Attention, All Scientists: Do Improv, With Alan Alda’s Help

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — Martha Furie stormed into the room and huffily sat down in a chair.

“Well, you know, I’ve been working really hard, studying Lyme disease,” she said, her voice tinged with disdain, to the woman sitting in the next chair. “It’s been a long process. It’s hard to talk about it.”

The other woman, Bernadette Holdener, was somewhat befuddled. ”How does it make you feel?” she asked.

“Lyme disease?” Dr. Furie sneered. “It can have all sorts of bad things.”

The two were participating in an improvisational acting exercise a couple of Fridays ago. But they are not aspiring actresses or comedians. Dr. Furie is a professor of pathology at Stony Brook University, Dr. Holdener a professor of biochemistry and cell biology.

“Now, I’m convinced,” she said. And she got to play the role of the wronged sister.

“That was crazy,” Dr. Furie said. “I’m actually not a person who puts myself out there. I can’t believe I did that.”

An earlier version of this article misstated the day of the workshop. It was Friday, Feb. 20, not Saturday, Feb. 21.

A version of this article appears in print on March 3, 2015, on page D1 of the New York edition with the headline: Attention, All Scientists: Do Improv, With Alan Alda’s Help. Order Reprints| Today’s Paper|Subscribe

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