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Letter of Reflection

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Professor Myers, fellow students, and creepers of the internet,

I, like some of you, was ambiguous about taking this UW. I hated science, but I love journalism. Honestly, when I walked into class I had no idea what to expect, but I could have never have imagined learning what I did this semester. Professor Myers taught me how to write and research like a scholar. And somehow, you all taught me to like science.

My views on the revision process changed drastically throughout the semester. When I got my revisions back for Essay 1, I hardly made any changes- just a few grammatical things here and there. To be honest, I had never made drastic revisions on any paper before this class. By examining writing and revision in this class, I learned that it was sometimes necessary and better to revise a big chunk or even all of an essay. I had always heard that the revision process was necessary in high school, but this is the first class that actually made it “click” for me. After my final paper group got our rough draft ripped apart in class (which it deserved), I for the first time in my life, simply erased the document and started again. I never would have done something like that before taking UW.

Learning about BEAM makes me look at writing research papers in an entirely new light. I always knew that I would have to have sources in these papers, but I had never considered how I interacted with them. Now, that kind of seems idiotic. Sorting my sources into the different categories makes seeing how I will use them so much easier and improves my writing greatly.

One of the most valuable tools that I will take away from this class is the ability to research. If not for this class, I probably would not have stepped foot in Gelman or have used one of the databases on its website. I can’t even describe how many times I have already used a database for another class’ paper or research project. And I’ve used the consortium loan service that Tina taught me how to navigate to borrow a book (for fun!). The research techniques that I’ve learned from Professor Myers and Tina are going to be invaluable in the rest of my scholarly pursuits.

However, the one thing that I am proudest of myself for learning in this class has nothing to do with writing. When I walked in the first class, I felt SO uncomfortable because all of you had some of connection or knack with science. I felt …disconnected because I didn’t get science and science didn’t get me. Through examining the different readings and researching blog posts and such, my definition of science has greatly expanded. It’s no longer my high school definition of physics, chemistry, and biology. It’s how cooking is really chemistry, how beauty products are made and marketed, and how the media interprets scientific breakthroughs and findings. It’s things that I care about and understand. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I’m proud that science now includes me.

Lastly, I think that Professor Myers should keep this blog up long after this class is over. It’s our little contribution to the internet, and while I didn’t have anywhere as big as a role as some of you did in shaping it, I’m proud of this little webpage. 🙂

Go forth and conquer,

Katie Inamasu

 

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UW Reflection

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear class and professor,

I chose to take this class because it was one of the two UW’s that had to do with science. The other was on the brain, but didn’t fit in my schedule; therefore my choice of UW became easy. I came into the class thinking that we would examine either how particular scientific events were portrayed by the media and the affect culture had on their portrayal or skills and techniques for writing about scientific topics. Since I was interested in and decided to study Biomedical Engineering, either of these would have been beneficial for me and sufficiently interesting. This was not the case. Instead I found we took just a normal writing approach to the course and we were made to write with science as a unifying theme.

Long after this unexpected start came an unexpected change: during this course I’ve experienced my confidence in myself as a writer increase. Unfortunately, I can’t really place why I have this newfound confidence. The blog held no empowering essence for me and I have not been a heavy user, and what I did write received few or no comments. I did not fall asleep on a Webster’s Dictionary and absorb a colorful vocabulary, I did not gain a following of peers, who were adorating my every composition, and I most definitely did not stop procrastinating. No, I’m pretty sure I have not become a better writer. In fact, barring the ability to rewrite for this course, my initial writing appears much the same. So I still wonder: why the confidence boost?

Only two possibilities come to mind as for why I feel more confident about my writing. First of all, I may have just matured a bit and am no longer quite the self-conscious, lack-of-self-confidence wreck of a high school boy that I once was. Although likely, I believe it is more of a partial explanation if at all. The other possibility has to do with the positive feedback I received from Professor Myers on my writing pieces. Her comments made me feel as though my work, though imperfect, incomplete and often bad, was salvageable and had strong possibilities. She was able to sort through the garbage of my work and find the recyclable can that I had been hesitantly kicking around. It was reassuring to know that my basic instincts were solid, but I still need refining on how I go about proving and describing my points. Sure, the grades weren’t initially high, and I did wonder whether the positive feedback was just a ploy to keep me writing, but I did keep writing, and I felt better about what I was producing.

