Friday, April 8, 2011

What the Heck is a Ceramic Anyhow?

Well to be honest I can't answer that question.  At least not after the lecture I heard last night.  I was attending an awards dinner that honors a scientist or engineer for their contribution to the field of the metallurgy and material science.  The honoree then gives a presentation about his related field.  This years honoree is an expert in the field of ceramic engineering.  He received his Sc.D. in ceramic engineering from MIT, was the President of the American Ceramic Society, holds years of experience in industry and government research, and is also a former professor of the Colorado School of Mines.  All this experience and accomplishment could not save this man's presentation from falling into the category of bad science communication.

This purpose of this presentation was to explain what ceramics are and their advancement in the field of lighting.  I had high hopes for this talk because as you may know I really enjoy the field of ceramics.  When the lecture began the room of over hundred nicely dressed people gave their undivided attention.  However that interest and attention quickly vanished once the presentation started.  Throughout the presentation the speaker just read the slide in a monotonic voice.  While reading the slide he would use his laser pointer to underline what he reading further distracting me the actual content of his presentation.

As I looked around the room I could see the same look on everybody's face, BOREDOM.  This is an audience full of ceramist, metallurgist, CSM faculty and MME students so this audience has some background in the field.  I actually saw somebody fall asleep with his mouth wide open.  I looked over to somebody at my table and had to say "I promise ceramics are not this boring."  When it was finally over 45 minutes later, which felt like hours the question he tried to answer at the beginning of his presentation, "What the heck is a ceramic anyhow?" was one of the first questions asked by the audience.  This showed me how bad the presentation really was.

In my Science Communication class we recently had a guest lecturer discuss the trademarks of a bad presentation.  In his presentation I kid you not he made every mistake.

I only hope I can learn from this example of poor science communication so I can communicate better in

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