Monday, February 06, 2017

On Writing as a STEM major

At the small Waynesburg University Writing Center, I happen to be the only Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) major without an English minor, and this can sometimes pose unique challenges for me. When I was selected by the director last year to work at the center, she mentioned that her staff was lacking in science majors, which is something she wanted to improve upon. While I was obviously flattered, I also wasn't aware of the problems and distresses that would accompany it.

Let me preface by saying that I absolutely love working at Waynesburg's Writing Center. It is my favorite job that I've held so far, and I look forward to all of my appointments and the time I get to work there. Despite this sentiment, there are many instances where I feel uncomfortable among all the wonderful English majors who know every last participle, tense, and citation style. The field of literature can be overwhelming to an outsider, or even one experienced in it who doesn't practice regularly. Admittedly, my favorite sessions are those involving lab reports or students from athletic and exercise science courses, as the material comes easy to me and I am comfortable with it.

Due to the demand of the engineering curriculum, I rarely get the chance to take literature courses or other writing-intensive classes. I certainly count this as a loss, as I have found writing in the past few years to be an incredibly powerful medium for voicing sentiments and ideas, as well as a creative outlet. With this lapse in a writing curriculum, I have had to rely on working at the Writing Center to keep my own skills proficient, but have still noticed the effects of the change. While I have managed to get a bit of a change this semester, my courses are still largely focused elsewhere. Getting back into writing was a bit of initial struggle, and I found that I had lost a lot of the initial confidence about my work that I had previously worked for. While the grades have been indicative that I still maintain a strong writing brain, I often feel as though it is not so.

This really brings us to the crux of the struggle. Despite being overwhelmingly welcomed by tutors, I still feel as though my major is holding me back from full writing potential. And don't get me wrong, I absolutely love my major. I simply wish there were more ways in which to express my love for writing in it, and prove my competence. I certainly realize I'm not the norm when it comes to writing tutors, and I wanted to encourage others like me to continue to find outlets to express yourself, even if writing has been delegated to a hobby for you.


  1. Welcome aboard, Tyler! Science writing is an interesting field. So many people seem to believe that it is completely limited to writing lab reports, field notes, or the like. Have you read any Stephen Jay Gould? I recall that one of his goals was to show that writing in the sciences could be interesting, entertaining, and artful, yet still scientific. I would venture to say that some scientists were really excellent and provocative writers. I mean think about it: Einstein, Newton, Huxley, Darwin, etc. all wrote extensively outside the typical genres of modern science.

  2. And here is an interesting article about a scientist/writer at Johns Hopkins:

  3. Even those of us who are English majors, minors, and teachers struggle to maintain writing confidence. Tyler, remember that keen critical thinking is as important to good writing (if not more important) than structure, syntax, and "every last participle, tense, and citation style."