My writing goals at the beginning of the semester were to start earlier and edit more before turn-in. Well, I got one out of the two. Since I am able to put more time into rewriting, I spend much longer writing my first drafts than I did in high school. Sure, I could just turn in a dirty draft and get Professor Myers’ feedback, but that may or may not have been helpful depending on my own input. Instead I decided to avoid the hectic rush of deadlines that traditionally cut down my editing process to spell check and maybe one or two read-throughs. I now feel that I can give a better paper and receive better feedback after waiting for myself to finish writing a paper before I turn it in.

As I already alluded to; before this course I had doubts on my writing ability. In general I still do, but I’m more realistic about it now. I know I’m not the best, not even within the class. I’ve heard pieces written after five minute free writes at 8 in the groggy morning that awed me into a jealous despair. But I know for certain I’m not the worst. I don’t mean within the class of course, I mean much more broadly. A requirement of this class was to read other blogs. In addition to the articles, I was usually interested on how other people responded in the comments section. Often I saw writing that was just dumbfounding. I couldn’t understand what or how it happened, and sometimes not what was even written. Was spell check broken? Were they visually impaired? Did they use Google translate? Mind you, these were not examples of online slang. I found that I valued these comments much less than those that were well written, or at least had the fundamental properties of grammar backing them.

It seemed to me that using grammar became a powerful choice a writer should make. Not too long ago when AIM and MySpace were all the rage, grammar meant little to me – why try and right pretentiously if all my friends write like this? Allegedly pretentious, did I even know and use the word pretentious in eighth grade? No, that itself would have been pretentious. But as my peers and I have grown, I changed my mind on the subject. I realized just how much more valuable a piece of writing is to an argument whether on Facebook or on a blog, that is well written. Grammar may not earn the respect of your peers, but a lack of it will likely lose what respect you had.

So do I feel like a good writer? Eh. Have I found the pleasure in writing that will inspire me to start the tardy spin-off, The Joy of Writing? No, not really. But do I feel like I could get my point across using what I do know about writing in either a blog or essay form? Yes, and for that new found confidence in my ability I am grateful.

All the best,

Richard Smith

Categories: Uncategorized

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Professor Myers and my University Writing classmates,

Writing at a university level is no easy task. In high school, I honestly tried to avoid revising my work so as to avoid disrupting a mood I may have been conveying. I was pretty wrong. Not only has revision become such an integral part of every piece of writing I’ve handed in since coming to college, but my research has multiplied substantially.

I started UW in a mess. I did not get The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks in International CI – I had to borrow my roommate’s copy and read the book in two days. I was, needless to say, a little bit surprised by the amount of homework I had to get done by the second week of school. Although the work load evened out eventually, UW remained one of my more demanding classes.

I found the first essay to be very puzzling in contrast with the second essay and even the final paper. Previously, I could rely on myself to grind out decent essays in single sittings and get respectable grades. Unfortunately, essay 1 proved to be too exacting to finish over the course of even several days. In the end, though, I grew frustrated and submitted a paper I myself frowned upon. I guess my grade was well-deserved.

I started essay 2 with the woes of writing essay 1 in mind. I made sure to give myself extended periods of time to tap-out my thoughts. I started from outlining my paper and moved on to throwing in my ideas. Although I was not overly pleased with the way my final result turned out, the essay was definitely much more open to revision.

After writing two papers for University Writing, I confidently moved on to my International Affairs writing assignment. I made sure to give myself at least two weeks for revision, took the time to compile a list of sources, and had others take a look at my essay. As a result, my final grade was far above the class average. I attribute my grade entirely to the lessons I inadvertently learned whilst writing essays 1 and 2.

 

I am not a scientific person; therefore, I cannot say I took up University Writing for the benefit of learning more about science. However, the scientific backdrop brought a sense of meaning to the course. It gave us something to focus on, something to write about. The blog, in conjunction with science, motivated me to do more research on scientific advances, thus improving not only my research skills but also my general knowledge of the sciences.

