Science-Medical Writing at Hopkins
In our online Science-Medical Writing Graduate Program, become a writer or editor in Health, Technology, Medicine, Nature, Space, Energy, or Other Fields. Prestige, Quality, Value: Our online graduate program in Science Writing reflects the international reputation for academic quality, creative innovation, and professional value at Johns Hopkins, renowned for its science, medicine, and writing.
Study Online at Your Own Pace: Our Science-Medical Writing Master’s Program features fully online courses and brief, face-to-face residencies. This innovative, low-residency format allows students from across the nation and around the world to earn an accredited degree at a prominent university. Compare us carefully: Our online courses offer individual help and group interaction. Our 9-course curriculum includes more instructional time than many 10-course MAs. And our residencies are exciting — For Summer 2013, students will study inside world-famous Hopkins Hospital and hear from internationally known researchers. The result: Our graduates succeed as authors, freelancers, editors, or teachers, work at prominent publications, and build careers at agencies, non-profits, or companies. Come join our community!
For more information, click on any topic above, read below, or email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-452-1927. For one-on-one help, email Melissa Hendricks at email@example.com or David Everett at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Clarification: Our online, part-time graduate program in science-medical writing remains open and thriving. Johns Hopkins recently closed its full-time graduate program in science writing. The part-time program, however, has been in existence for more than 20 years and continues to grow.
The World of Science Writing
From a flower’s showy petal to a distant galaxy, science writing explores and explains how our world works. The best science writing also inspires readers to understanding, to action, or to a sense of wonder. The Science-Medical Writing concentration of the M.A. in Writing Program aims to create the next generation of writers who will help the general public comprehend increasingly complex issues of science, medicine, health, nature, and technology — and their interaction with research and public policy. Our typical student hones journalism and creative writing skills to craft enticing, publishable prose for magazines, websites, newspapers, blogs, and books. Our writers also are trained to show journalistic objectivity to monitor science itself, to reveal how research can falter or be misused. Along the way, science writers must develop the same craft skills of any literary artist. We believe prose about science can be as compelling, as serious, and as beautiful as the best fiction, poetry, or other literature. From space to the oceans, from nanotechnology to climate change, from fitness to robotic surgery, the ever-changing topics chosen by our science writers are essential to an enlightened citizenry of the 21st Century.
To succeed as professional science writers and editors, our students learn how to gather essential information through documents, observation, interviewing, and other types of reporting. They then transform that information into compelling, understandable language in such forms as essay, memoir, article, blog, opinion, profile, review, and, of course, books. Students in our program do not focus on creating research reports, peer-reviewed papers, or scholarly/academic constructs, nor do we teach the intricacies of technical writing such as instruction manuals or complicated textbooks. Our curriculum also is not designed to help scientists or others who need help with remedial writing challenges or English as a Second Language. While the Writing Program may choose to offer special courses in all of those areas, the students in our Science-Medical Writing program often begin with the complicated, specific information found in scientific reports and research papers, then translate it into meaningful, perceptive prose for a broad audience.
Innovative Online Learning
Studies show onsite and online learning have distinct strengths, with some advantages for both approaches. Our program is designed to exploit the best of each through online courses and face-to-face residencies. The Writing Program’s fully online courses include the one-on-one help that defines many low-residency graduate writing programs plus the group interaction that other programs sometime lack in non-residency courses. In effect, our online courses offer a digital classroom experience with other students, in addition to individual help with your writing.
The primary platform for our digital courses is a special, customized version of Blackboard, one of the nation’s major digital education systems. However, instructors use a range of other tools in and outside each Blackboard course, including Adobe Connect, Skype, video, audio, email, wikis, Twitter, and Facebook.
Our online courses feature several components:
A. Asynchronous Convenience: Each course includes a series of learning units in which students complete work without the need to attend regular weekly class sessions. These asynchronous units allow students to login to their course, complete assignments or do other work, and engage with other students over several days, a week, or more – whatever amount of time the instructor has assigned to that unit. Each unit involves a range of tools, including readings, exercises, video lectures, demonstrations, or asynchronous group discussions, with the instructor available for direction, questions, and feedback. Although students engage with material individually, as a group, and with the teacher, they do it on their own time during the period of each unit. This allows students to finish their course work amid individual schedules and across multiple time zones.
