Living Letters: A Reflection on Communicating Across Differences

K Morales close up Mar 2016Research often involves hundreds of hours of behind the scenes work before results come together, ultimately culminating in presenting a snapshot of the project as a whole. This past year has offered me a glimpse into this process through my participation in ASPB’s Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF) program. Over the summer of 2015 I traveled to Tsukuba, Japan where my PI and I collaborated with the National Institute of Agro-Environmental Sciences to research the impact of elevated carbon dioxide and limiting nitrogen on rice morphology and physiology. This project allowed me to explore my great love for plants, the outdoors, and laboratory research, while also giving me invaluable experiences as I immersed myself into Japanese life and culture. The most important skill gained through this time was the ability to effectively communicate.

Knowing how to express my objectives is not only vital in a country where I do not speak the same language, but also when I am discussing my research with friends and family who have had no plant biology exposure. Recently I put this skill to the test by participating in my school’s annual Common Day of Learning. Each year students and faculty from every department come together, presenting the best of their research or other engaging topics, in order to create connections across various majors. This year’s theme was Living Letters, offering the opportunity to explore how the work we complete within our field of study can contribute to addressing social injustices around the world. I presented in the poster session where I entered into conversation with people from a wide range of fields such as social work, global studies, physics, and modern languages. One interaction that especially stood out to me was with a professor from the department of modern languages. This professor had a great desire to learn about my project despite his lack of knowledge concerning plants. Each point I made was broken down to a layman’s vocabulary as this professor did not know any technical jargon including the importance of photosynthesis and the relationship between chlorophyll and greenness. As I explained each portion of my experiment I found that I was learning new angles to the project while the professor became engrossed in the beauty of plant biology. Upon walking away from this presentation we were both given a sense of joy as new doors of learning were opened to both of us. Overall, I immensely enjoyed participating in Common Day of Learning and would recommend participation in similar events as connections are made, demonstrating that although each field is unique we are all unified in the pursuit of knowledge.

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