Research and butterflies

Yesterday, I gave the keynote speech at the Sixth Annual UAB Undergraduate Research EXPO, an event including more than 200 undergraduate research posters and presentations with close to 300 participants in all. Ever since I received the invitation to speak a few months ago, I’ve been thinking through what to say to this diverse group of students and their mentors from the sciences, arts, and humanities. After all, what words apply equally to emerging researchers and scholars in fields ranging from chemistry to epidemiology to history to English to bioengineering to physics to mathematics? The program demonstrates the exciting kinds of work in which students, many of whom show up in my writing classes, are engaged:  2013_Expo_Program

Amid the flurry in the exhibit hall, I began to experience some butterflies. But when the time came to present “The Way You Say the Things You Do: Research, Community, and Conversation in the 21st Century,” I felt right at home talking about the awesome responsibility we all have to be informed about the procedural and communication conventions in our own and others’ fields and to be prepared to pursue conversations that intersect what we know, and what we don’t.

Talking to more than 250 friendly faces from across the university seemed a lot like the kind of teaching I do every day.

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