Denise Coberley

Iowa State researchers bare their hearts and souls in the name of science

By Paula Van Brocklin, Office of the Vice President for Research

In an entertainment venue normally reserved for musical artists and stand-up comedians, five Iowa State University researchers grabbed a mic and took center stage in front of about 100 faculty, staff, students and Ames community members at the Memorial Union’s Maintenance Shop on Tuesday, Oct. 16. They shed their serious researcher personas and told deeply personal stories about how science has impacted them.

The event, called “Fields of Opportunity,” was hosted by The Story Collider podcast series and coordinated by Iowa State’s Office of the Vice President for Research. The Story Collider regularly teams up with universities to give researchers a chance to share true, personal stories with a live audience about how scientific research has helped to shape them, both professionally and personally. It’s an opportunity to break down barriers between scientists and the general population.

“Communicating the value of research, science or otherwise to the public at large has never been more important than in the current societal climate,” said Guru Rao, associate vice president for research. “Effective communication, in plain language and without technical jargon, can engender a trusting relationship with the larger population. It can help broadcast a message that excites and engages the public about research that is predominantly focused on finding solutions to many complex challenges.”

Click on the links below to hear the five Iowa State researchers tell their inspirational stories.

Jim Adelman, assistant professor of natural resource ecology and management, discovered that science could bring him back to the mountains and out of the doldrums of a breakup.

Denise Coberley, a 23-year teaching veteran currently pursuing a master’s in science communication with a minor in linguistics and neuroscience, always knew she wanted to pursue a career related to biology. But she had no idea the important role biology would play in her personal life as well.

Tomas Gonzalez-Torres, senior lecturer in aerospace engineering, relentlessly pursued his dream to work at NASA throughout his undergraduate education at Iowa State. Today through teaching, he’s helping other students find their passions and purpose.

Rachel Mans McKenny, lecturer in English and speech communications, loves to study bugs, which came in pretty handy when her daughter came home from daycare with a stubborn case of lice.

Abhay Mishra, associate professor of supply chain and information systems, turned to science when he and his wife’s desire to start a family looked bleak.