B. Individual Help: At times, the instructor provides one-on-one feedback and communication with each student. This feedback may include assessment of a student’s work during a unit, especially for writing assignments and revision. The communication can occur in multiple ways, including email, online course messages, private journaling, phone calls, and exchanging instructor comments and editing directly on a student’s writing. Many online instructors also hold digital office hours for regular meetings or inquiries.
C. Synchronous Discussion and Meetings: At times, students will have the opportunity to join in live, synchronous discussions with their fellow students and instructor through various digital platforms. This allows the instructor to bring diverse students together at the same day and time for discussion or other work online. Such synchronous discussions can occur in an online course format or through other online meeting programs such as Skype or Adobe Connect. These opportunities are announced well in advance so students from around the nation and world can arrange their schedules if they wish to attend.
D. A Program Community: In addition to each course’s digital features, science writing students will be part of broader, program-wide discussion groups, meetings, and networking. These may include program or course discussion groups, Facebook pages, or even private discussion groups for students only
Savvy, Award-Winning Faculty
Our experienced instructors include practicing writers and editors who excel at teaching – book authors, journal editors, reporters, magazine editors, freelance writers, publishers, artists, and scientists. Some are leaders in local, regional, and national writing organizations, including the National Association of Science Writers. Their many national awards include those from the Society of Professional Journalists, Best American Essays, National Association of Science Writers, Fulbright Scholarship, Overseas Press Club, National Press Club, Society for Technical Communication, Victor Cohn Prize for Excellence in Medical Science Reporting, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, and American Academy of Arts and Letters. For details and bios of Writing Program instructors visit our Faculty Page.
Our Science-Medical Writing faculty members have included:
- Melissa Hendricks: Freelance writer and editor, with work in Johns Hopkins Public Health, National Parks, AARP The Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal, New Scientist, and USA Weekend; former researcher at Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Tufts University; now faculty advisor for Science-Medical Writing students in the Writing Program.
- Karen Masterson: Graduate of The Writing Seminars full-time science writing M.A. program, journalist in residence at the non-partisan Stimson Center, winner of several international research and reporting fellowships; expert in the story of malaria.
- Nancy Shute: Former president of the National Association of Science Writers; current contributor to National Public Radio; contributor and former senior writer forU.S. News & World Report; freelance contributor to Outside, New York Times,Smithsonian; former Fulbright Scholar in Russia.
- Ruth Guyer, an epidemiologist, ethicist, freelance writer, NPR commentator, and former columnist at Science magazine, is author of Baby at Risk: The Uncertain Legacies of Medical Miracles for Babies, Families and Society.
Guests lecturers and readers have included bestselling author Rebecca Skloot; National Public Radio science correspondents Joe Palca and Christopher Joyce; science executive editor Jamie Shreeve of National Geographic Magazine; Tim Appenzeller, now chief magazine editor at Nature; Joel Achenbach, Juliet Eilperin, and David Brown of theWashington Post; Science News writer Susan Milius; author and magazine writer Shannon Brownlee; award-winning author and journalist Robin Marantz Henig, and medical writer Lynne Lamberg, author of The Body Clock Guide to Better Health and other books.
Guest Instructors and Visiting Writers in the M.A in Writing Program – and special instructors for our summer-time Hopkins Conference on Craft in Italy and Maine – have included National Book Award-winning novelist Alice McDermott; renowned poets Mary Jo Salter, Rachel Hadas, and Charles Martin; critic and fiction writer Alan Cheuse; novelist Claire Messud; nonfiction author/editors Jim Conaway and Robert Wilson; Pulitzer-winning journalists Wayne Biddle and Steve Twomey; prominent fiction writers Jill McCorkle, Amy Hempel, and Jean McGarry, and poet/scholar John T. Irwin, Decker Professor in the Humanities at Hopkins, chief editor of The Hopkins Review, and the chair of the Writing Program.
Writer in Residence & Visiting Writer: The program’s current Writer in Residence is graduate Tim Wendel, author of nine novels and nonfiction books, including the recent Summer of 68: The Season that Changed Baseball and America Forever. The Writing Program’s Distinguished Visiting Writer for 2012-13 is acclaimed writing teacher and literary activist Marita Golden, award-winning author and editor of 14 books, including novels, memoir, nonfiction, and anthologies. Golden teaches fiction and nonfiction.
