ComSciCon PNW

By Amy Brodbeck

Group photo with the wonderful conference organizers in front. Photo credit: @ComSciCon-PNW


A couple of weekends ago, I held signs with these words to provide feedback for my peers as they practiced their one-minute ‘elevator’ speeches about their research. As one of forty graduate students who participated in the two-day science communication conference called ComSciCon PNW, I left feeling truly empowered to increase the role of science in public discourse.

Gearing up for the conference. Photo credit: Amber Barnard

Though hosted at Google and partially supported by the University of Washington, students traveled from several western states to participate—from California to Idaho. The conference offered a unique opportunity to network and learn from other students doing incredible work. For example, I met a student from Oregon State University who started a non-profit to provide students in Senegal with hands-on science experiences. Other students wrote their own blogs, taught themselves how to create science animations, and organized science communication workshops for graduate students at their home universities. It was impressive and inspiring to be surrounded by so much momentum in a time when science is not exactly prioritized in today’s political climate.

Gleaning some wisdom from the creative media panelists. Photo credit: @ComSciCon-PNW

We also left the conference with a tangible product. Prior to the conference, we prepared for a Write-a-Thon, through which we could produce a science outreach piece, receive edits from our peers, and then receive formal feedback from industry professionals. Because organizers encouraged creative media pieces, I produced a video for Washington Sea Grant (will be published soon!) and was lucky enough to work on the piece with Lindsey Murphy at the conference. Lindsey is the creator, producer and host of the The Fab Lab with Crazy Aunt Lindsey, which is the #1 kids science web series on YouTube. I received invaluable feedback from this charismatic ‘go-getter’ and because of the great line-up of speakers invited to the conference, my peers had similar experiences.

This workshop is part of a larger program that was started by graduate students on the East Coast, but has spread west, with this year being the inaugural Pacific Northwest conference. If you’re passionate about sharing science with the world and you’re looking for an opportunity to learn from peers and professionals AND have a lot of fun, apply to attend the ComSciCon PNW next year!