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May 12, 2017

 

For me, the love of science communication began when I got drunk at a run down police station outside of Washington DC and got paid for it. My coworker drove me there and of course, it was for a video. We were doing a piece about how breathalyzers work. I can’t remember whose idea it was or who knew the police officer we finally got to be in the video and to be completely honest the video wasn’t my best work, but what I do remember that as a 25 year old I was incredibly excited to get paid to get drunk. That weekend I went back to my parents place in Pennsylvania where my family and their friends would ask me, “So what do you do for work?” “Oh, well I actually went to a police station the other day. They gave me a shot of vodka every 15 minutes and breathalyzed me until I was legally drunk.”

 

I would repeatedly tell the story and it slowly began to click to me that I had an AWESOME job. I got to meet Alton Brown, I had met multiple Nobel prize winners and had engaging conversations with them, I created visuals that had been seen by Congress to promote STEM funding, my work has aired on NBC’s Today Show and I got paid to have all these awesome experiences.

 

From a young age I knew I wanted to do something related to film. My degrees are in digital media and film production. I have no formal training or education in science at all. But I always gravitated towards people who did. I had always loved science and I had always loved creating.

 

I could tell you about how I got my job and how appreciative and thankful I was and how much of a struggle it was and all that shit people say, but the truth was I got my job the same month I graduated from grad school and it was doing motion graphics, which is what I wanted my career to be in.

 

3 years later, I began to realize how passionate I was about communicating science. Thinking back on it, I was passionate all along, I just didn’t realize it. We started Reactions (the American Chemical Society’s YouTube series on everyday chemistry) in January of 2014 and I was just happy to be a part of it. By 2015, I was working on the channel full time and the channel had my full attention and dedication. I analyzed our data, I engaged with our audience, I brain stormed harder than I ever brainstormed. I researched, I talked to scientists, I began conversations, I went to meet up groups with other sci-comm people, I started actually caring about Twitter. I became engaged in a big way. That year alone I won an Eddie & Ozzy award, I was honored as an Emerging Leader in the DC metro area, and I had won a DC Science Writers Association award. It was then that I began to realize, hey maybe I’m actually good at this.

 

Of course along with that came along the thoughts of hmm am I compensated fairly. I won’t get into the weeds here, my point is I started job hunting. I interviewed at some pretty sweet jobs but I had this thought lingering in the back of my head--do I want to leave the sci comm community? Do I focus on becoming an insanely good animator or do I keep on this sci-comm track? I didn’t have time for both. There was a voice in the back of my head whispering to me “Maybe you don’t want to leave the sci-comm community.”  I passionately didn’t. The further down I got with my job search the louder the voice got.

 

I had learned so much about making science videos and I had learned so much about communicating science as a non-scientist, and I became good at it. I love entertaining and I love it when people learn about science and how awesome it truly is. I don’t want to put all my focus on being an insanely good animator--I want something bigger. I re-committed myself to science communication and worked even harder than before.

 

So that’s what this blog is for. It’s for sharing the hours on hours of conversations and endless thoughts in my head about how much jargon is right, should this topic be a video, how do we make people care about science, how can we find the right hook, how on earth do you animate this subject, or this one, or this one, or the next one. It’s about how to become or stay awesome at being a video producer in the sci-comm world with absolutely no scientific background.

 

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Motion Designer |  elaine.seward@gmail.com  |  Portland, OR