Crystal Johnson ~ Cultivating Student Science

Crystal Johnson with her students

Making Yourself Adaptable

In Dr. Crystal Johnson's experience, having students in her lab means communicating about her work in ways that are different from talking with other scientists. And she finds this very beneficial: it helps frame her own communicating about her research. It helps her define why her research is important, helps define why anyone should care about scientific progress, making it clearer to both tax payers and funders. "One of the things I hear from reviewers about my grant proposals is they can actually understand them," she says.

She also gets extra pairs of hands to get the work gets done faster, meaning side projects get going that would not have gotten off the ground otherwise. And the students' excitement is contagious.

On the other hand, there is the expense of lab equipment breakage, and the frustration of never getting credit. "I have to treat outreach as a hobby, have to love it. It's frustrating when it's frowned on or I get asked why do you do it."

Crystal's consistent commitment to outreach makes her accessible, and helps her to feel more human. "I'm a regular person who has faults and who makes jokes," she says. "We're not all serious all the time, but we do do serious science." Crystal finds outreach balances the seriousness of science, the deadlines and reports and manuscripts, the administrative rigidness. It's a balancing act. "It broadens your own horizons and makes you more adaptable. I am not above being told I made a mistake or being taught by the students. That's a huge benefit."

Sharon Walker
Sharon Walker, Ph.D., COSEE Central Gulf of Mexico Principal Investigator
The effect of broader impacts on the public's understanding of science
Gary King
Gary King, Ph.D., Professor of Microbial Ecology, Louisiana State University
The challenges of engaging scientists in broader impacts