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Insights into the secret social life of bacteria
Anyone who has ever attended a science slam event knows what it's all about: presenting scientific research and content to a broad and non-specialist audience in a way that everyone can understand and with a touch of humor. Previously, PhD students from the Osnabrück University had the opportunity to try their best: At an event organized by PhD InterConnect, Shiksha Ajmera, a PhD student in the Department of Ecology, did just that and won over the audience with her talk.
Shiksha had only ten minutes to share her research with the audience. "Come, let's build a community!" was the title of her talk and was about bacterial communities that benefit from each other.
Just like people who interacted with each other and thereby gained an economic or social benefit,, bacteria can build communities, Shiksha explained. And in her talk, she explained, she wanted to provide a small glimpse into the secret social life of bacteria. As in a project team at work, bacterial communities are all about collaborating to be more efficient and faster than competing bacteria. This applies above all to the access to nutrients, which are essential for growth and survival - being able to grow faster as a team clearly offers an advantage.
© André Hachem, eleganz e.V.
In very simple terms, Shiksha explained how she had discovered that diverse bacterial communities with many different bacteria have an advantage over less diverse or even homogeneous communities. To achieve this, she combined different bacterial cultures with each other and observed the resulting growth. "I always mix and match different strains of bacteria together; my colleagues say I do bacteria Tinder!" This very true-to-life comparison caused many laughs in the audience.
Besides having fun, it was important to Shiksha that everyone understood what she was talking about. "I was told afterwards that they could understand my talk to 100% and that I didn't explain it to them like I would to a child, so I was happy about that feedback," Shiksha says. She added that she tried to make sure viewers could identify with the bacteria living in communities so they would understand her story better along that narrative. Creating a protagonist that people can identify with is something we can learn from good storytellers, Shiksha says. It helped her guide the non-expert audience through her scientific story and make them curious about the interesting social life of bacteria.
© Andreas Messer | Osnabrück University
With her great story, Shiksha ended up winning first prize and is thrilled to receive her award and prize, a value voucher to the University shop!
The Science Slam event was offered by the supervision and qualification program "PhD interConnect" of the International Office for international PhD students in cooperation with the educational platform Eleganz e.V.. We are looking forward to more Science Slam events in the future!