James H. Adair
Professor, Material Science and Engineering,
Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacology
Director, Penn State Center on Nanomedicine and Materials
"Communicating Scientific and Engineering Knowledge and Technology
With or Without Collaborators"
Communication of our scientific and engineering research is considered one of the critical features in modern academia. Both oral and written communications play a central role in translating our science and technology to the broader global community. The aim of this talk is to share with you how our collaborative research teams prepare talks and manuscripts. The presentation is divided across four topic areas; 1. how collaborative research has been developed including collaborative research reports, both oral and written, and a some of the issues I had with developing better communication skills over the past 45 years or so; 2. oral presentations and slides, and, 3. written scientific and engineering manuscripts including theses.
With respect to oral presentations and slides, usually less is more. The level of sophistication in your talk depends on the nature of the audience that you are addressing. I use a story board approach much like the animators for cartoons, to lay out all slides on a single piece of paper each slide representing one minute of my presentation. This approach provides an overview much as the outline development below does for writing manuscripts. Try to restrict each slide to only 1 to 3 points. Slides explaining the basic background information needed to understand key result slides are sometimes necessary depending on the breadth of disciplines in your audience. Almost all data slides should have a conclusion. Animations, to enlighten the audience are useful, but be careful not to overdo the animation. The last few slides give summary and conclusions with a final slide asking for questions and/or comments.
One of the hallmarks of a well-written scientific and/or engineering manuscript is that a knowledgeable reader should be able to understand duplicate the studies that are described. It is usually easier to prepare a manuscript if you have already given a talk, especially if you have prepared a preliminary, private talk, say for your research group meeting. After a comprehensive check of the relevant literature, you should have some if not all of the data tabulated and/or as a graph. Two thirds of your manuscript preparation consists of preparing an workable outline with tables and figures. A preliminary outline, with tables and figures, is prepared followed by a revised outline to eliminate logic gaps in your data and/or knowledge leading to reliable conclusions. If a serious gap(s) exists, you may have to do more experiments. Of course, your outline will take different forms for a scientific/engineering technical report, a review paper, or a journal article. Some examples for each of these outlines will be given. Since some journals require specific outlines, you and your team should select the journal to which the manuscript is to be submitted before organizing the manuscript. Once you have a stable outline, figures and tables and a list of references, the writing is straightforward. Technical writers should never suffer from writers block as you always have the materials and methods section that can and often should be written first. I also will give a variety of common mistakes that I have made and learned not to do again, for the most part.
James H. Adair is a Professor in Materials Science and Engineering, Bioengineering and Pharmacology at The Pennsylvania State University. His research and teaching interests include biological-nanoscale composite particulates for nanomedical applications, colloid and interfacial chemistry, material chemistry, nanoparticle characterization, and ceramic and metal particulate processing.
Dr. Adair received his A.A. degree in Chemistry from Palm Beach Junior College (1972), and B.S. in Chemistry (1975) and M.S. (1979) and Ph.D. (1981) in Materials Science and Engineering, all from the University of Florida. From 1981-1982, he was a Fulbright Post-Doctoral Fellow at the University of Western Australia in the Department of Soil Science and Plant Nutrition and the Royal Perth Hospital where he studied the biophysical chemistry origin of pathological biomineralization including human kidney stone disease. Dr. Adair was a Principal Research Scientist at Battelle Memorial Institute from 1982-1986. He joined Penn State as a Research Associate at the Materials Research Lab from 1986-1990. Adair was a faculty member from 1990 to 1997 at the University of Florida. He has been at Penn State as a Professor of Materials Science and Engineering since 1998. In 2012, he received courtesy faculty appointments in Biomedical Engineering and Pharmacology. He co-founded Keystone Nano, Inc. in 2005 and serves as chief science officer. Dr. Adair is the author or co-author of over 250 publications, seventeen patents with numerous other foreign patents, many technical reports to sponsoring agencies, and several copyrights on computer software. He has been chair or co-chair of many symposia related to materials chemistry and colloid and powder processing science at American Ceramic Society and American Chemical Society at national and international meetings. He is also the co-editor of twelve books including the Handbook of Characterization Techniques for the Solid-Solution Interface.
Dr. Adair is a Fellow of the American Ceramic Society and the World Academy of Ceramics, and holds membership in the American Chemical Society, Materials Research Society, and the New York Academy of Sciences. He was elected as an Academician in the Science Division of the World Academy of Ceramics in 2005. He is past Chair of the Basic Science Division of the American Ceramic Society and has served in various capacities in the American Ceramic Society at both the local and national level. He was named one of the International Men of Achievement in 1996. Dr. Adair has also received recognition for his inventions by Battelle Memorial Institute, Cabot Corporation, the University of Florida, and The Pennsylvania State University. He has received several awards for innovations in teaching and research while on the faculty at the University of Florida and at Penn State and is the originator of the Materials Chemistry course developed and taught originally at the University of Florida and now Penn State to engineering freshmen. He received one of six Faculty Scholar Medals awarded at Penn State in 2017, his for Entrepreneurship. In 2018, he was named the Inventor of the Year by Penn State University.