Other instructors in the Writing Program include essayist and editor David Everett; author Cathy Alter; magazine editor Meg Guroff; novelist Elly Williams; story writer Tristan Davies; editor and poet Ed Perlman; fiction writer and essayist Margaret Meyers; writer and critic Bill Black; Mark Farrington, a fiction writer who specializes in the teaching of writing and literature, and Rae Bryant, a program graduate, author, and editor of The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review.
The Science-Medical Writing program’s residencies supplement our innovative online learning experiences with intensive, exciting, face-to-face work with faculty and fellow students. Science-Medical Writing students must complete at least one residency to earn an MA, with another brief residency under consideration for our final thesis course.
The residencies are designed to pack as much as possible into as short a time as feasible. This lessens travel and housing costs, plus the time commitment. Writing students who want more face-to-face interaction can replace an online course or two with extra residencies. Details are still being set, but we plan the following residencies:
Summer 2013: Medicine in Action, June 16-22, Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, Maryland
This residency features a range of events on the front lines of medicine, including shadowing doctors and nurses, attending rounds, and observing in operating rooms, Intensive Care, and labs. Science writers will meet with prominent doctors. Cutting-edge research and technology will be discussed, along with the global mission of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. The residency’s dual focus is to understand the realities of contemporary medical care and to find writing topics and develop them into compelling prose.
Science Policy & Politics: Washington, D.C.
This residency focuses on federal research, policy, and regulation, plus the interaction of the scientific community with government. Students will visit Capitol Hill, federal agencies, and research centers in and around Washington. Guests will include elected officials, White House representatives, lobbyists, and researchers. Some events will occur at the Hopkins Washington Center near vibrant Dupont Circle.
Science in Action: Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland
Students in this residency will visit famous labs and science sites, such as NASA, National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Standards and Technology, and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, plus federal agencies such as EPA, Energy, and Homeland Security. Science writers also will witness amazing work done at Hopkins itself, including in the fields of space exploration, nanotechnology, and at the famed Applied Physics Laboratory.
Florence, Italy, and Bar Harbor, Maine
The sites of previous summer conferences for the Writing Program, Florence and Bar Harbor are being considered for future Science-Medical Writing residencies if financing can be arranged. In 2012, science writing students attended a special “In the Field” course in Maine; the course focused on students interacting in labs and in the field with conservation biologists, geneticists, and others. The Florence option would focus on the history of science at the city’s many world-class science museums and scientific historic sites. The Italy and Maine options are uncertain at this time.
The Writing Program is considering a required or optional three- to five-day residency in the final weeks of study for all science writers, at the conclusion of the Science-Medical Writing thesis course. This residency would occur on the main Homewood Campus in Baltimore or at our Washington, D.C., Center. This experience would include final thesis discussions, capstone class sessions, visits from prominent writers, a student reading, and special ceremonies and celebrations. A decision on the thesis residency will be made in early 2013.
For the residencies, Science-Medical Writing students pay their own travel and lodging costs. Discount housing usually will be available, although students may stay anywhere they want as long as they can attend residency sessions on time.
Science writing students should include estimated travel from their home cities, plus housing charges, when considering the total cost of their degree. Residencies involve the same single-course tuition fee of any other Writing Program course, plus an additional residency/conference fee of $150-500, depending on location and activities. Students will choose the location of their single required residency; residency students may be accompanied by guests.
A Curriculum Focused on Craft
Online and during our residencies, our Science-Medical Writing curriculum offers a nurturing, challenging home for writing about nature, personal or public health, computer science, ecology, biotechnology, space, the outdoors, psychology, energy, genetics, climate, or any other topic in the medical, scientific, or technology fields. Courses exploit the renowned expertise of Johns Hopkins in science, health, and medicine, as well as our home locations in Washington and Baltimore near critical biotechnology and high-tech corridors and at the heart of the federal government.
Our curriculum starts with core courses that focus on fundamental skills in reporting, interviewing, and explanatory writing, plus craft skills ranging from broader aspects of form and structure to the intricacies of detail and word choice. Students then enroll in electives that develop reading-as-a-writer skills and that introduce students to innovative forms and approaches. In writing workshops, students submit their own writing and revisions for peer review and editing. The program concludes with a capstone thesis course that covers a range of writing business issues and in which each student completes a thesis portfolio of their best, most publishable work.
