Field Research Program

Lehigh University Science and Environmental Writing students attending a conference

Lehigh University Science and Environmental Writing students engaging in a discussionAvailable to science and environmental writing students at the junior or senior level, this program allows students to attend major scientific meetings as fully accredited science reporters, gaining “real world” experience. Students observe professional science writers in action and write their own stories about the scientific symposium and press conferences held at the meetings. Another segment of the program provides practical experiences in scientific research and science writing for students who work on and write about research projects directed by university scientists and engineers.

Science and Environmental Writing Students Attend the Annual AAAS Meeting

Most years since the beginning  of Lehigh’s Science and Environmental Writing Program, majors and minors in the program have attended the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in February. Their trips to the meeting are sponsored by the Department of Journalism and Communication as part of a regular course, Jour.  231, Science Writing Practicum.  At the AAAS meeting, the students receive full press accreditation and have the opportunity to attend scientific symposia, poster presentations and news conferences.  They also network with science and environmental journalists, public information officers and other science writing students in AAAS sessions, special meetings, and at events such as the Kavli Science Journalism Awards and activities sponsored by the National Association of Science Writers.  In 2014, five students braved flight delays and rebookings to travel a snowy path to Chicago to attend the AAAS meeting.

As part of Jour. 231, they attended class sessions before and after the AAAS meeting to discuss their experiences and writing assignments. They had to write two articles from the meeting:  one on a symposium they attended individually and a second on a symposium related to some form of science communication they attended together.  In 2014, the jointly covered symposium was “Where’s My Flying Car? Science, Science Fiction and a Changing Vision of the Future.” Interestingly, the students took away different messages from the symposium speakers as reflected in the following articles they wrote about it. Their individual symposium articles discuss different topics including scientific entrepreneurship, human-computer relationships and global health concerns.

Over the years, science and environmental writing students who have attended the AAAS meeting as part of the Field Research Program have commented that this real-world activity gave them important insights about becoming a science journalist and provided excellent networking for internships and future jobs.