Improvisation for Scientists

This innovative program is shepherded by Alan Alda, a founding member of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science. Joining Mr. Alda are Valeri Lantz-Gefroh, lead improv teacher for the Alda Center, Louisa Johnson, M.F.A. from NYU, and three members of Stony Brook University’s Theatre Arts faculty, Lydia Franco-Hodges, Deborah Mayo and Steve Marsh.

The goal of teaching scientists improv is not to turn them into actors, but to free them to talk about their work more spontaneously and directly, to pay dynamic attention to their listeners and to connect personally with their audience.

See a video of improv training

The Alda Center has brought its innovative Improvisation for Scientists workshops to scientific institutions around the nation, including Cornell University, Rockefeller University, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, UCLA, and SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. We also teach Improvisation for Scientists as a course for science graduate students at Stony Brook.
Participants say the improv has helped them in teaching, defending their thesis, and simply explaining their research to people outside their fields. Scientists at all levels, from graduate students to senior scientists, have found it to be illuminating and even transformative.

Read a Few of Our Rave Reviews:


It was as if the three-hour improv session finally, after many years, broke something in my brain loose. I gave the best presentation I have ever given and felt very ‘present’ and in control as I gave it.

– William Gordon III, President and CEO, Tetragenetics Inc.

The scientists spoke in a much more audience-focused way. You really felt after these exercises like they were talking to you, and it made a huge difference.

– Jeanne D’Ascoli, Manager of Community Relations, Brookhaven National Laboratory

The principles and concepts and approaches will find their way into almost everything I do, from teaching, to interacting with other faculty and administrators, to developing workshops for grad students,to working with my institution’s PR staff, to the way I think about the media, and the way I write.

– Morris Grubbs, Assistant Dean of the Graduate School, University of Kentucky

It is astonishing the level of self-awareness one achieves in a short amount of time during the Improv sessions. It then is even more remarkable how that then impacts how one relates to the audience even for someone like myself who has been giving scientific presentations for decades.

– James J. Manfredi, Professor, Department of Oncological Sciences, Mount Sinai School of Medicine

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A Sample of Improvisation for Scientists: