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StemCellShorts – Concise, Creative and Clever

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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The following is a guest post by Ben Paylor, a PhD candidate in Experimental Medicine at the University of British Columbia. When he is not living in his van, Ben enjoys playing piano, drinking free wine and appreciating the humorous aspects of our complicated existence.

“I have made this letter longer than usual, only because I have not had the time to make it shorter.”
-Blaise Pascal, 17th century French mathematician, physicist and inventor

This quote on the labour of brevity rings certainly true when we think about audience engagement in science communication. We took it to heart in designing our new series of stem cell educational videos – StemCellShorts

1. What is a stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Jim Till

What is a stem cell? Narrated by Dr. Jim Till from Stem Cell Network on Vimeo.

Sticking to a short ~1 minute duration, each animated piece features a leading Canadian stem cell researcher explaining a basic topic in the field. Written, directed and produced by Dr. Mike Long and myself, we collaborated with award-winning animator David Murawsky and Emmy-nominated sound designer James Wallace to create the final videos (generously funded by a Public Outreach Award from the Stem Cell Network).

2. What are embryonic stem cells? Narrated by Dr. Janet Rossant

What are embryonic stem cells? Narrated by Dr. Janet Rossant from Stem Cell Network on Vimeo.

The joy of communicating science takes academics to all sorts of places they probably never thought they would go. Building upon some previous film work that I have done, the science communicator in me (a semi-secret life I live on the periphery of my PhD) was excited to move into a new medium and embark upon an animation project.

The challenge of boiling down complex topics into simple and engaging narratives is one that all science communicators face, and animation is a powerful form in which to do so. Utilizing a distinctive and playful audiovisual style catered well to partnering the pieces with several high school science outreach websites and programs.

3. What are induced pluripotent stem cells? Narrated by Dr. Mick Bhatia

What are induced pluripotent stem cells? Narrated by Dr. Mick Bhatia from Stem Cell Network on Vimeo.

We are currently working on an additional five videos in this series that will extend the project by explaining different types of tissue-specific stem cells and how they can be applied to create new medical therapies. Further, we are working on lesson plans to have the pieces integrated into classroom environments and are hoping to develop an interactive website to showcase them in their entirety.

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at www.carinbondar.com, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Wayne Williamson 6:02 pm 11/13/2013

    These were really cool videos…Thanks for posting!

    Link to this

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