Spring Graduate Course: CHE494 – Science Writing and Communication

CHE 494

Dr. Timothy (Tim) French is an Assistant Professor in the Chemistry Department, and is offering a new course for Graduate students in the spring. We asked him about the new course and why he developed it. Check out our conversation below!

Why did you decide to develop a curriculum for a writing intensive chemistry course?

Over the past few years, the faculty of our department have had many informal conversations on how to improve student writing in our laboratory courses. This led to a brainstorming session between WRD (Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse) and CSH (College of Science and Health) faculyt to discuss effective strategies in teaching writing. As a result of this discussion, I contacted Dr. Sarah Read in WRD, with whom I’ll be team-teaching this course, about creating a graduate course on science writing and communication. We applied for and were awarded a Collaborative Instruction Fellow Stipend by DePaul for the creation of this course. I am very interested in interdisciplinary efforts between chemistry and other fields. Hopefully, this will lead to further collaborations within DePaul, especially between CSH and LASS (Liberal Arts and Social Sciences).

Why are you most excited about teaching this course?

Part of the excitement, comes from the fact that this is not a “typical” science course. Journal articles are, in effect, persuasive pieces of writing. You are making scientific claims about a given system and are trying to convince others of your point using experimental data as evidence. The data doesn’t become “science” until it’s formulated in writing. In the course, we’ll be focusing on the meaning of scientific facts, the formation of scientific arguments, and writing for different audiences. We’re also planning on having a poster session at the end of the quarter for students to better hone their presentation skills.

Why would you recommend students take this course? Why is it important that chemistry students take a writing intensive course? What are the benefits of taking CHE494?

People can always become better writers and the way you do that is by practicing. By focusing on scientific writing as a discipline, rather than an exercise in formatting and grammar, we can better understand the various rhetorical techniques scientists use to make cogent scientific arguments. It’s important for chemistry students to learn these ideas in order to join the community of professional chemists and to become better scientists in general.

What students would you recommend to take this course?

The course is open to all chemistry graduate students. Anyone interested in how to better formulate strong and compelling scientific arguments and communicate science to a variety of audiences should take this course.



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