Color Within the … Flu Virus?

This flu season, scientists want the public to see the virus through the lens of creativity—and hopefully learn something in the process.

Seema Lakdawala, assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics in the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, teamed up with a virus researcher and an artist in England to create scientifically accurate worksheets and games that explain new discoveries involving influenza.

“Sharing our latest findings in scientific journal articles is a crucial part of making progress in science, but detailed explanations of cutting-edge research are not usually very accessible to non-specialist readers,” Lakdawala said.

“Like most scientists, we want to be able to share our excitement about what we do and make the topics we work on more accessible to the public who fund our work and who will, we hope, benefit from it in the future.”

The materials include a coloring page, an infographic with influenza facts, a word find and a connect-the-dots exercise. All are free to download or print in a special edition of the journal Virusesavailable online. The activities are embedded with clearly worded explanations of the latest research on the flu, which annually presents a major health care challenge worldwide.

“Effective science communication comes from many sources, including professional science communicators, journalists and educators. Ideally it should also come from scientists themselves,” Lakdawala said. “We hope this fun way of explaining our research makes our discoveries more accessible and spreads our excitement about being able to conduct research on influenza viruses.”