Students complete their M.A. in nine courses (click on any course for full description):
1. Techniques of Science Writing: Core course on foundation skills (online)
2. Advanced Reporting and Writing: Core course on advanced foundation skills (online)
4. Science Writing Workshop: Students submit and revise writing for peer / teacher review (online)
5. Residency (combination of writing, reading, and other experiences; students choose location)
6, 7, 8, Students choose three additional courses from the options below:
a. 1 or 2 more Science Writing Workshop(s)
b. 1 or 2 more residency(ies)
c. Multimedia for Writers (online course)
d. Course from other Hopkins graduate programs, as approved *
9: Science Writing Thesis (online, but may include brief residency at end.)
* Courses may come from Professional Writing & Editing, Communication, Teaching Writing & Literature, Biotechnology, Environmental Sciences and Policy, and other programs. With special permission, students also may consider Hopkins courses in science, medicine, or Public Health.
Notes: Students should take Techniques of Science Medical Writing first, if possible. We encourage students to complete both core courses before enrolling in a Workshop or Residency. Some experienced journalists or writers will be allowed to replace one or both core courses with other courses, as approved. Students may take one or two courses per term, if feasible, and they may take one or two terms off as personal schedules require. Students may take one non-workshop course during the same term as the final thesis course, but thesis should be taken in the last term of studies for any student. Students have five years to finish the nine courses; extensions and leaves of absence are possible.
Two Decades of Alumni Achievement
With 20 years of program success, MA in Writing Program students and alumni in Science-Medical Writing, Nonfiction, Fiction, and Poetry publish in, write for, or edit magazines, websites, newspapers, newsletters, literary journals, trade publications, and many other venues.
Since 1992, their achievements include thousands of published articles, short stories, poems, essays and other work online or in print, plus 200 books and counting — novels, essay/short story/poetry collections, medical history, travel, nature, memoir, science, narrative journalism, consumer, creative nonfiction, and architecture. Students also work for or contribute to publications at National Institutes of Health, American Association for the Advancement of Science, U.S. Senate Energy Committee, American Chemical Society, Johns Hopkins Hospital and School of Medicine, School of Public Health, and Johns Hopkins Magazine, American Association of Retired Persons, American Red Cross, The Brookings Institution, American Geophysical Union, and many other non-profits, plus local, state, and federal departments and agencies.
Students or alumni have landed writing or editing jobs at the Washington Post, National Geographic, Smithsonian, New York Times, NPR, and USA Today, Other graduate work has appeared in Discover.com, Salon.com, Esquire, Science, WebMD, Los Angeles Times, USA Weekend, and Washingtonian, among many other venues. Graduates of our program regularly earn adjunct teaching jobs in composition, writing, and journalism at a range of colleges and universities, including University of Maryland, Florida State, American University, Ohio University, George Washington University, Georgetown University, Ohio State, University of Missouri, and many others. Select graduates move on to MFA or PhD programs and have earned full-time teaching jobs at community colleges, four-year colleges, and universities.
A Sampling of Our Graduates’ Writing and Honors in Science and Medicine
- Best-selling author Molly Caldwell Crosby’s first book, American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History, was a Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” winner. Her second book, Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic, was a recommended book in Scientific American and Discover. Her latest is The Great Pearl Heist: London’s Greatest Thief and Scotland Yard’s Hunt for the World’s Most Valuable Necklace.
- Amy Fries, an accomplished freelance writer and former blogger for Psychology Today, is author of Daydreams at Work: Wake Up Your Creative Powers.
- Nature writer and essayist Sue Eisenfeld’s many awards include the TallGrass Writers Guild/Outrider Press contest, the 2012 Emma Bell Miles Prize for Essay, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts Goldfarb Family Fellowship.
- Michael Klesius, freelance writer and former staff writer at National Geographic, was published by Oliver Sacks in Best American Science Writing 2003. Klesius also is a former associate editor at Air & Space magazine.
- Gina Shaw, an award-winning freelance writer, has published articles for a wide range of professional organizations and magazines. Shaw recently profiled actress Sarah Jessica Parker for WebMD and is author of Having Children After Cancer.
- Eric Vohr is co-author of Safe Patients, Smart Hospitals: How One Doctor’s Checklist Can Help Us Change Health Care from the Inside Out, which he wrote with Johns Hopkins doctor Peter Pronovost, a national expert in patient safety.
