WRITING 101-01, 101-02, 101-03: Collaborations in Neuroscience

Spring 2021

Instructor: Emily Parks

The genetic blueprint of a person can be sequenced in a single day thanks to the collaboration of thousands of scientists working on the Human Genome Project. Inspired by this success, the White House launched the BRAIN Initiative – another large collaboration tasked with uncovering the inner workings of the human brain. Both these collaborations, though large in scope, reflect the deep conviction that scientific innovation does not occur in a vacuum. Instead, scientists build their work by engaging with other researchers and their ideas.

This course will introduce you to the goals and practices of academic writing as we explore scientific inquiry, the process by which scientists build and communicate an idea through collaboration. In the beginning of the semester, we will focus on the topic of neurolaw, an emerging field that examines how discoveries in brain science affect our justice system. We will reflect on themes both ancient and modern: How can science inform our understanding of our own minds? And how can that understanding, fueled by cutting-edge advances in brain imaging, inform our modern courts?  

In tackling these questions, you will learn how scientists collaborate with scholarly texts to advance their own ideas. You will showcase this skill in the first major project – a science-based op/ed (750 words) in which you take a stance on a controversy in neurolaw (e.g., Can your brain make you commit a crime? And if so, are you to blame?). For the rest of the semester, you will experience first-hand how scientists collaborate not only with texts, but also with each other. You will work “side-by-side” with other budding scholars – your classmates! Collaborating as a team of three, you will co-write a literature review (8-10 pages) that synthesizes previous neuroscientific research to address a societal problem of our time (e.g., drug addiction, racial bias, disease treatment, psychological effects of the pandemic, etc.).

This course is ideally suited for those interested in neuroscience, psychology, and biology. The course is built on three principles. First, writing is a vehicle for critical thinking. It is the tool by which you will bridge the classroom and the real world. Second, good writing depends on revision. Thus, you will have many opportunities to practice giving and receiving meaningful feedback amongst your peers. Third, scientific innovation requires collaboration. By joining this Writing 101, you agree to be a contributing member of a team.

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