Client showcase: Shelly DeForte, biomathematician

640px-1a5r_sumo-1_proteinAs a full-service science communications agency staffed with editors, designers, writers and more, Talk Science to Me takes great pride in supporting all our clients by presenting their science in effective and engaging ways. Although most of our portfolio comprises larger organizations and institutions, we also work with individual authors and researchers to manage their writing and publishing needs.

One of our academic authors is biomathematician Shelly DeForte, who recently took up a post-doctoral position in bioinformatics at the University of Montreal. She describes her position as fully involved in supporting the research projects of a biochemistry lab by “writing custom code to do custom analysis” on the data.

Shelly’s work focuses on artificial intelligence, machine learning and in

Understanding water use in BC

I recently found out that over 95% of the electricity produced by BC Hydro comes from hydroelectric sources, which floored me. I grew up in Alberta, where the majority of power comes from coal and natural gas, so my concept of electricity sources doesn’t include water, except for as a possible “alternative” energy source. But there’s nothing alternative about 95%. And after thinking “Wow! That’s amazing!” I started asking questions: How much water do we even have? What about drinking water? What about the fish?

Aerial picture of BC's Revelstoke Dam. (C) Kelownian Pilot 2007 (CC-BY-SA-3.0.)Those are big questions, and really important ones. We’ve used dams for over 100 years in BC, so it’s critical for us to examine their impact on our ecosystem. BC Hydro predicts that demand for electricity in BC will grow by 40% over the next 20 years, so our reliance on hydroelectricity and the future of water use in BC is a major issue.

One way that BC Hydro is answering those questions is by engaging in water use planning. A water use plan sets specific and

Exquisite Love: From ancient text to e-book

In 2014, Talk Science proofread, indexed and designed the second edition of Exquisite Love: Reflections on the spiritual life based on Nārada’s Bhakti Sūtra by William K. Mahony. The Bhakti Sūtra is a set of 84 statements on the nature of divine love. It was written, in Sanskrit, sometime in the tenth or eleventh century.


In Exquisite Love, Mahony translates the Bhakti Sūtra into English and provides commentary on each of the statements. It’s a beautiful book, and we loved working on it. Now we’re thrilled to be converting it to e-book format.

Creating e-books is a challenge because the design isn’t static: readers have the power to change the formatting to suit their needs by adjusting the font size, zooming in and out, displaying the text in columns, changing the screen brightness, and choosing the background and text colours. And given the huge number of devices out there, there is no way to predict the choices readers will make.

This reader control is part of what makes e-books awesome, but it also makes preparing and proofreading an e-book extra interesting. With a print book, what the proofreader sees

Peeking in the designer’s toolbox

Mari’s and Jeff’s studios probably don’t look like this. Amphitheatrum sapientiae aeternae - Alchemist's Laboratory, by Hans Vredeman de Vries (Public Domain)I am amazed by what our designers can do. I copy-edit a document and send it to Talk Science to Me designers Mari Chijiiwa or Jeff Werner as a Word file, just blocks of black and white text for pages on end. Then they work their alchemical magic and return it as a beautiful PDF file, with colours, images, graphics, pull quotes and stylized headings.

Until recently, I’ve only had a vague idea of what Mari and Jeff actually do, but back in July I attended a two-day InDesign workshop through the SFU Publishing Workshops. The workshop was excellent, and I learned a lot of technical skills, but most valuable—and something I hadn’t expected—was the new appreciation I now have for my team members’ tools.

I’ve always considered the Adobe Creative Suite to be someone else’s tools: valuable and powerful, but not mine to concern myself with. At