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TEDxTufts: Acknowledgements

When scientists give talks, we typically end the talk with an “Acknowledgements” slide, where we thank everyone who made that talk possible: co-authors, funders, field hands, etc. In March, I had the honor of giving a much different kind of talk: a TEDxTufts talk! Even though I was alone on stage, I couldn't have pulled it off on my own. Since I didn’t have a chance to show an “Acknowledgements” slide at the end of my TEDx talk, I would like to take this post to thank the people behind the scenes.

Firstly, the process of writing my talk would have been way more difficult without my two amazing speaker coaches, Sara Bass and Emma Singleton. We met weekly to discuss outline after outline, which eventually turned into paragraphs, and then the final script. Having Sara and Emma as a sounding board, and moral support, was invaluable.

Secondly, my fiancé was integral to memorization and practicing. He probably heard my talk 20 times before I got on that stage. He helped me memorize line-by-line (which was a frustrating process) until I had the talk down. And then he listened to me give the talk in our living room, with my slides on the TV, over and over. And over. Some mornings, I walked around our apartment reciting my talk to myself while getting ready for the day. He never told me I was annoying. But, I probably was.

Thirdly, a big thank you to members of the Starks and Lewis labs at Tufts University who took the time to read my script when it was in a very rough state, and listen to my talk once the script was finalized. (Again, some listened more than once.)

And lastly, I could not have done this talk without the amazing mentors in my life. My dad was my first “curiosity” mentor. I spent summer nights outside with him, catching insects, poking slugs, and simply enjoying the outdoors. At bedtime, we often read Highlights Book of Science Questions that Children Ask. Not your typical bedtime story. He probably didn’t realize it at the time but in letting me do my thing outside and reading to me about questions (and their answers), my dad was nurturing my curiosity. And you'll see, curiosity is a pretty big theme of my talk.

When I got to high school, it was my Tiverton High School AP Biology teacher, Mr. Saunders, who showed me that what I had been doing outside with my dad was science (like I explain in my talk). In college, at UMass Dartmouth, Dr. Guillermo Paz-y-Miño (far right above, photo: Deirdre Confar 2011) taught me the nitty-gritty of the scientific method and how to use it to think critically about scientific research and the world around me. Again, big part of my talk.

And of course, thank you to Dr. Phil Starks, who was the director of the REU Program I got accepted to in 2012 and is now my PhD advisor. In his lab, Phil has allowed me to continue asking and exploring my own questions.

How can you help the kids in your life continue asking and answering their own questions? Watch my TEDxTufts talk, Embracing science as a verb, to find out! And please help me spread the word, and preserve curiosity, by sharing! :)

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