Feature Friday: Sat Dushyanthen

This Feature Friday, I’m delighted to introduce you to another of our former students, Dr. Sat Dushyanthen, and her YouTube channel, Science in Motion. Sat studied with us during her Masters of Biomedical Science in 2013 to 2014, specialising in oncology.

“Science communication was a core subject at the time. I’m so glad it was – I’d never even heard of it beforehand! Studying science communication opened my eyes to other possibilities in science other than following a traditional career, I thought research was the only thing you could do as a scientist. It was also the most fun and thought provoking class I’d done in my whole education.”

Our awesome former student Sat brings science into motion through videos and animations – image courtesy of Sat

She started to think about how science was communicated and taught within universities. She was in her final year of her Phd studies, researching at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre, when she was offered a place at Melbourne University as a Graduate Programs Lead in creating the Master of Cancer Sciences.

“I actually went for another job that I thought was way out of my league, but decided to give it a shot. You never know if you don’t try right? Anyway I didn’t get that role, but they really liked my skillset and actually created a job for me and asked me to apply. It was working towards creating a specialised degree in cancer – which at the time was one of only two in the world.”

Three years later, Sat and her team have created nine subjects for the Masters degree, and have two more on the way.

“I used a lot of my skills from in my PhD in my current role. Especially how to interpret different styles of complex information from multiple sources, and put it together in a way that’s cohesive and relevant for various audiences. Information from cancer research goes out to doctors, patients, families, physiotherapists, nurses, and so many others, so it has to be accessible to all.”

As she was crafting the course and subjects, she started using different resources to create a more compelling experience for her students. This started as making videos on PowerPoint for her slides, but moved into using Adobe suite softwares like Elements and Premier Pro to make animations to describe more complex topics.

“It felt important to show science as it happens, and that’s where the idea of animations came in.”

If a picture is worth a thousand words, videos must be incredibly powerful! – image courtesy of Sat

During the pandemic in 2020, she became aware that the only thing spreading faster than the virus was misinformation.

“Social media is amazing, it helps spread information around like never before. You can reach so many different people. But I think a lot of researchers and scientists think social media is a bit overwhelming or just simply stay away from it, when in reality they should be the ones out there spreading positive and precise information.”

Seeing the need for accurate information in a digestible format, Sat decided to put her movie-making skills to use to create videos to explain complex science for the general public. In July this year, she launched her YouTube channel, Science in Motion.

“I took media subjects in school, and have always been interest in showing things through motion. That’s where the name came from! Science is so much more than 2D images in a textbook, sometimes pictures can’t do it justice.”

Sat breaks down complicated and current scientific topics, like the science of masks during the pandemic, as well as information about the research process.

“From an educational agenda, I believe education should be open and free. So many resources are available online, and during this age of online learning, many students are turning to YouTube. And from a societal perspective, science is for the public – it’s funded by taxpayers’ dollars. Scientists have the responsibility to promote where the money goes, share their findings and make it accessible and available to anyone who wants to understand it.”

She’s practicing what she preaches, making her content available across a range of social media platforms, from Instagram to Twitter and most recently, TikTok. Sat is always looking to find new ways to present science, and is proud of her claim “I never give the same presentation twice, and never use words on my slides, just GIFS and pictures, and animation of course! I believe in finding the ‘story’ in any topic or concept you are teaching, making it relatable and taking the audience on a journey, so I often use pop culture references.”

In 2019, Sat took part in the FameLab competition. Competitors have three minutes to talk charismatically about their research or a particular topic, and Sat worked the stage to talk about her cancer research.

She says it was daunting at times – being judged by a Nobel Prize laureate and working with some huge names in SciComm, but proved to be an amazing networking opportunity.

“Impostor syndrome was a daily struggle for me, and for a long time it stopped me from giving things a go and pursing a lot of my passions. Don’t be afraid to give something a go just because you don’t know what the outcomes will be, the worst thing you can do is not try.”

Sat tells a story of heroes and villains, where the villain is cancer – image courtesy of Sat

When we talked more about impostor syndrome, Sat mentioned her favourite motivational quote is from Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman to be elected into the United States Congress, who said “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring your own folding chair”.

“That definitely motivates me to show up and give things a try, even if it feels like there are more successful or qualified people than me. You never know when you’ll get lucky. So I definitely try to put my hat into any ring or arena these days. You can’t be what you can’t see. If nothing else, it’s an experience to learn from and hopefully when the time is right, one of those seats will be yours”.

I’ll leave you with this awesome video of Sat’s journey, as she said “I wouldn’t be an animator if I didn’t animate my own life!”

Be sure to check out the Science in Motion website, as well as subscribe to her YouTube Channel, Instagram page @ScienceinMotiongram, Twitter @ScienceMotioner and on TikTok @scienceinmotion.

Written by Rosie Arnold