W4851 MA Thesis Development Seminar 2

Joshua Drew, Ph.D., Instructor

[email protected]

(212) 854-7807


Wednesday Afternoons 2:30 to 3:50

Course Goal:

Effective conservation requires engaging the public. However scientists have a reputation (perhaps undeserved) as being poor communicators. The purpose of this class is to provide first year MA students with the opportunity to develop a suite of tools to allow them to own their narrative and to practice their scientific voice across media. Students will gain experience in traditional and emerging media and will be involved in producing and editing their own content.

Course Requirements:

Classes each week will consist of lectures on selected topics followed by discussion. The course will incorporate both student presentations and discussions.  Because of the interactive nature of the class, student participation is a critical component of the grade. This class does not fall on any Columbia recognized holidays and there will be no makeups. You will be responsible for all content covered in class.

Student participation:

Everyone in this class should feel comfortable to express an idea, even if the idea is not a popular one. I encourage discussion of intellectual controversy and believe it is how we learn best. We expect all students to abide by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences’ code of academic integrity ( Breaches of the student code such as cheating and plagiarism (that is, taking credit for the work of others) will not be tolerated, and any breaches of the student code will be referred to the Dean’s Office.

Course Evaluation:

This course will consist of lectures, discussions and active learning opportunities, and class participation is going to factor heavily in the grade.  You will have five major assignments.

1) Each student will produce a short documentary.  Each video (5-7 minutes long) will focus on an emerging piece of research occurring in NYC. The research can either be of the students’ own, or will feature a local researcher. The goal will be to produce a video that makes that research accessible to a general audience. Alternatively the goal will be to produce a video suitable for crowdsourcing, in which case the video should be shorter (2-3 minutes long) and focus on a compelling narrative about why the student’s research is worth funding.

2) Students will be required to write a short New York Times style article on a primary piece of literature. They will diagram what pieces of the primary literature form the basis of the paper as well as highlighting external data sources.

3) Students will write a pitch and a script for a TedEd ( style piece on scientific research of their own interest.  Students will work with staff from TedEd to produce and hopefully illustrate this script. Past examples include Dr. Drew’s work here ( and Alyssa Klavin’s work from this class in Spring of 2013 here (

4) Students will contribute to the class research blog. This blog will serve as a platform for discussion of interesting research, and serve as a platform for establishing the students’ research presence. The blog pieces will be about 1000 words long and each student will have to make three per semester. The blogs can be about your own research, a research paper that you enjoyed reading and a broader interest piece about the process of science. The posts will be housed on (my lab webpage) and we will develop a schedule to make sure that the blog is updated regularly.

5) Students will give a final elevator pitch (2 min, no slides, 2 questions from the audience) about their work. The goal will be to get across the main point of your research as well as why it is important.


Video                               20%

Article                              20%

Script                               20%

Semester long blog         10%

Oral presentation             20%

Class participation           10%

Course outline:

January 22th, 2014

Introduction, why communicate science

January 29th, 2014

Science through Press release: The cases of Arsenic Life and Faster than light Neutrinos

February 5th, 2013

Print Media – Tuesday Times

February 12th, 2014

Blogging and digital journalism Guest Lecturer Hannah Waters: Smithsonian Ocean Portal and Scientific American (

February 19th, 2014

Science Online NYC and beyond

February 26th, 2014


March 5th, 2014

Video and documentaries: Guest Lecturer: Lee Stevens: American Museum of Natural History (

March 12th, 2014

TedEd talk: Guest Lecturers Jordan Reeves and Rose Eveleth: Ted Ed (

March 19th, 2014

Spring Break

March 26th, 2014

Owning your narrative: Guest Lecturer Ben Lillie: Story Collider (

April 2nd, 2014

Sexism and Science: Guest Lecturer Hope Jahren – University of Hawaii (

April 9th 2014

Giving Interviews: (Live interviews with Breaking Bio)

April 16th, 2014

Podcast and Radio: Guest Lecturer Flora Lichtman: Formerly of Science Friday (

April 23rd, 2014

Data management: Guest Lecturer: Amy Nurnberger – Columbia University Center for Digital Research and Scholarship (

April 30th, 2014

Final Presentations

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