The blog was incredibly helpful in many ways. I learned to summarize very efficiently and drew lessons from the abilities of my peers. I kind of regret that I did not take a more proactive role in the blog, as I know that my writing skills would have improved far more drastically had I checked up on the blog more frequently.

Finally, Professor Myers’ comments on my papers have been more than helpful. They’ve taught me that sometimes, a few simple words can be more than enough to convey ideas. Long, confusing passages are not always necessary.

 

I see a bright future for my writing. I see more revision being employed and I see myself allocating much more time to writing each paper. I would like to take the time to thank each and every one of my classmates for bringing their brilliant ideas to each class, as early as they may be. Thank you, scholars, for your contribution!

 

Best wishes,

 

Oskar Sharman

Categories: Uncategorized

Letter of Reflection

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Professor Myer and Blogging Buddies,

            Through the experiences in this class and on this blog I have learned much about the writing process and myself.  The revision process has revealed itself to be one of the most important aspects of writing through this course (and not just because it was a course requirement).  I’ve always tended to be a one-and-done, bang ‘em out writer, usually turning in what was essentially a first draft.  Because that wasn’t even a possibility in this class, I came to see how time and distance can add insight and inspiration, especially to the rougher patches.  Going over the first essay, I saw how heavily the creatively influence writing process is by revision.  The second essay taught me about the importance of syntax and structure as a rhetorical tool.  The class exercises on imitation further expounded this point by demonstrating how one creates a specific voice and style.  As a writer who’s always had a fairly specific sound, these assignments helped me experiment stylistically in a way I would not have done otherwise.   Similarly, the first essay forced me to explore my writing style through its unorthodox nature.  As someone who is most comfortable working with interpretation of texts and style analysis, this unusual prompt pushed me out of my box and allowed me to experiment with new ways of conveying ideas and themes in a comparatively nebulous manner.

            I’ve evolved into a more deliberate writer through these processes, taking care with diction, syntax, and structure. Through the various reading assignments I came to recognize the premeditation necessary to write well and came to see this process as something not only frequently returned but also thoroughly preconceived.  With this in mind, I will consider the writing process in its many aspects when working on my next paper focuses equally on outlining, drafting, and revising.  In the second essay, the annotated bibliography, I not only was able to experiment with various structural styles and organizations, but I also was able to learn invaluable knowledge about the nature of scholarly work. .  The second essay, being my most drastically revised work for this class, really helped me develop these impressions of scholarly works and allowed me improve the revision process.  In reading a variety of scholarly sources in this course, I have gained insight not only of science, rhetoric, and media, but of the scholarly process and its writings as well.  The different perspectives of authors and types of readings, from Skloot’s non-fictional narrative to the no-nonsense articles dissecting science in the media, I have been exposed to a host of experiences and perceptions that I can use to form my own personal beliefs on science culture.

            Much in the same way, the class blog helped me not only articulate my relationship with science but also allowed me to better identify and understand it through the interaction of my peers.  The blog has proved not only informative and interesting, but it in participating in it, I have better come to understand first hand the rhetorical intersections of science, media, and culture within the microcosm of this UW course.  While I don’t see any blogging in my future, it was an enlightening experience that has shaped the way I now interpret science and news media. 

            Looking forward, I hope to hone my revision process so that my ideas will be more clear and concise.  Focusing on diction, syntax, and structure will allow me to clarify my points while communicating persuasively and effectively.  While this process will take time, this class has showed me new ways in which I can improve my writing in both scholarly and informal formats that I will carry with me in the rest of my education and career.

 

                                                                                                            Best,

                                                                                                            Isabella

Categories: Uncategorized

Letter of Reflection

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Professor Myers and Classmates,

Thank you all for a great semester and a great introduction to college writing. As a systems engineering major, I came into my freshman year focused on doing well in courses such as Calculus and Chemistry. I did not really consider what my UW course would mean for my major. I just assumed it would be a class that I had to get through in order to graduate. However, I quickly found that the skills I learned in this course could have a profound influence on my career in engineering.

