Effective Communication with Terre Nicholson – Ep #60

Working as a geotechnical engineer, or any technical field, requires a highly-trained skillset. Years of education and training are needed to prepare for a career in the STEM fields. However, the high-quality institutions that educate students in those fields are not always as focused on teaching them other skills that are beneficial in the workplace. There are ways to learn these skills, however, as this week’s guest knows well.

Terre Nicholson is Principal Consultant at HD Geo, a consulting firm in New Zealand specializing in geotechnical engineering, contaminated land, and observation. Terre has more than 30 years of experience in project and environmental management. She has also served as Bureau Chief of the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection. 

Terre earned her bachelor’s degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. There she worked as an engineer in training in Occupational Hygiene at the Nevada Test Site. She also received her diploma in Hazardous Materials Management at the University of California Davis. 

What You’ll Hear On This Episode of When Science Speaks

  • [01:06] Mark introduces his guest, Terre Nicholson
  • [03:15] The differences of working in the United States and New Zealand
  • [05:13] Effectively engaging stakeholders
  • [08:42] Terre’s time as the Bureau Chief of the Nevada Division Environmental Protection
  • [11:01] Terre shares a story from her experience in policymaking
  • [19:50] The key to success is perseverance
  • [23:38] When empathy is fake

Connect with Terre Nicholson

Effectively engaging stakeholders as a scientist

One of the most underrated skills for someone who works in STEM fields is communication. Technical fields are very focused on developing the skills inherent to a chosen field, and understandably so. But what are some of the possible ways to overcome this? What are some other, non-technical skills that professionals and students can learn to become better communicators? Terre has some great insight on this topic this week.

One way Terre talks about to improve these areas is education. Terre took a class on risk communication. In that course, she learned that empathy is key. When communicating with someone it is helpful to imagine their point of view and understand that they are entitled to their opinion. Many people just don’t have complete knowledge of a subject and it is important to convey your point without making them feel stupid.

Perseverance in the face of cancer

In 2006 Terre was diagnosed with breast cancer. She underwent treatment and overcame it, but the cancer came back not long after that. But this time her breast cancer was diagnosed as stage four, which is terminal. There are drugs and treatments that are available, but for Terre, who lived in New Zealand, those drugs had an astronomical cost. 

After a struggle with what to do and who to look to for help, Terre ended up working with the Breast Cancer Coalition. Terre found a sympathetic ear in Parliament and was able to speak at that governmental body. Terre and over 250 people marched on Parliament and she was able to share her story. As a result of her efforts, Terre’s petition has garnered over fifty thousand signatures. 

Learn more about Terre Nicholson on this week’s episode of When Science Speaks.

Connect With Mark and When Science Speaks

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