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Capturing Science Contest: 2017 Winners - Undergraduate

Undergraduate Category

Name: Sara Sturges
Year: Third-year undergraduate
Major: Entertainment and Media Studies
Submission: Earth Systems - Video

Commentary: The cheery mood of Sara Sturges' video belies its sophisticated craft and technique, which lend her submission a "fun and upbeat" feel, as noted in Sara's cover letter. One contest judges applauded the footage that Sara created to give examples of the Biosphere. Her use of lively, relatable images provides a delightful alternative to the typical stock footage commonplace in educational videos. Sara’s graphics and animation, which she created herself, infuse the video with a sense of play and visual appeal. A key challenge to science communication is sustaining the public's attention, and Sara steps up to this challenge with her clear, engaging, and skillful work. 

Name: Camille Watson
Year: First-year undergraduate
Major: Pre-Nursing
Submission: Mitosis Melodrama - A Short Story

Commentary: Camille Watson's short story, conceived as a study guide for her nursing school exam prep, blends science communication and fiction in funny and surprisingly poignant ways. In her cover letter, Camille notes the challenges of pulling off the mitosis-as-breakup conceit: Should the scientific jargon be coded or overtly used by her characters? How much context should be provided to readers? Such questions illustrate the challenges of communicating STEM concepts to a broader public. Our contest judges appreciated how Camille used the discrete stages of Mitosis to formally structure her story, giving the separate section such titles as Prophase, Anaphase, and Metaphase.

Name:  Mariah Manoylov  
Year:  Third-year undergraduate 
Major:  Ecology & English 
Submission: To Earth, From Mr. Brontosaurus - Narrative Poem & Spoken Word Video

Commentary: Mariah Manoylov’s imaginative piece stands out among our contest entries in that it serves as both science communication and science-based advocacy. Her empathic work challenges us to confront our complicity in climate change. The piece’s two personas — the regretful brontosaurus and the reflective narrator—give fresh poetic and emotional resonance to the science of climate change. For the brontosaurus, “every degree” of global temperature “feels weighty,” and the narrator longs for a world where “there were no holes in the sky” and “summer is summer and winter is winter.” Our contest judges were given the difficult task of comparing submissions from an array of formats and genres. In this regard, Mariah’s submission, which exists as both narrative poem and spoken word recording, is striking. Like Camille Watson’s short story, Mariah’s genre-defying work toys with the literary conventions of science communication, helping to spread her message, and the science behind it, to a broader public.

Name:​​ ​Nathan Trivers
​​Year:​ ​​Senior
Majors:​ ​​Music Composition & Music Business
​Submission:​ ​​Tree of Life - Musical Composition

Commentary: Nathan Trivers' original composition extends our contest's challenge to the realm of choral music. The motif of breathing connects both the process of singing and the lyrical text (written by Henry Adams), which "poetically explains photosynthesis," as Nathan states in his cover letter. Our contest judges enjoyed Nathan's imaginative translation of science into musical form, particularly his use of "non-standard notation" that "directs the singers on how to breathe." With its emphasis on breath and the sound effects of breathing, Tree of Life encourages a sensorial and, for the singers, more embodied perception of photosynthesis, beyond language, data, or other conventional modes of understanding.