Prior to taking this course, I had written about five research papers on topics such as The Beatles, Czar Peter III, and baroque music. One common theme to the topics I wrote about is that they had very little to do with science and engineering. We were told to approach these topics journalistically, relaying information and making an argument based on it. So I was coming into college having a very specific view on academic writing. I was quickly overwhelmed by the science blogs and the science articles I was reading, and when it came to write papers I found myself struggling. This is not your average English course. It was something better.

Thanks to our discussions and writing sessions in class, I found myself thinking more and more scientifically as the semester progressed. This eventually meant my writing became increasingly scientific. I began questioning my previous journalistic views on writing while incorporating more scientific aspects of writing. I am still looking for a balance between the two, but this will take practice. The requirements outlined by this course gave me the opportunity to practice using both, and all of your critiques of my writing have given me new standards and expectations in the world of writing.

At the beginning of the semester, I did not have an opinion on what it was to be a good writing. Now, I believe a good writer is one who can evoke emotion through imagery. This goes for literature, journalism, and as I discovered this semester, science writing. I think this is most difficult to do with science writing, because science can be a very difficult topic to make interesting to the casual reader. No matter how boring a topic might appear to be, a good writer will be able to make it interesting. My favorite author, JD Salinger, is the master of making the ordinary extraordinary. In his short stories, he takes every day events and gives them profound meaning. His stories have made me laugh and, yes, even cry. This is what I strive to become. Unfortunately, I have found that I am not a good writer. I struggle with providing interesting imagery on topics that I enjoy, let alone topics I have difficulty understanding myself. This does not mean I will not be a good writer one day, but it means at the moment I have a lot of work to do. I think the first step is understanding what you need to work on, and thanks to the criticism I have received from you, Professor Myers, and from you, my peers, I am on the road to becoming a better writer.

This class pushed me like my previous English and writing classes never could. It gave me new insight into the world of writing. It did not focus on what I learned in previous years such as grammar and formatting. It forced me to take my research to a new level while actually thinking about who my audience is. I previously thought of my audience as my teacher, but I know now that a writer should write so that they can interest the largest possible audience. Thanks to you, my audience, I have a new approach to writing and new potential as a researcher, a writer, and an engineer.

All the best,

Alex Schiefer

Categories: Uncategorized

FDA Tour

December 12, 2011 Leave a comment

Last Friday I went on a tour of the FDA’s new headquarters in White Oak, Maryland. My main motivation to go was because I knew getting research experience in as a student would be valuable when searching for a job after graduation or applying to graduate schools. Therefore I figured spending my Friday afternoon exploring a possible employer would be worth it. I wasn’t sure what to expect as I had only been to Fermi Lab in Chicago, Illinois. There the exterior was great; the facility is a park containing its own herd of bison in addition to the largest particle accelerator prior to 2009. The majority looked nice; especially the places that were looked at on public tours, but some of the laboratories I saw were a bit on the dingy side, something I was scared of seeing at the FDA as well.

Unfortunately, when I caught my first glimpse of the FDA I was again somewhat disappointed. What I saw looked like the façade of a large suburban high school, though it did seem to be sporting a golf course on the front lawn. My memory harkened back to dim cramped labs and I began to expect an underfunded government run facility filled with high school level equipment and a tour guide echoing the phrase “Unlike the private companies, we can’t afford…” But soon we took a turn in through the truck entrance I was shocked by what I saw. The facility was massive! It was set downhill of the highway and surrounded by hills of dirt from construction project which hid the majority from the road.

Once I was on the tour I was continually amazed. Our tour guide was one of the people in charge of the design and the continuing changes that occur in a laboratory. At the same time as showing us the facilities, he explained the importance of aesthetic principles that went into the design. “Even students can sit next to windows.” Okay, so maybe that was not the most amazing thing I heard, but design considerations such as thin buildings in which you can see all the way through, light wells inspired by the pyramid at the Louvre for increased natural light and being built on 12 feet on solid concrete for decreased building movement because of the highway outside and nearby power plant were all nice things to hear in addition to all of the work that was being done.

