Saturday, December 02, 2006

My Nanosecond of (mostly anonymous) Fame

Life got a bit strange last week because some research I was involved in got noticed by the mainstream media. I was co-author on the paper that is generating the interest, and most news reports don't mention me by name, and some that do got part of my name wrong. I am happy to let the first author have all the glory because the few media interviews I did were very disconcerting. It's very different from teaching -- when you teach, you have lots of opportunities to say things in several different ways until you are sure you get the point across. In an interview, you get one shot to sound intelligent. Or not.

A common question I have been asked is how I got involved in this research. It is actually quite far afield from what I typically do, but a year or two ago a friend of mine from grad school realized that some of the types of analyses that I do for very different purposes might be useful for something he was working on. We tried it just to see if it would work, and it turned out to be really interesting. This was a nice example of collaborating across fields.

When asked that question about how I got involved in research with this researcher at another university, what I really want to tell the interviewers is that this colleague, a former collegiate football player, was my bridesmaid at my wedding. It is true, he was, and he was a lovely bridesmaid. I only had one bridesmaid, so technically he was my maid-of-honor as well, but he has said he prefers to be referred to as my bridesmaid, and I just have to respect his choice.


Anonymous said...

People are so afraid of asking for help or clarification at the highest level. Or perhaps the fear of sounding foolish goes away after tenure.

I guess this is an example of opportunities that are missed if you don't go to the building across the street to ask for help. Interdisciplinary research seems to arise from very random connections.

Ms.PhD said...

Ha! I love the ballplaying bridesmaid. And I can see why you had a hard time figuring out what to say to the media!

I agree that it's disconcerting knowing that you have to come up with something articulate, on the spot, on the first try. I have put my foot in my mouth in front of an audience before, and the worst is when you don't even realize how it sounded until later, when someone gets mad at you!

Anyway, congrats on doing something cool and getting a tiny bit of acknowledgment from the Outside World!

Anonymous said...

Hmmm,I am curious as to the paper in question.

If you tell the media stories like that bridesmaid one, they will be back. I don't think science journalists get soundbites like that one very often, if ever.