of autism.



Past Events

Skype a Scientist: Connecting Scientists and Students via Technology

Thursday, September 12, noon – 1 p.m.

We know that one of the best ways to excite kids about science is to bring actual scientists into the classroom to discuss their work. But how can you do this when the scientist is in a different state, or even on the other side of the world?

Sarah McAnulty addressed this challenge by creating the “Skype-a-Scientist” program while she was a graduate student at the University of Connecticut, studying squid biology in Spencer Nyholm’s lab. Skype-a-Scientist brings scientists from around the globe into classrooms to engage with students and teachers, share stories, answer questions and inspire the scientists of the future.

Come to the September SciComm Lunch-and-Learn to hear Sarah discuss her inspiration for the program, talk about the rewards and challenges of running it, and answer your questions.


Communicating Science in the Courtroom: Reflections on My Experiences as an Expert Witness

Friday, May 10 at 12pm. Register here.

If you watch Law and Order or any of the CSI shows, you probably think you have a good idea of what it is like to serve as an expert scientific witness in a courtroom trial. But how accurate are those shows? What is it really like to serve as an expert witness in a science or technology case? How does one prepare? What sorts of questions can you anticipate? And, how does one even go about becoming an expert witness? In our May installment of the SciComm Lunch-and-Learn series, Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou (a CRISPR expert from NC State University) will answer your questions and share some surprising stories from his many experiences as an expert scientific witness. This will be the last SciComm Lunch-and-Learn before summer break and it promises to be a fascinating and entertaining discussion, so don’t miss it or you’ll be held in contempt.

Dr. Rodolphe Barrangou, is the Todd R. Klaenhammer Distinguished Scholar in Probiotics Research in the Department of Food, Bioprocessing and Nutrition Sciences at North Carolina State University, and Editor-in-Chief of The CRISPR Journal. He is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s experts in CRISPR technology, and was first author on the 2007 Science paper providing experimental proof for the immune function of CRISPR. He has also served as an expert witness in numerous legal cases focusing on science and technology.


Studying the Science of Science Communication in the Era of Social Media, Fake News and Short Attention Spans

Thursday, April 18 at 12pm. Register here.

How does one big snowstorm (in the middle of the hottest year on record) convince the public to ignore overwhelming scientific consensus and dismiss climate change science as a hoax? Why is actress Jenny McCarthy seemingly more influential with respect to public attitudes about vaccination than 99% of the medical community? What makes so many people think “Frankenfood” when they hear the term GMO? Join us at the April SciComm Lunch-and-Learn to hear Dr. Dietram Scheufele, one of the world’s experts on the science of science communication address these questions while discussing his research on science communication strategies and how they affect public decision-making.

Dietram is currently the John E. Ross Professor in Science Communication at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Overall, his work focuses on public attitudes and policy dynamics regarding science, with his most recent work focuses on the effect of social media and other new forms of communication. His outstanding work in this field has led to him co-chairing the National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine’s Standing Committee on Advancing Science Communication Research and Practice, among his many other distinguishing accomplishments.

Science in Prisons: Bringing Conservation Biology and Environmental Sustainability to the Incarcerated

Tuesday, March 19 at 12pm.

Ecologist Nalini Nadkarni was just looking for some extra hands to help her with her sustainability research. In a eureka moment, she realized that the incarcerated represented potential partners that are also extremely under-served. Not only did they have time on their hands, but many were hungry for intellectual stimulation and, as it turned out, energized by a desire to pursue their paths to reform through contribution to Nalini’s conservation biology work.

Several years later, her Sustainability in Prisons project has become a wildly successful (and often emulated) example of how to combine innovative science with impactful engagement of under-served populations. Come to SciComm Lunch-and-Learn to hear Nalini discuss her amazing, inspiring work communicating science in prisons and engaging the incarcerated in her conservation biology research.

Nalini is an ecologist who pioneered the study of Costa Rican rain forest canopies by using mountain-climbing equipment to rise above the forest floor. She is currently an emeritus professor at The Evergreen State College and serves as a professor in the Biology department at University of Utah. She is very active in public science outreach, in addition to her work as an ecologist.


The Power of Art & Science

Thursday, February 28 at 12pm

Join Ariana Eily as she discusses the scicomm lessons she learned from her work alongside Casey Lindberg and Hannah Devens to enhance the public’s connection to science by joining art and science.

Over the summer last year, the three launched a new science-art initiative called the Art of a Scientist that drew over 250 people to its opening at the Rubenstein Art Center. Between the collaborations between artists and scientists, the public outreach events, and the panel discussion, this shined a bright light on the power of merging art and science to draw people in. The exhibit is now in the stages of its second iteration and looks to be something that will continue to captivate scientists, arts, and everyone in between for years to come.