UC Medical Sciences Student Finds Science Communication

My journey with science communication began in my junior year pursuing an undergraduate degree in Medical Sciences. I was applying for the Goldwater Scholarship after an impactful experience studying endometriosis in Dr. Katherine Burns’s lab. The Goldwater application process required me to envision myself as a future scientist, a career path I hadn’t fully considered before this experience. I began to imagine a future involving the scientific and medical world. At the same time, I was learning the foundational sciences of biochemistry, physiology, and microbiology to begin to understand disease progression and how things can go wrong in the human body. I still aspired to continue into a medical career, and I wondered how I was supposed to condense years of basic science into simple descriptions to future patients of why they encountered the medical problems they had. It seemed like the humanities could be useful in that.

Ultimately, though I did not receive the Goldwater Scholarship, this stepping stone led me to consider graduate school abroad. I wanted to continue to nurture my enthusiasm for science but to do so in a way that honored the humanities. 

Shivane Chawla is a 2022 University of Cincinnati graduate, as well as a University Honors Program Scholar and Ambassador, 2022 Presidential Medal of Excellence recipient,  2021 Barry Goldwater Campus Nominee, 2022 C-Ring Leadership Award Finalist, and 2019 Tasset-Lux Ambition Award recipient.

My first interaction with PEWS was when I attended the UC Workshop on Public Engagement with Science. This multi-day virtual conference was formative, as I learned more about the field of science communication and began to cement my future plans. I learned of the PEWS weekly Research & Discussion (R&D) Group while taking Dr. Melissa Jacquart’s honors seminar, “The Feminist Toolkit.” After involvement in the R&D Group, I was offered the opportunity to become a PEWS Undergraduate Intern. In that role, I was able to contribute to the future of PEWS by envisioning ways for the center to engage more fully with undergraduate students at UC and to provide spaces to connect young researchers like me with the field of science communication. 

By connecting PEWS with existing structures on campus to support undergraduate students, I hope to see the UC opportunities that I’ve found so valuable to my own undergraduate research experiences integrated with PEWS opportunities. In my four years of being a student leader at UC, I had developed knowledge of campus and research opportunities that I want to share with other students.

In my work with PEWS, I’ve learned from so many incredible individuals who I admire deeply. I want to recognize the joy of collaborating with Kat Timm, Anthropology MA student and PEWS Sustainability Graduate Fellow, on the Careers in Public Engagement with Science Panel , and the support and guidance from Dr. Melissa Jacquart, Associate Director of PEWS, throughout the past year. 

My next steps take me to the University of Edinburgh, where I will pursue a master’s degree in Science Communication and Public Engagement. This program will enable me to continue thinking about the broader intersections of reproductive health, science, and medicine. The World Congress on Endometriosis will take place in Edinburgh in the spring of 2023, and I look forward to seeing my UC mentor Dr. Burns speak at this event. My time with PEWS has been instrumental in my decision-making process for my future, and I am so grateful for this experience.