Short Term Practicum: Science Journalism and Outreach

Lead Instructor: Laura Poppick ’10

Explore the varied career paths in science communication through interactive coursework in news writing, radio production, and museum exhibit development.  Develop engaging story and exhibit ideas, write pitches and conduct reporting with guidance from professional magazine editors, podcast producers, and exhibit developers. Join Bates scientists in the lab and field in search of story material, develop your own podcast episode, and design an interactive science exhibit. By the end of the course, students will have refined their writing and storytelling skills with clips to prove it and tools they need to pitch ideas of their own.

The Science Journalism and Outreach course will include interactive workshopping sessions, guest presentations from other professionals in the field, and field trips related to science news writing; radio and podcast production; and museum exhibit development. Each section of the course will include an in-person or Skype lecture from guest instructors who will provide supplemental insights from these different fields.

The purpose of the course is to offer students a taste of different opportunities in science communication, and generally give students a sense of science-related career options outside of research and academia. By conducting on-the-ground reporting and developing a portfolio of closely edited work, students will gain the types of skills and materials they would need to apply for a job in science communication.

The storytelling, writing, and presentation skills developed in this course are integral to a career in this field, but are also transferable and valuable to many other professions that require clear and engaging communication.

Students who have taken BIO 126, Science Communication, and FYS 465, Communicating Science to the Public, may not register for this PTC.

Class Times: M, W, Th 9-12 & 1-2:30

Major and GEC Credit: ES Major, elective in the Human Culture Concentration; GEC credit for Evidence: Documentation and Reality (017)

Learning Objectives:

  • Develop a newsworthy idea and write a pitch about it.
  • Conduct interviews for a news story.
  • Refine writing and editing skills.
  • Plan and produce a short podcast episode.
  • Design digital plans and physical prototypes for an interactive science exhibit.

Instructor Bio:

Laura Poppick is a freelance journalist who covers science, technology, and environmental change. Her stories have appeared in Wired, Smithsonian, Audubon, Science, and other national magazines and newspapers. She has also produced communications materials for the American Chemical Society, Stanford University, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, and elsewhere.

Ms. Poppick got her start in science communication by working as Assistant Editor of Maine Climate News, the Maine State Climatologist’s online newsletter. She later pursued a graduate degree in science communication from the University of California Santa Cruz, graduating in 2013. After graduating, she pursued freelance writing while also working as the Science Coordinator at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine in Portland where she helped design new science exhibits and updated content for existing exhibits. She now works as a full-time freelance writer based in Portland, ME.

Ms. Poppick earned a bachelor’s of science degree in geology at Bates College in 2010.