This article is more than 5 years old

Communicating research creatively. With cake.

Paul Greatrix looks at the trend of communicating your research via the medium of baked goods.
This article is more than 5 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

There have been a number of interesting and distinctive ways for doctoral students to present their PhDs in recent years. In addition to the very popular “Dance your PhD” approach there was this rap produced by a PhD candidate.

Now we have the very novel ‘Bake your Thesis’ competition courtesy of a Canadian university.

The entries included new methods for calculating membrane permeability represented via a trio of cakes, Canada’s immigrant communities rendered in fondant on a cake and the experience of trauma depicted as a cinnamon bun:

Coming up with the baked portion of the presentation was only one part of Bake Your Thesis. Each scholar – all from different fields of study, including chemistry, nursing and sociology – had to write an explanation of their research in a format that would be understandable to non-academics.
“It’s not just having fun,” said Francesca Boschetti, who both helped put the competition together and participated (with a cake that represents her PhD research on food, foodways and identity in Canadian immigrant literature). “We’re also trying to communicate our research in a way that is recognisable to the general public.”

And as this effort by Fatemeh Sajadi, whose trio of cakes represents her doctoral research on new methods for calculating membrane permeability, demonstrates, there are plenty of ways to communicate research findings creatively:

“It could be a way to get a fresh perspective,” said Ms. Boschetti, whose entry was jointly awarded “most flavourful” with entrant Bahar Haghighat. Memorial tries to provide opportunities for public scholarship for its graduate students, and events like Bake Your Thesis offer an alternative to the usual research-communication competitions, said Aimée Surprenant, Dean of Graduate Studies. “It gives them a creative outlet for trying to figure out how to communicate their work.”

Outside North America the University of Otago has also run a similar competition. Meanwhile, in the UK, the University of Southampton and the University of Brighton have also gone down this route.

Let’s have more of this kind of creativity in the year ahead. Indeed, ‘Bake your HE Policy’ should be the next thing I reckon.

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