Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Challenging language barriers

By Lucia Aronica, Max F Perutz Laboratories, Austria

Note: Lucia won the first ever Access to Understanding People's Choice award. Tomorrow the blog will feature her popular piece!

My research field is epigenetics, which means that I am interested in understanding how environmental factors can influence our genes and thereby impact both our health and predisposition to diseases. This scientific passion inspired me to write about Dr. Nigel Belshaw’s study ‘Nutritional factors and gender influenceage-related DNA methylation in the human rectal mucosa’. This research makes an important step towards preventing cancer with a cheap, highly effective, and low-risk approach: diet intervention. Hippocrates said "let medicine be the food and let food be the medicine" and I believe that modern research is finally uncovering the scientific foundation of this ancient wisdom.

Lucia and guests after winning her award.

Winning the People's Choice award was a big achievement for me. Lay people were the intended target of my writing efforts so to have their votes was incredibly rewarding. What inspired me to enter the competition was giving taxpayers insight into the science their money is funding. This is an imperative, often forgotten, issue and I am glad that initiatives like Access to Understanding remind us of its importance.

As English is not my mother tongue, I am especially proud of being shortlisted and winning the People’s Choice award. After the German Famelab 2009, this is the second time I have won a science communication competition in a non-native language. I hope this encourages other scientists to challenge their communication skills across language barriers.

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