- Brittany Moya del Pino is a writer and editor for the NCI Cancer Bulletin.
- Kim Young is the education / communications coordinator for the York County Conservation District and author of PA Wildlife Journal: Birds and Mammals of Pennsylvania.
- Rachel Pepling is online editor for Chemical & Engineering News.
In Fiction, Nonfiction, and Poetry
Roger Wolfson is a prominent TV writer in Hollywood. Monica Hesse is a staff writer for theWashington Post’s famous Style section. Poet and college professor Steve Kistulentzis a two-time winner of the John Mackay Shaw Academy of American Poets Prize. Ron Capps, an Army veteran with a joint degree in fiction and nonfiction, formed the nationally known Veterans Writing Project. Josh Rolnick, who won the Arts & Letters Prize in fiction, published his collection Pulp and Paper after winning the University of Iowa Press Short Fiction Award. Herta Feely, who won the $10,000 James Jones First Novel Fellowship, edited the recent anthology, Confessions: Fact or Fiction? Rae Bryant, author of the story collection The Indefinite State of Imaginary Morals, transformed her Moon Milk Review journal into The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review, an online literary and arts journal now housed at the Writing Program.
What We Cost, What You Get
Students in our program pay a single tuition cost for each course in which they enroll, so the total cost for the MA degree will be the per-course tuition for nine courses. Those nine courses must include one residency course and a final thesis course. Tuition is set on an annual basis, with any increases taking effect in the Summer term. The 2012-13 tuition for Summer and Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 is $2447 per course.
Students also pay for books, plus a special technology support fee for each online course. The current fee is $150 per online course, which pays for 24/7 technical support. For residencies, students pay the regular single-course tuition rate, plus a residency fee ranging from $150-500, depending on location. Students also must cover the cost of travel and housing for the residencies; discount housing is often available.
Student interested in the Science-Medical Writing MA degree at Hopkins should carefully calculate instruction hours per course. Each Hopkins course equates to about 35-40 hours of instructional time. Multiplied over nine courses, that often means the Hopkins MA program has more instructional time than many 10-course, onsite MA programs. In our accredited program, you will:
- Learn from respected, practicing science writers & editors; hear from famous authors.
- Watch doctors & scientists in labs, the field, & at world-famous Johns Hopkins Hospital.
- Focus on publishing in magazines, newsletters, websites, journals, newspapers, & books.
- Explore science and health policy on Capitol Hill and in federal agencies in Washington.
- Apply and start year-round; study at your own pace; choose your topics.
Our science and medical writers have visited a research island in Maine, control rooms at NASA, historic museums in Italy, and world-famous genetics and biotech labs in Washington and Baltimore. They have observed surgeons in the operating room, sailed with biologists on the Chesapeake Bay, and met with science writers from The Washington Post, National Public Radio, National Geographic magazine, The Baltimore Sun, The New Republic and other publications.
THE DOCTOR T.J. ECKLEBURG REVIEW
Housed at the Writing Program, The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review is a national literary and arts journal led by editor-in-chief Rae Bryant, an author and fiction graduate of the program. Eckleburg’s presence at Hopkins allows students to learn more about the world of editing, publishing, and literary journals, both print and online. With advisor approval, select Science-Medical Writing students may be able to enroll in our Eckleburg course or otherwise associate with the journal.
The MA in Writing Program offers onsite courses and degrees in Washington and Baltimore in Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and other topics. For information about those programs, which require onsite classes and which are not now offered online, see the list below:
Fiction: Mark Farrington, Assistant Program Director: 202.452.0782, email@example.com
Nonfiction: Cathy Alter: 202.288.0842, firstname.lastname@example.org
Poetry: Ed Perlman: 202.265.2604, email@example.com
Science-Medical Writing: Melissa Hendricks: firstname.lastname@example.org
General Writing Program Questions, Curriculum, and Faculty
David Everett, Program Director: email@example.com
- Fiction at Hopkins
- Nonfiction at Hopkins
- Science-Medical Writing at Hopkins
- Requirements by Concentration
- Your Writing Program Application
- Multi-Year Schedule
- The Hopkins Conference on Craft 2013
- The Hopkins Conference on Craft 2013 Housing
- The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review