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Introduction to Science Writing

ENGL 157.301
Tuesday 1:30-4:30

Science, technology, medicine: all race ahead, while much of our society lags woefully behind. “Behind,” that is, in terms of comprehension and in terms of the ability to form coherent opinions and make informed judgments. Think global warming, GMOs, AI, life-extending medical technologies, data mining by government and business, drone strikes. We need inspired explainers to report on how new science and technology change the way we live. This is a writing course, organized as a workshop. You will be going out into the local environment to report on science and people who are doing science, at Penn and Penn Medicine, at Drexel, etc. You will build in the first half of the course toward an integrated narrative piece about a scientist (engineer, doctor, computer scientist, etc.) in her or his environment, and you will learn techniques of the interview, of finding and working with quotes, of recognizing “significant details,” and of drawing a portrait of another human being.  You will also work to translate the technical, jargon-impaired patois of the scientist/engineer into prose: sometimes workmanlike, sometimes lyrical, but always clarifying. You will practice the art of making metaphors. The second half of the course will move forward in ways you will help decide. Every week, you will be reading and writing. The instructor is a highly enthusiastic explainer who has devoted most of his career to learning and writing about leading-edge technologies and new areas of scientific research. He wants to pass the baton to you, whose talents are so urgently needed by a society that lags behind as science, technology, medicine all race ahead. Please join me.

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