June 16, 2024 UMD Home FabLab AIMLab
About the Instructor

Martha Heil

Martha Heil is the science communicator for the Maryland Nanocenter, two labs for creating and studying objects a thousand times smaller than a human hair. She served as the editor for media and news for the Reports of the National Center for Science Education. She previously worked as news director at the Association for Psychological Science and the American Bar Association; and as a managing editor for Inside Science News Service, a project of the American Institute of Physics. She has an MA from NYU's Science and Environmental Reporting Program.

Services Offered
Contact Info

Martha J. R. Heil, Science Communicator
301-405-0876 (office)
626-354-5613 (text)
martha.j.heil (facebook)
@marthajheil (twitter)
martha-heil (linkedin)

Office Hours

Tuesday & Thursday
noon-3 pm
1118 Kim Building

Communicating Science Workshop Series

Professional training workshops to sharpen science communication skills with an emphasis on communicating with the public.

This is a six-part seminar series that offers graduate student researchers in the STEM disciplines practical tools to help communicate research to a variety of non-technical audiences, including hiring committees, the news media, funders, and the public.

This workshop is designed for scientists who want to learn how to more effectively communicate their research. Scientists from all disciplines and of all communications-experience levels are welcome.

Being able to explain what you do quickly and convincingly is important, and it's not easy. Presenting a poster at a conference. Explaining to a program officer why your research is worthwhile. Taking to a newspaper reporter to make sure they get the story right. All of these are key situations that the real world requires of you.

Module 1: Are You Good at Communicating Your Science?

One hour workshop

In just 30 seconds, could you convey the results of your latest paper to your colleagues? To the funding agency you rely on the most? To your grandmother? If the answer to any of these is "no," then you need this workshop.

This workshop will help you sharpen your skills at taking a complex idea and distilling it down to just a few thoughts. We'll compare the kind of abstract published in a scientific journal to a three-sentence "elevator speech" that uses plain language to get across your most important thoughts.

Bring an abstract or summary of a paper you are working on right now, or one you have worked on recently. The seminar will include two writing exercises. You will come away with a simple way to explain your research.

Screen capture of this workshop as a webinar


Module 2: Write a Better Abstract

One hour workshop

Writing an engaging yet thorough abstract is not easy, but it is important. Journal editors judge, classify and assign your paper based on those few sentences you write.

This workshop will help you understand what editors are looking for in a good abstract. Also what they're not looking for. I'll guide you through what various editors need, and how to make it happen.

Bring an abstract or summary of a paper you are working on right now, or one you have worked on recently. The seminar will include two exercises. You will come away with a better understanding of how to organize an abstract for the journals you desire to reach.


Module 3: Write and Give A Better Powerpoint Presentation

One hour lecture

Can you present your work at a conference or in a meeting in an easy yet professional way? Does your presentation help you keep track of time and make sure you cover everything you mean to say?

This workshop will teach you how to improve the style of your presentations. It will show you how to use fonts and colors to your advantage, ways to organize your presentation, and do's and don'ts for successful presentations. We'll critique slides together as a group and discuss our own best practices.


Module 4: Common Grammar Mistakes

One hour lecture

Spellcheck is great, but it doesn't catch every mistake. Revisit some of the most common rules of English grammar to catch some of the errors that young scientists frequently make. Whether English is your first and only language or just the one you're working in now, this grammar review can help you eliminate elementary mistakes that frustrate editors and professors.


Module 5: Interacting with the news media

One hour lecture

Working successfully with reporters and journalists means that scientists can reach a wider audience, raise awareness about their work and the challenges they are addressing through their research, and generate enthusiasm for research and support for funding. Learn what the role of the news media is, begin to confidently address an interview with a journalist, and create a few simple messages to prepare you for your next (or first!) interview.


Module 6: How and why to get involved in science policy

One hour lecture

With so many science-based challenges facing the world, researchers are a crucial part of informing and affecting policy. It is on the scientific community to ensure that governments properly use science to make decisions and continue to support scientific research. Presenting science to politicians in a way they can understand is a skill that can be honed, and this seminar will show why being able to communicate effectively to policy makers is important.


Colleges A. James Clark School of Engineering
The College of Computer, Mathematical, and Natural Sciences

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