Beyond Boundaries: Geneseo’s NeuWrite/Edu Program Bridges Fields Often Forced Separate

Posted by Madison Wayland, CNF Reader for issue 6.1

So, uh, what are you going to do with that?”

This is the response I often receive from—well-meaning, and for the most part understandably confused—internship coworkers, peers in a new class, old friNeuWriteends I run into at Wal-Mart, as I answer that standard what-are-you-doing-with-your-life question every college student receives at Christmas dinners. I tell them I’m a double major, biology and creative writing, and watch their faces slowly twist as they try to comprehend the combination.

“But which one are you going to choose?” They will wait nervously for my response, twirling that can of chili they’re contemplating adding to their cart, their eyebrows slightly askew. “You know, biology and writing, they’re just, so”—plunk goes the can into the cart—“different.”

At this I’m forced to stop. Flashbacks of high school flood in—two sides, art versus science, one major, one career.

But, are fields really as separate as we take them to be?

Think about it. Writers are detail-oriented, observant—so are scientists. Scientists are in awe of the surrounding world, are seeking to make connections, to forge insight—so are writers. Writers and scientists are both creative thinkers, pioneers of thought—science and writing naturally inform one another.

The founders of the NeuWrite program acknowledged this, and sought to use this combined force of scientists, writers, radio producers, and filmmakers—figures who are “otherwise rarely in the same room”—to push science to be more widely accessible to general audiences.

Here at Geneseo, the NeuWrite/Edu program—first introduced by Assistant Professor of English Lytton Smith and Distinguished Teaching Professor of mathematics Olympia Nicodemi—is comprised of student writers and scientists collaborating and developing creative science writing that is both captivating as well as scientifically accurate. Student research forms the basis of the writing, with topics ranging from mathematical prime numbers to organic molecules to the common flu.

This interdisciplinary approach—a fusion of writing and science—feels natural, heightening the scientific research. As well as being readily available to general audiences, creative science writing can communicate on a sensory level, allowing the reader to envision the scientific phenomenon regardless of whether they approach the piece with scientific background knowledge. The writer can choose to incorporate more visceral details and metaphors to match the research’s focus, or perhaps more auditory allusions should the research demand.

Finding this niche, where the two sides of me can fit together in one space as not two separate entities, but one, cohesive whole, has been both encouraging and enlightening. Now, when I run into those old friends at Wal-Mart, I know how to answer. Both, I’ll say, there isn’t a choice to make.

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