Seven storytellers shared five-minute tales to a virtual audience including fellow researchers, supporters, and the general public. Tellers included graduate students, postdocs, and staff from across the McGovern Institute – each with a unique interpretation of resilience.

The event was moderated by Kirsty Bennett, founder of MIT’s storytelling group MITell, and stories were judged by Maddie Sofia, host of NPR’s daily science podcast ShortWave, and Tina Hesman Saey, senior writer at ScienceNews. Judges selected their winner based on three criteria: relevance to the theme, clarity of scientific concepts, and originality of story.

Sofia and Saey selected Kristy Johnson, a McGovern Institute and Media Lab doctoral student, as the winner of the slam. Johnson told an emotional story about how her son’s diagnosis of a rare genetic disorder changed the trajectory of her personal and professional life.

“As a person who professionally tells science stories, I have to say that Kristy did so many beautiful things in her story,” explained Sofia of their choice. “She did a great job of doing something we call sign posting which leaving us little things along the way that we’re going to find. There was a big climatic moment and a beautiful resolution.”

Both Sofia and Saey commended all of the tellers for their stories, adding that “it’s not easy to tell a story, it’s not easy to tell a personal story, and it’s not easy to tell a story over zoom.”


Jill Crittenden  |  Scientific Advisor, McGovern Institute
Dipon Ghosh  |  Postdoctoral Fellow, Horvitz Lab
Kristy Johnson  |  Graduate Student, Gabrieli Lab / Media Lab
Shannon Johnson  |  Graduate Student, Boyden Lab / Media Lab
Heather Kosakowski  | Graduate Student, Saxe and Kanwisher Labs
Ola Ozernov-Palchik  |  Postdoctoral Associate, Gabrieli Lab
Mahdi Ramadan  |  Graduate Student, Jazayeri Lab

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