Research highlight: introduction

Posted by Benjamin Gravesteijn on Wednesday, October 9, 2019


This blogpost is the first in a series, called “Research Highlights”. This is a series where I will put my research into context, contemplate on what I did, and why, and most of all: comprehensible for everybody. I have been thinking about this since only recently, and I would like to share some thoughts on why this feels like the appropriate thing to do.

Most of you probably know that one of the perks of being a PhD student, is to write and publish papers. This is probably the core of my job: without publishing papers, you cannot finish and defend your PhD-thesis. However, on a somewhat more meta-level, publishing can be seen as something philanthropic: knowledge increases in value when it is shared. A very nice thought, although I’m not sure if it is actually true, is about the knowledge concerning the fabrication of a computer mouse. As something so quite mundaine, that is used day in day out, it is quite remarkable how complex such an unnoticed object actually is. The components of a mouse, such as the wire (if you don’t like fancy bluetooth mice just like me), the wheel, but also the hardware inside that transfer the signal to your computer, are all quite complex. They all consist of different types of ground materials (plastics, copper, iron), which are all harvested or created at different places in the world: no person on earth could by himself make a mouse, from harvesting the materials to screwing everything in place. Since a mouse does play an intricate role in modern society, this pleads the case for science communication: without sharing knowledge, we would not be able to operate a computer (well, actually the computer would not exist as well). Therefore, publishing your results is important for the world to progress, for the knowledge pool to expand.

However, even though these publications are accessable to most people (let’s not cover the fact that they can be quite expensive to access), they can be quite hard to comprehend. Without enough prior knowledge, it might be too had to follow. However, it might be relevant for you, for your daily life. This is a bridge science communication tries to overcome. Role models like Ionica Smeets have recently sparked a desire to explain my research to the public. Moreover, the stories from Tom, my boyfriend, who actualy studies science communication, and discussion where I explain my work to friends helped me to decide this should actually be a major part of my personal blog. Therefore, my goal in this blog is to overcome that bridge, starting with my own work (since, of course, I know the most about my own work).

Writing this story down at least helps me to raise the bar. It would be a great source of irritation to not see this story have a follow up. It will take some time, and I will probably need some time to explore and discover what works. However, I invite you all to follow my science communication adventure. Buckle up, I hope it’s worth the read…

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