Melissa Marshall brings a message to all scientists (from non-scientists): We’re fascinated by what you’re doing. So tell us about it — in a way we can understand. In just 4 minutes, she shares powerful tips on presenting complex scientific ideas to a general audience.





  • unfamiliar – not known or recognized
  • mesh – a material made from threads or wires with evenly spaced holes that allow air or water to pass through
  • relevant – closely connected or appropriate to what is being done or considered
  • dumbing down – deliberate oversimplification of intellectual content within education, literature, cinema, news, video games and culture in order to relate to those unable to assimilate more sophisticated information.


Think about it

Answer the questions below:

  • Why was she afraid of meeting science students?
  • What does she believe is crucial to communication?
  • How should scientists talk to people?
  • Is jargon a good thing?
  • What did Einstein say about expressing ideas?
  • What does she say about bullet points?
  • What is the equation for successful communication of science?


Practice makes perfect

Use the verbs in brackets in suitable forms and tenses.

Five years ago, I ________ (experience)  a bit of what it ________ (must be) like to be Alice in Wonderland. Penn State ________ (ask) me, a communications teacher, ________ (teach) a communications class for engineering students. And I ________ (be) scared. (Laughter) Really scared. Scared of these students with their big brains and their big books and their big, unfamiliar words. But as these conversations ________ (unfold), I experienced what Alice must have when she ________ (go) down that rabbit hole and ________ (see) that door to a whole new world. That’s just how I ________ (feel) as I had those conversations with the students. I ________ (be amazed) at the ideas that they had, and I ________ (want) others to experience this wonderland as well. And I believe the key to opening that door is great communication.


Use the words in capital letters in correct forms.

We ________ DESPAIR need great communication from our scientists and engineers in order to change the world. Our scientists and engineers are the ones that are tackling our grandest challenges, from energy to environment to health care, among others, and if we don’t know about it and understand it, then the work isn’t done, and I ________ BELIEF it’s our ________ RESPONSIBLE as non-scientists to have these interactions. But these great ________ CONVERSE can’t occur if our scientists and engineers don’t invite us in to see their wonderland. So scientists and engineers, please, talk nerdy to us.

I want to share a few keys on how you can do that to make sure that we can see that your science is sexy and that your engineering is ________ ENGAGE. First question to answer for us: so what? Tell us why your science is ________ RELEVANCE to us. Don’t just tell me that you study trabeculae, but tell me that you study trabeculae, which is the mesh-like structure of our bones because it’s _________ IMPORTANCE to ________ UNDERSTAND and ________ TREATMENT osteoporosis.


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