“Every scientist has an interesting story. They just need to learn how to tell their story so that others will understand and remember.”– Alan Alda
Technion Nobel Laureate Distinguished Prof. Dan Shechtman once said: “I aspire to inspire before I expire.” There is no coincidence that the pioneer of a whole new form of matter, is also a pioneer in education, with a strong emphasis on the kind of education that leads to innovation. Inspiration has a direct link to excellence in both education and innovation, and at Technion in February 2018, Alan Alda inspired a packed Churchill Auditorium on the causal imperative of effective communication on matters of science and technology.
Best known as Captain Hawkeye Pierce from the hit 1970s television series M*A*S*H, the actor Alan Alda conducts seminars all over the US to help scientists improve the way they explain their work to other people. Many of the techniques Alda uses to teach communication, such as improvisational theater, are rooted in his acting career, and his talent as an actor was also clearly on display during his lecture. Alda, who is 82, had no problem holding the attention of the crowd in the large auditorium despite the lack of PowerPoint slides, proving that he is indeed a master of communication.
During the hour-long lecture, Alda compared interest in science to the three stages of falling in love (which he invented): attraction, infatuation and commitment. If scientists are able to connect to their listeners in such a way that they achieve commitment and an emotional bond, the listeners will remain engaged in the long-term. Since these are skills that everyone can learn, Alda believes that every scientist can be trained to effectively communicate even the most complex information to a lay public.
Alda came to Israel along with a delegation from the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in order to teach science communication at Technion, in partnership with the Zuckerman STEM Leadership Program and the Kavli Foundation. Under the auspices of the Zuckerman Institute-Alda Center Scholars Project in Israel, Technion scholars participated in a two-day workshop led by Alda Center facilitators and researchers. A second two-day seminar, sponsored by Kavli, was open to Technion faculty members.