Writing a Bio and Essay for a Teen Audience
Café Scientifique New Mexico’s Teen Science Café organizers ask their presenters to compose a short essay that captures the essence of the presenter’s topic and a short informal bio that captures their unique story about how you got into their career. The essay and bio get posted on the program website. Bios and essays for previous CaféNM presenters can be found at http://cafenm.org/archive.html
Your Bio: In the bio, you tell your own personal story. We want to get across to teens that a scientist is a real, complex, multidimensional human, like them, with his or her own unique set of motivations, delights, abilities, and baggage. Teens want to know how you got from a state of cluelessness about a future career in high school to successfully landing in the right career path. It is much more engaging to the teens if a picture of the real person emerges. Telling that story is a hook for pulling the students into the science story.
Think about these questions:
What was your life like growing up in the years before college? What particular experiences shaped your inclination toward science, technology, engineering or mathematics?
How did your education—formal and otherwise—prepare you for your career?
Has your career path been linear, or had twists and turns? Triumphs and setbacks?
What drives you in doing your work? What rewards make it worth the effort?
How did you arrive in your present position and your present research?
Do you have interests and talents outside of your work that you could share? How do you mesh your work life with the rest of your life?
What is the Most Important Thing about you that explains why you are a scientist, technologist, engineer or mathematician?
Your Essay: Your essay will set the stage for your presentation. Some tips for an effective essay:
Know your audience. Assume that the high school teens know nothing about your topic. They will readily engage with an essay on some hot science topic if it is accessible to them, so write it at their level. Avoid jargon and technical terms.
Don’t try to cover the whole breadth of the topic, thus creating too many new mental pictures to process at once. Better to organize your essay—and later your presentation—around one essential provocative idea or concept— the Most Important Thing—and let everything flow to it. As you write, think in terms of telling an interesting story. And, convey to the audience that there are many unknowns about your work that are still to be explored. That will lead to a good conversation.
Make it personal. The teens will be very interested in you personally, and will respond to a narrative in which you describe your own pathway to and through the research.