Engineering Students With The “Write” Stuff

Adjunct Professor Rachael Stark Participates in Girls Advancing in STEM (GAINS) Conference

Alex Ryan Professor Rachael Stark and students

From left: Teaching Assistant Alex Ryan, Adjunct Professor Rachael Stark, and student participants in the 2018 Girls Advancing in STEM Conference

Rachael Stark is a prolific writer whose work has appeared in such venues as the New York PostBig Apple ParentBrooklyn Daily Eagle, and Huffington Post, where she often focuses on the subjects of parenting (rather than patents) and culture (but not the kind grown in a petri dish). In her capacity as an adjunct professor in the Department of Technology, Culture, and Society (TCS) at NYU Tandon, she recently participated in the 2018 Girls Advancing in STEM (GAINS) Conference, which aims to connect female high school students from across the U.S. with STEM career information and role models.

In a crowded roster of talks about app development, augmented reality, the joys of working with macromolecules, and other such matters, Stark gave a presentation entitled “Science, Technology, and Literature: Leveraging Technology in the Humanities.” She touched upon why good writing is so important for a career in the sciences and how skills developed in English and Creative Writing classes can provide an advantage for those in the STEM fields — whose jobs often involve observing the world and describing their findings.

“It’s important for students who are pursuing scientific studies to effectively articulate their theories in language that motivates and compels others,” she explains, “and incorporating literary techniques and skills is very useful.”

Stark sparked discussion by showing attendees a clip of a 2014 interview with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg in which he reveals that he had majored in psychology, rather than computer science as most people assume, and asserts that much of the truly interesting work being done in the world is interdisciplinary.

For the hands-on portion of the workshop, she challenged the students to take on a writing assignment (see below), brainstorming in teams and then editing their pieces for clarity, tone, and effect. With these creative, yet practical assignments, Stark’s students at NYU Tandon cite their TCS upper-level writing electives as valuable — no matter what their major — and describe them as among their favorite classes.

Some of her students accompanied Stark at the conference, participating in a panel discussion about being a woman in science and engineering. “We were honored to represent NYU Tandon and appreciated the chance to interact with high school students so interested in STEM,” Stark said. “Maybe we will see some of them enrolled here one day.”

That seems like a distinct possibility, given the enthusiasm evinced by many of the conference’s young participants. One later admitted, “I now realize that STEM isn't just being in a lab all the time,” while another wrote, "I used to imagine STEM as a pretty basic, straightforward field. Now I see so much creativeness in it.”


Try It Yourself!

Using no more than 55 words precisely, explain how to perform one of these simple tasks as it might appear in an instruction manual or a textbook you are writing.

a. Peeling a banana
b. Tying a shoe
c. Riding in an elevator

Assume your audience has never seen a banana, shoe, or elevator before, and make sure your language is dynamic, instructive, and clear.