MIT science communication

Last Updated on January 18, 2023

Graduate Program in Science Writing

The MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing is an opportunity to contribute to public understanding of science, medicine, engineering, and technology. It teaches the art and discipline of science writing to English majors, science majors, freelance writers, journalists seeking a specialty, working scientists, and others.

It’s a chance to work closely with a distinguished core faculty of award-winning journalists, authors, and scholars within one of the most exciting scientific communities in the world.

And it’s a place to produce news articles, features, essays, and radio/video broadcasts about lasers and genes, capillaries and quarks.

Where do our Graduate Program in Science Writing alumni work?

Science Writer, General InterestPublicationWriter for Non-Profit/UniversityFreelancer/IndependentEditorWriter for Science PublicationMedia ProductionEducatorOther19%19%17%4%6%15%17%

IndustryNumber
Science Writer, General Interest Publication19
Writer for Non-Profit/University19
Freelancer/Independent17
Editor15
Writer for Science Publication6
Media Production4
Educator3
Other17

(Chart last updated: September 2018)

STS.034 Science Communication: A Practical Guide

Fall 2011

Mondays and Wednesdays, 11 am – 12:30 pm in 1-246
HASS-H, CI-H (enrollment limited to 25 students)
3-0-9 units

Scientists and engineers need to be able to communicate about their work – to funders, to policy-makers, to journalists, to relatives and friends, and, of course, to each other. Today, more than ever, people with scientific expertise who can convey complicated ideas to a wide variety of audiences are in high demand! Indeed, the ability to communicate clearly and engagingly with the public has been critical to the success of many of the world’s most respected scientists and engineers.

This course develops students’ abilities to communicate science effectively in the real world. Starting with the key elements of clear and persuasive speaking, writing and exhibiting, the course considers a range of issues including communicating complex material, visualization, and dealing with controversial issues; and it covers specialist topics like giving live interviews for broadcast, being an expert witness, preparing briefings for policy-makers, and creating engaging museum displays.

Each week, the course will move between academic seminars designed to introduce key principles and practical workshops aimed at cultivating communication skills. Students will undertake a major project  in science writing or museum exhibiting. For their science writing project, students may elect to develop a news analysis, podcast or Op-Ed for possible publication; and for their museum project, they will work on Rivers of Ice, a new exhibition under development in the MIT Museum that deals with the work of mountaineer and photographer David Breashears on climate change in the Himalayas.

STS.034 will be team taught by Adjunct Professor and MIT Museum Director John Durant and Broad Institute Senior Science Policy Adviser Bina Venkataraman, who directs strategy, research and writing projects for Professor Eric Lander in his capacity as Co-Chair of President Obama’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. In addition, special projects on Rivers of Ice will be supported by MIT Museum staff members Allan Doyle and Seth Riskin.

Undergraduate

The core belief of STS studies is that science, technology, and society need to be understood as an integrated whole. The core philosophy of the STS undergraduate program is that an STS perspective needs to be integrated with the rest of the curriculum rather than being bracketed off as a separate entity.

Because of this philosophy, at the present we do not offer an independent major, but instead focus our undergraduate efforts on offering students a range of attractive classes (both free-standing and collaborative), a minor, a concentration, a joint major, and a second major.

The free-standing classes are intended to introduce students to the basic vocabulary and concepts of interdisciplinary STS studies, as well as to some of the fundamental disciplines that have been so important in developing STS studies. For example, we offer popular undergraduate classes in the history of science, the history of technology, and ethical issues raised by modern science and technology.

The STS Program also offers collaborative classes (sometimes joint-listed, sometimes not) that integrate an STS perspective with the subject matter featured by other departments at MIT. For example, we offer classes in collaboration with Physics and Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Examples of Science, Technology, and Society courses can be found on MIT OpenCourseWare.

Graduate Program

MIT’s doctoral program in History, Anthropology, and Science, Technology and Society (HASTS) is widely recognized as one of the best of its type in the world. Co-sponsored by STS, the Anthropology Program, and the History Faculty, it is a flagship program in the humanities at MIT.

When it was created in 1988, it was the first new doctoral program approved by the MIT Faculty in over 20 years, and remains one of only two MIT doctoral programs in the humanities (the other is in philosophy).

The HASTS graduate program is deeply interdisciplinary. On one level, it seeks to integrate the perspectives of history and the social sciences in understanding the technological world. It goes further, however, by seeking to integrate both these with the study of science and engineering. For example, faculty and students in the HASTS program collaborate with other MIT faculty and students in the Engineering Systems Division and in the Health Sciences and Technology degree program.

Obviously it is impossible for any program to cover the full range of problems raised by the multiple interactions of history, social studies, science, and technology. As you will see from other parts of this website (especially Faculty, Calendar, and Connections), the HASTS program has developed particular strengths primarily dependent upon the research interests of various faculty members.

The educational philosophy of the program assumes that it is the responsibility of doctoral students to take the initiative to use the resources of HASTS, and of MIT more generally, to develop their own approach to STS studies. The most successful students show a high degree of initiative in doing this and enjoy the relatively open-ended nature of the HASTS program.

The faculty members associated with the HASTS program, for their part, assume the responsibility of teaching the graduate courses; discussing and evaluating student performance; working closely with individual students in tutorials, reading classes, and dissertation preparation; making sure that students make good progress in their studies with appropriate practical support to deal with financial, employment, and career issues; admitting new students; and assessing the overall effectiveness of the program.

The HASTS program is administered by STS on behalf of the three collaborating units.

For more information about the HASTS program, including a list of studentsfacultyresearch areas, and admissions, please visit the HASTS website, or contact the STS Academic Administrator

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