Music, humor reign at Nebraska’s latest science slam Nebraska Today

“She is a super learning! Super teaching! Super teacher…Yyyeeeeoowww!”

Pulling off a parody of “Super Freak” that makes “Weird Al” Yankovic proud, Crystal Uminsky recently put on a show that earned her cheers, a $1,000 prize and the top spot in the latest Science Slam from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. .

Held Aug. 18, the virtual, live-streamed event continued Nebraska’s legacy as a first. US The University Embraces the Science Slam: A sibling of the Poetry Slam whose artists compete to communicate their science with as much skill, style, and wit as they can muster.

Uminski passed the muster with her musical tribute to the late Rick James and the show’s prompt, “Tell us about a time during your research that you discovered something was wrong.” Inspired by a panel from Nathan Pyle’s comic series “Strange Planet,” the prompt prompts the slammers to consider what knowledge their mistakes have given them, how it’s helped them grow, and how the scientific process benefits from it.

“I think, great scientists, the whole embrace and love has been proven wrong,” said Jocelyn Bosley, event organizer, co-organizer and research impact coordinator for Nebraska’s Office of Research and Economic Development. “What I love about all the talks … is (that) you really get a sense of the emotional journey that is science.

“That’s what science is all about. It’s not just about being objective and in a lab. Science is all experience. It’s been a rollercoaster ride, but it’s a wonderful one.”

Unbeknownst to her, Uminski bought a ticket for that ride the moment she stepped to the head of her high school classroom, after assembling a college transcript full of A’s for the challenge of teaching biology and earth science.

“I was convinced I was going to be a great teacher,” said Uminski, now a three-time Science Slam veteran, first-time winner and doctoral student in biological sciences at Nebraska. “But then I actually started teaching – and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“I would get into these moments where I was just stressed, overworked, underpaid and, like, frantic. And I would choose the best education. I relied too much on lecturing and memorizing facts about science. And surprisingly, no one in my class Not having a good time, myself included. I’d be halfway through this lecture, and half my class was half asleep.”

So Uminsky approached her direction like a scientist would with a research question. He observed: Were his students awake? Were they involved? He collected data in the form of homework questions, quizzes and tests, then analyzed them to evaluate different teaching methods.

“Once I started thinking about education as a science process, I was hooked,” Uminski told the audience, explaining why she decided to study it. Stem– Education based in Nebraska. “But it took me a lot of failures to get to that point, and those failures helped inform what I’m doing now.”

Then came the song, A chapel A tour de force that helped Uminski earn 36% of the 160-plus audience votes and lent credence to the third-time-is-a-charm narrative.

Six other slammers, from undergraduates to graduate students to faculty, also joined the fray. Some were Huskers, performing from the local borders of Lincoln. Others participated from elsewhere in the United States or, in the cases of Jarelis Acevedo of Puerto Rico and Leonardo Pereira of Brazil, even abroad.

If Uminski’s musical style propelled her to victory, it was Pereira’s visual gag that earned her second place — and the biggest laugh of the night. But Perera embeds humor from the start, introducing himself with an absurd bit worthy of “Catch-22.”

“I don’t speak a word of English,” he began, “my life partner and good friend George wrote everything in English for you to understand better. So I read it to you.

“‘Hello everyone. This is George. I wrote everything this idiot Leonardo said.’

George/Leonardo proceeded to shuffle a deck of cards, each containing a possible side effect of the chemotherapy drug. He showed one to the camera – “erectile dysfunction” – asked the audience to remember it, then, like a magician worth his wand, made it disappear. That magic, the Brazilian would explain, comes from Brazil nuts. While studying possible countermeasures to side effects in rats, Pereira found evidence that feeding rats one Brazil nut a day could combat their erectile dysfunction. Two years later? Nada.

George/Leonardo said, “In science, we know that all outcomes are outcomes—even bad ones.” So Leonardo decided to increase the amount of Brazil nuts offered to the rats. We know that Brazil nuts work directly on the testicles,” he said, eating Brazil nuts, “increase testosterone levels,” he continued, “sperm production,” another, “and possibly libido.”

As if by magic, Pereira’s gray necktie began to rise from his white dress shirt at a 120-degree angle, as his eyes darted to the right. Jorge/Leonardo finally got his bearings, pulling the tie down on his shirt before explaining that yes, that many Brazil nuts in one day finally did the trick.

Meanwhile, Winnie Waters told a story that played out as Uminski’s conversation: She enrolled as a doctoral student at Nebraska, hoping to start a career in research. Only later did she reject the notion that she wanted to join academia, which she eventually left to teach high school chemistry in Chicago.

Each of the seven performances illustrated what Husker slammer Ashley Foltz described as “how to succeed when you fail,” whether by mistaking a standard electric run for a technical victory or struggling for a year to pull off. DNA from bacteria in roundworms.

“It’s not just the result; it’s the process,” Bosley said of science. “It’s not about the answers; it’s about the questions. Being wrong raises more questions, sometimes, than being right. And questions are what make progress in science.”

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