INTERVIEW to Dr. Rafael Luna from Harvard Medical School at the MSE-Material Science and Engineering

“The MSE has been the best Congress I have been to: students and professors were absolutely great.”


How did the first contact with the DGM happen?

I was giving a scientific storytelling workshop at the Harvard Wyss Institute when I met Sarah Fischer, an amazing student from the Jung-DGM Saarbrucken. She believed that my workshop could be interesting to other students back in Germany, so she established all the contacts with the DGM and brought me to the MSE Congress 2014 in Darmstadt.

You participated at the student session in the frame of the MSE Congress 2014. What was your experience?

It was amazing, I was impressed to see that many of the students were already storytellers themselves, their presentations were outstanding! For many of them, English is not their mother tongue, hence they rely heavily on logical analyses and ask many questions regarding the information they receive, which makes them wonderful scientists. I was particularly surprised to see the close dialogue between students and professors during the Congress. The DGM students are very curious and eager to learn new ideas, and it was very refreshing to see how easily the bilateral communication flowed. I believe that this open dialogue will ensure the sustainability of the DGM to successfully continue for years and years! 

How was scientific storytelling born and what is it about? 

During my postdoctoral research, I submitted a research manuscript for publication in a high-impact journal and it was rejected. I had been working on it with five professors, all of them speaking different scientific languages and with different research perspectives. After years of hard work, the rejection was tough but I did not give up. Instead, I decided to rethink how to communicate science. I enrolled in creative writing courses and this inspired me to rewrite the paper from a whole different perspective: scientific storytelling. This time, the paper was published!  I believe that an imperative part of working as a scientist is to be able to explain one´s own research, this is the essence of scientific storytelling. I developed this writing method to educate and communicate science by implementing elements of literature. This method allows the effective transmittance of scientific research to any type of audience, professionals or not, in a clear and compelling way.

At the MSE Congress 2014 you had a stand with copies of your book.  What was the input that did you receive from students?

I received a lot of interest from students, but I was quite surprised that also from professors: half of the books were bought by them. They were very interested in the scientific storytelling method and they want to share this knowledge with their students.

Did you enjoy the MSE Congress 2014, would you like to visit it again?

 Yes, absolutely! This has been the best Congress I have attended: students and professors were absolutely great. I especially enjoyed the Brazilian collaboration with the DGM.  Other research congresses usually only involve one country, but this DGM Congress was a real intercultural exchange of science and engineering. I have been sharing my DGM experiences with other scientists throughout the U.S and Europe, and I am looking forward to the next MSE Congress in 2016.