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Lessons in Winning Over an Audience: Use Metaphors

September 9, 2009 2 comments

Very few things in life are as satisfying as a highly appropriate and effectively deployed metaphor.  Last month, with the start of the school year, our Materials Science program had its kickoff lunch to welcome the new students.  The centerpiece of this gathering is the Sales Pitch Contest, in which current students have three minutes to inform the judges (the new students) of their research and how awesome it is.

My friend Joy Garnett, starting her second year, works on linking together nanoparticles.  The motivation for this research is to have the nanoparticles serve as a conduit for light.  Without getting into hardcore condensed matter physics… the discussion of periodic structures—structures with a building block that is repeated with equal spacing, such as crystal lattices or photonic crystals—is nearly ubiquitous in materials science.  Unsurprisingly, Joy’s goal is to make her nanoparticles equally spaced apart and control the spacing between them.

In the three minutes allocated for her Sales Pitch, Joy did not explain the intricacies of why light behaves specially in periodic structures.  (Wise move, as new students haven’t taken condensed matter class yet.)  Instead, she told us about the classic video game, Super Mario Brothers. Read more…

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