Undergraduate Courses

Brown offers courses related to the practice of communicating between scientific experts and non-experts and the role of science in society. Please note that this list is not comprehensive and not all courses are offered every semester.

Science Writing

The courses below will help you get a feel for the style and content of science writing.

Journalistic Writing (ENGL)

Course Description: An introduction to journalistic writing that focuses on techniques of investigation, reporting, and feature writing. Uses readings, visiting journalists, and field experience to address ethical and cultural debates involving the profession of journalism. Writing assignments range from news coverage of current events to investigative feature articles. 

Introduction to Creative Nonfiction (ENGL)

Course Description: Designed to familiarize students with the techniques and narrative structures of creative nonfiction. Reading and writing focus on personal essays, memoir, science writing, travel writing, and other related subgenres. 

Environmental Journalism (ENVS)

Course Description: Introduces students to the basic tools of reporting and writing journalistic articles about environmental issues. Covering news, features, investigative and first-person pieces, it explores how environmental stories can be crafted to best capture the interest of editors and readers. The focus of the course will be on producing publishable work. In addition, students will review and critique the coverage of environmental issues in the press, read outstanding examples of environmental reportage and feature writing, and examine the role of media coverage in the resolution of environmental controversies. 

Topics in Science Communication: Science Journalism Practicuum (BIOL)

Course Description: Participants will understand how to read scientific research papers to interpret their findings and communicate these to a broader lay audience; analyze and understand best practices in science writing and the challenges of covering science for mass media; interviewing; fair and balanced coverage in reporting; give and receive peer feedback.

Visualizing Science

Brown and RISD both offer courses that can help you visualize your science for a non-expert audience.

Communicating Science Through Visual Media (VISA)

Course Description: Taught by RISD and Brown Professors and co-sponsored by the Science Center and the Creative Mind Initiative, this course explores the pedagogy of using visual media to convey scientific concepts. The goal is to assess the quality of existing material and design new material that fills an educational need and makes science engaging and accessible. It is comprised of lectures, labs, screenings, discussions, critiques and guest speakers. Student teams collaborate on a series of short exercises leading to the creation of final videos/animations that explain scientific concepts. Projects will be evaluated on accuracy, clarity of explanation, educational value, engagement w/the viewer and creativity.

Studio Foundation (VISA)

Course Description: An introduction to basic visual art concepts, exploring a range of materials with emphasis on experimentation and analysis of visual relationships. Drawing is a vital part of this course. 

Introduction to Computer Animation (CSCI)

Course Description: Introduction to 3D computer animation production including story writing, production planning, modeling, shading, animation, lighting, and compositing. Students work independently to learn basic skills, then in groups to create a polished short animation. Emphasis is on in-class critique of ongoing work, which is essential for learning the cycle of evaluating work, determining improvements, and implementing them for further evaluation. 

Interdisciplinary Scientific Visualization (CSCI)

Course Description: The solution of scientific problems using computer graphics and visualization. Working in small multidisciplinary groups, students identify scientific problems, propose solutions involving computational modeling and visualization, design and implement the solutions, apply them to the problems, and evaluate their success. Examples include interactive software systems, immersive CAVE applications, or new applications of existing visualization methods. 

The Art of Communicating Science (RISD)

Course Description: This 6-credit course invites undergraduate and graduate students to improve their skills in communicating and illustrating science. The general topic is changing biodiversity, how humans impact plants, animals, and their environment. Examples will be presented from around the world, as well as from Rhode Island. Through a series of exercises, students will practice analyzing and interpreting scientific information in order to both understand and present it. The science content will be delivered through lectures, visits to research labs, and to a nearby nature sanctuary. The course is designed to introduce students to relevant scientific concepts and challenge them to use their art to make these ideas more concrete and meaningful. In some cases, the goal may be to educate; in others, it may be to raise awareness, stimulate debate, or entertain. Students will explore the use of different media, including 2-D, 3-D animated, and interactive modes. They will also target different audiences and venues, including: general interest or editorial publications, art for public spaces including galleries, educational and peer- to-peer science materials. Class work includes assigned reading, several minor projects, an exam, and a comprehensive final project. Students will choose a recent research study on the topic of human impacts on biodiversity for the subject of their final project, which is a written paper combined with original artwork designed for a public space or public interaction. The Departments of Illustration and History, Philosophy, and Social Sciences will teach the course collaboratively.

Presenting Science

These courses will make you a more confident and effective presenter.

Persuasive Communication (TAPS)

Course Description: Provides an introduction to public speaking, and helps students develop confidence in public speaking through the presentation of persuasive speeches.

Science and Society

Courses cross-registered with the Science and Society department give students the opportunity to think about science in terms of its ethical, legal, and social implications. These three aspects of science are often the topics of science communication because they address the “so what?” question that lies at the core of all science communication efforts. The department also offers an introductory course, Science and Society: Theories and Controversies (description below). For more information, visit the Science and Society website.

Science and Society: Theories and Controversies (SCSO)

Course Description: What is "science"? How do scientific ideas become knowledge? What is the nature of scientific objectivity, and how can it be compromised? What is a scientific community, scientific consensus, and scientific authority? What roles does science play in our culture, and how is science related to other social institutions and practices (e.g., government, military, business, education, medicine, law, art)? The interdisciplinary field of science studies is introduced through exploration of topics that include: gender and race, psychiatric classification, the drug industry, science and religion, and the use of nuclear weapons during WWII.

Last Updated: Summer 2013.