Coordinator's Corner: Reflection on the Notation in Science Communication

Coordinator's Corner: Reflection on the Notation in Science Communication

This past May marked the 3rd birthday of the Notation in Science Communication (NSC). As the program enters its 4th year, I’d like to provide a quick update on the program and how it has grown over the last few years.

First off, thank you to everyone who has advertised the NSC in their classes and with former students. We know that many of our applicants hear about the NSC from their PWR instructors, and we greatly appreciate you taking the time to encourage your students to apply. We’re running two application cycles per year — one in the fall that targets juniors and sophomores and one in the spring that targets sophomores and freshman. We currently reviewing applications from the fall cycle, and we’re looking forward to accepting ten to fifteen new students into the program.

As of fall 2016, there are forty nine students enrolled in the NSC. These students come from a variety of science-focused majors, predominantly from Biology, Human Biology, and Engineering. Fourteen students graduated from the program in 2015, nine students graduated in 2016, and nineteen students are set to graduate in spring 2017.

To graduate from the NSC, students must complete required coursework (11 units in addition to their major requirements) and create an electronic portfolio (ePortfolio) that highlights their work in science communication. These ePortfolios are evaluated by a team of PWR lecturers and science faculty, and only students who pass the evaluation process can earn a “Notation” on their official Stanford transcript.

Students are responsible for choosing the work to included in their portfolios, and they aren’t just limited to work from their NSC courses. Students choose work from across their Stanford career, and the ePortfolio is one of the few places where students can compile curricular work with co-curricular activities such as research, volunteering, and internships. Key to building the ePortfolio is writing reflections that show how these different experiences connect, ultimately telling a story about what they’ve learned while at Stanford. Engaging in this reflective process helps students clearly articulate what they’ve learned and how it transfers both between classes and to their goals beyond Stanford.

Every spring, graduating students showcase their ePortfolios at an end of the year celebration. I encourage you to attend this event, if you haven’t already, to see the amazing work that the students create. However, thanks to a collaboration with the Registrar and Stanford Libraries, we have a new way for you to view student ePortfolios.

NSC student ePortfolios are now being archived in the Stanford Digital Repository (SDR). The SDR is an archive of scholarly materials at Stanford, including data sets, graduate dissertations, undergraduate student work, and digitized archives from the Library’s special collections. We’ve archived the ePortfolios from students who graduated in 2016, and they are currently being indexed. Soon you’ll be able to search for the student ePortfolios in SearchWorks and view the archived copies. If you’d like a sneak peak, you can view student Carolina Downie’s ePortfolio here. Carolina was a Biology major who received a “Notation with Distinction” for the exceptional quality of her ePortfolio.

The SDR is open to all scholarly work produced at Stanford — including work from your PWR students. PWR instructor Erica Cirillo-McCarthy archived RBAs and accompanying maps produced by students in her PWR1 class titled “Where I’m From: The Rhetorics of Mapping and Human Geography,” and former PWR instructor Chris Gerben archived podcasts produced by his PWR2 students. Let me know if you are interested in archiving work from your students, and I can connect you to the SDR collection managers.

In addition to our work with the Stanford Libraries, we’ve also cultivated other collaborations around campus. Over the summer, the Office of Technology Licensing (OTL) created a special science writing internship for NSC students, and student Skylar Cohen was hired to turn invention disclosures, patent applications and scientific publications into abstracts directed at potential commercial partners. We’re also excited that, beginning this year, Human Biology majors can satisfy their capstone requirement by completing the NSC program.

We’re looking forward to continuing to expand the program in the coming years. If you’d like to help out in any way — reviewing applications, evaluating ePortfolios, advising students, or teaching an advanced PWR class — please let me know.