Build Trust in Science

Apr 12, 2021

A paid fellowship focuses on communicating facts about COVID-19 vaccine.

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Cal U undergraduates can learn to build trust in science by taking part in a paid fellowship opportunity this summer.

A $750 stipend is available to students who join a weekly Zoom call and dedicate a minimum of five hours per week to the Undergraduate Science Outreach Fellowship Program: Addressing COVID-19 Vaccine Hesitancy.

The 10-week, non-credit program begins June 7 and concludes August 13. Five students will be accepted. A local address is not required; Cal U undergraduates can participate from any location.

Applications are due by April 21, 2021.

“2020 has laid bare the failure of science communication, particularly the need to build trust between scientists and diverse communities,” said program coordinator Dr. Michelle Valkanas, a microbiology instructor in the Department of Biology, Geology and Environmental Sciences.

“Now more than ever there is a need for effective and accessible science outreach.”

Students who are accepted for the program will learn how to convey scientific information effectively and develop outreach programs that inform and build trust.

Activities will focus specifically on ways to communicate effectively about the COVID-19 virus and vaccine. A summer-long project will aim to reduce “vaccine hesitancy” in Pittsburgh and California, Pa.

“Many factors influence vaccine decision-making,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “However, confidence in the vaccines, the vaccinator and the system all support the decision to get vaccinated.

“Strong confidence in the vaccines within communities leads to more people getting vaccinated, which leads to fewer COVID-19 illnesses, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

How to apply

To apply for the program, students should submit their resume, as well as a personal education and career goal statement of 500 words or less.

“Tell me about your abilities and interest in science communication and outreach,” Valkanas said, “and explain what you hope to get out of the training program.”

Completed applications should be submitted no later than April 21 to Valkanas also is available to answer questions about the fellowship.