Though the FDA does not do research in order to sell products, it does a lot of work checking the claims and safety of products already on the market or things that want or need FDA approval. An example was keeping the frequencies of medical equipment and commercial products separate. Thank the FDA when your future pace maker doesn’t stop as you walk through a scanner at the airport. Another safety issue was controlling the radiation output of commercial products. According to our tour guide, some old TV’s once produced enough radiation to make an x-ray of a hand if x-ray paper was laid on the opposite side. In addition, these are the people you want to blame if you’re unhappy that you can’t open your microwave while it is running. Even though working at the FDA does not come with the exciting possibility of inventing a product and selling it for millions as a private company would, the government benefits and steady employment make up for it. The FDA also doesn’t work with things of national security importance. So, is it slightly boring that I won’t be working with anthrax? Yes. Is it nice that I don’t have to worry about breaking a test tube and dying from anthrax? Yes.

This may seem like just a boy being giddy – to be honest it is – but it was really impressive to see how much work was put into the comfort and productiveness of the engineers at the FDA as well as hearing about some of the work that was being done there. Soon I plan to go on tours of other places such as NIH, but for now I would be completely content with receiving a job at the FDA this summer.

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Letter of Reflection

December 11, 2011 Leave a comment

Dear Professor Myers and Fellow Rebellious Urban Youth,

Honestly, one of my biggest fears coming into college was the research aspect of the dozens of papers I thought I would have to write. My high school library was mediocre to say the least, and was really only used by the middle school and elementary school kids who were required to look for books. Generally, I would go on the Internet and to hours of sifting through material before I found at least five or more websites that would prove to be beneficial. But in the back of my mind were a thought and a fear that only grew as I got closer and closer to college. But this fear soon dissipated as I was writing the essays for this class.

This was not my first choice of a UW 1020 class; but I believe it is the most effective at producing and instilling the necessary writing and research skills for the collegiate level. I learned the how to breakdown and analyze every argument of a source in order to extract the most pertinent information as well as to grasp its strengths in weakness—I would not call this paranoia, but rather heightened awareness. I also came to the realization that when I am asked to revise a paper, I should actually aim to revise more than a paragraph or two. Revising was something I almost never did, simply because I thought that it was too time consuming and was the transcribed version of back peddling. I was far off the mark. In reality, it provides the writer a chance to reassess their possession on the argument, the way in which sources were used and are transmitted throughout the paper, the fluidity, as well as the grammar. My writing as definitely improved since the beginning of the semester partially because of the simple task of revising.

But the main contributing factor to my heightened success in writing can be accredited to the research process, which I will be able to utilize throughout my college career. But this skill was not honed until the second essay. The first essay I will say discombobulated my belief in what a piece of writing was. The topic was so broad, and so unstructured that I felt as if I were dangling over a pit of everything and asked to grab something—too many choices is the same as too few. I stumbled in the beginning of the essay (the best way to write, is to start), but eventually found my stride when I realized that the point of the essay wasn’t to focus on one specific scientific aspect of life, but to find different aspects of life that can be tied together in order to gain a better understanding of science itself (after I made that realization, there was a long “OOOOOHHHHH” afterwards). Strangely enough, it was the degree of disorder—the entropy—of the essay that helped me structure my second essay which was almost the complete opposite of essay number 1. In a way it taught me how to organize the various pieces of an essay, even if they do not immediately seem to connect. But this also turned out to be beneficial for the final collaborative essay, which was on an even broader topic, with even more information than the other two essays combined.

The final project fortunately was a group effort, which meant that the amount of research necessary for discussing AIDS, homophobia, and the New York Times was divided in four (four group members). Although we each had our separate sections with various materials in each section, at the end of the day we still needed to unify our voices so that the final work would be harmonized.

I will still say however that the concept of writing well is subjective due to the fact that the audience is the ultimate deciding factor. One could say that a good writer knows their audience well enough to know what rudimentary prose and what daring risks one could take without losing them. Rhetorical Intersections of Science, Media, and Culture has taught me how to understand my audience—however many there may be—and how to write in different styles to their liking. Bluntly put, this class taught me how to write well.

 

So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, and adieu,

Douglas Harnett-Robinson

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