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#009 From Curiosity to Science Communication: Facts&Reason

Author: Ambra VILLANI | Researcher at University of Zürich | Co-founder, Manager and outreach at Facts&Reasons, Switzerland.


From the earliest days of my childhood, I found comfort in the wonders of the natural world. Whether constructing my own games in my room or examining the intricate details of leaves and insects with a simple microscope gifted by my father, I was always driven by an insatiable curiosity about life and its mysteries. It was this innate sense of wonder that ignited my passion for science and set me on a path of exploration and discovery.

photo of Ambra Villani at the sea

This passion never faded throughout my years of formal education. While contemplating whether to pursue veterinary or medical studies, it was my high school science teacher who encouraged me to delve deeper into the realms of biology. Therefore, I embarked on an academic exploration, opting to study medical biotechnology in Milan, Italy, my hometown—a decision that would profoundly shape the trajectory of my life. However, it was during my master's studies, where I ventured to the United States for my thesis at Yale University, that I truly learned the value of stepping out of my comfort zone and forging my own path. It was a transformative experience that taught me the importance of perseverance and self-belief.



Photo of Ambra and Kamil

Transitioning to my Ph.D. studies at EMBL Heidelberg in 2015 marked a pivotal moment in my academic journey. Immersed in a vibrant community of scientists, I delved into the intricacies of developmental biology while simultaneously exploring the realm of science communication. From science slams to outreach programs, I was for the first time exposed to science communication. It was during this time that I also met my husband, Kamil Wolanin, who was pursuing his own Ph.D. at Heidelberg University—a serendipitous encounter that would shape both my personal and professional life.


After completing the Ph.D. in 2018, we relocated to Switzerland, where I embraced a role as a senior scientist at the University of Zurich. Despite the demands of research and academic life, my passion for discovery burns as brightly as ever. I find immense joy in investigating new phenomena, challenging existing paradigms, and imparting knowledge to the next generation of scientists through teaching and mentorship.


Photo of ambra villani at a conference

Driven by a desire to bridge the gap between science and the public, Kamil and I embarked on a journey that would lead to the creation of Facts&Reasons—a science communication project born out of necessity during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Motivated by the rampant spread of misinformation, we were inspired by the idea of utilizing our scientific background to contribute positively to public discourse. Starting as just two individuals with a shared vision, we quickly grew into a formidable team of over 10 passionate individuals dedicated to combating misinformation and promoting evidence-based dialogue.


Since our humble beginnings, Facts&Reasons has evolved into a dynamic platform, boasting a rich repository of over 80 articles meticulously crafted to disseminate accurate scientific information. These articles are not only translated into multiple languages but are also supplemented with illustrations and video summaries to enhance accessibility and engagement. Our presence on various social media platforms has allowed us to reach a wider audience, while also providing a platform for external authors to contribute their expertise and insights. By featuring other science communication projects, we aim to foster a robust network of communicators committed to promoting scientific literacy and critical thinking.


Encouraged by the knowledge I acquired, largely through self-teaching and collaboration with like-minded individuals at Facts&Reasons, I felt compelled to share this expertise. Teaming up with Silvie Cuperus, the head of communication and events in Life Science Zurich, we set out to establish a science communication workshop aimed at empowering young researchers at UZH and ETH. Together, we assembled an organizing team of 10 dedicated individuals based in Zurich, secured funding, and successfully launched our inaugural science communication workshop. Recently concluded, this first edition has provided participants with invaluable tools and skills to effectively communicate their research findings and engage with diverse audiences. The enthusiastic response from attendees serves as a testament to the transformative power of education and outreach in fostering a more informed and engaged society.


Ambra giving a talk holding a microphone

Today, as I reflect on my journey from childhood curiosity to researcher and science communication advocate, I am filled with gratitude for the opportunities that have shaped my path. With each new endeavor, I am reminded of the transformative power of curiosity and the potential of knowledge. As I continue to pursue my dual passions of research and science communication, I am committed to inspiring others to embrace the wonders of science and join us in our mission to foster a more informed and enlightened society.

 

To know more about Ambra, check out her ORCID and LinkedIn profiles.

Find all Facts&Reasons links here.

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