UW, Morgridge welcome new Rita Allen Civic Science Fellows

Innovations in science and technology benefit the growth of society, yet there is a growing disconnect in the public discourse surrounding science topics.

To address these issues, the Science Communication Incubator Lab (SCI Lab), co-led by Morgridge Investigators Dominique Brossard and Dietram Scheufele, uses evidence-based approaches to connect science communication theory and research with real-world efforts to engage the public.

SCI Lab has partnered with the UW–Madison Department of Life Sciences Communication (LSC), with support from the Rita Allen Foundation, to welcome Soobin Choi and Natasha Strydhorst to contribute to this work as Civic Science Fellows this summer.

Natasha Strydhorst

“We’re doing something new and exciting in this new joint effort by Morgridge and the Rita Allen Foundation,” says Scheufele. “The fellows will work on exploring new pathways for more constructive societal debates about emerging biomedical science.”

The Rita Allen Civic Science Fellows Program aims to engage with diverse individuals to support a culture of civic science as the key to solving many progressing issues. 

Strydhorst received her PhD from Texas Tech University where she researched scientific uncertainties and the rehabilitation of the concept in the public eye. She says this fellowship opportunity bridges her training and passion for both journalism and science communication scholarship. She is particularly interested in exploring new strategies that connect the public with science, despite ideological barriers.

Soobin Choi

“I relish the opportunity for experimentation and exercise of curiosity this position opens up,” she says. “The Morgridge mission of ‘inspiring scientific curiosity in everyday life’ resonated with me; I hope my work can contribute to that goal.” 

Choi comes from University of Michigan where she earned her PhD in Communication and Media. She is invested in communication approaches that spark productive discussions related to emerging civic science issues, such as climate change. She looks forward to working on evidence-based approaches to communicating science-related issues amidst the current contested information landscape. 

“I would love to develop an agenda on community-engaged research approaches to understand ‘real-world’ implications and barriers of communication strategies that aim to increase public engagement with science and environmental issues,” she says. 

Wisconsin is the perfect environment to support the fellows in their goals — uniquely positioned as a “purple state” to serve as a bellwether for the many stressors between science and society that lead to dysfunctions in our country’s political landscape. The ultimate goal for the Civic Science Fellows program is to work towards closing the widening rifts between people with different backgrounds and beliefs. 

For the Morgridge Institute specifically, their mission emphasizes serving both science and society through biomedical discoveries. Through engagement with some of the world’s upcoming and leading social scientists, the institute can make headway on their goals through meaningful partnerships and robust programs like the Rita Allen Civic Science Fellowship. 

“Society entrusts scientists with public resources and expects us to make discoveries that benefit humanity,” says Morgridge CEO Brad Schwartz. “We consider communicating about our work as part of that social contract.”