Hello there bloggies! Welcome to Science Sunday!

One of the most dreaded questions I encounter at family gatherings or social occasions is: “What do you do for work again?” I try to quickly give a 2 to 3 sentence description of what I do and run away. And I usually fail. Sometimes, I am a geneticist who trying to identify genes associated with certain traits. Other times, I am a lab researcher who works on large studies to explore the causes of certain diseases. Most times, the result is a group of dazed, uninterested people.

I don’t think I am in alone in this. Of course, we all know what we do for work. I think we as scientists we all get caught up in the technical details and specifics we deal with everyday. It is this jargon and level of detail that make our friends, family, and people we’ve just met glaze over. We make things too complicated!

Being able to explain your work to any audience whether they are experts in your field or your neighbor down the street is a skill. It is an important skill. Being able to do great science is fantastic, but if you can’t tell your colleagues, funding bodies, and the public, then what’s the point?

Not that I am an expert, but here are some thoughts on explaining your job to your family, friends, and acquaintances.

1) Think about it beforehand

Everyone knows they are going to get asked about their job at a party, family gathering, or any other social occasion. It doesn’t hurt to spend a few minutes beforehand figuring out what sort of things you want to talk about. You prepare for an interview or for networking. Why not spend a few moments doing the same for these situations?

2) Keep it simple stupid

The intricate details and challenges of your job are probably what you encounter everyday and what you may find the most interesting. The same cannot be said for the people you are talking you. Would you want to right away listen to the complicated details of a lawyer’s, officer’s, or teacher’s job? Of course not. There may be more interest later, but at the start of a conversation, keep the topic simple.

3) Keep it short stupid.

Just as you want to keep the conversation simple, you also want to keep it short and concise. No one wants to listen someone go on and on and on about themselves. A good couple sentence on your job is a great place to start. If your friends and family are interested, they will ask more questions. Let them make guide the conversation.

4) Make it relevant.

Science and biomedical research touches everyone’s lives in different ways although they may not realize it at first. Connect your work to things your family and friends encounter in their lives. If you study cardiovascular biology, you can connect it to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity (everyone knows someone with these conditions or at least have seen it in the news). If you work on technology development, you can relate it to technology we all encounter like computers, smart phones, etc.

Thank you all for stopping by Science Sunday. How do you all answer these dreaded questions about your job? How do you explain your work? Any tips you want to share? Comment below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you all later!

-Dr. F

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