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Lisa Emerson: “The Changing Role of Physicists and Mathematicians as Writers”

Tuesday, October 8, 2013 @ 5:00 pm

Lisa Emerson

Lisa Emerson

Scientists are, in many ways, the “forgotten tribe” of academic writers. While an extensive body of literature, written from a humanities’ perspective, explores both the rhetoric of science, and the teaching of science writing, very little has been written about the perspectives of scientists as writers.

In this presentation, Lisa Emerson gives an overview of her major study of scientists as writers, based on data collected in New Zealand, Australia, the UK, and the US, from scientists in a range of disciplines, over a five-year period. The primary focus of this presentation, however, is on a small sector of the project: senior physicists and mathematicians. Dr. Emerson presents the voices of these scientists, exploring their attitudes and beliefs about writing in their discipline, and their experiences and development as writers of science. By looking at scientists’ voices through the literature on expertise and literacy expertise, she shows that senior physicists and mathematicians are strongly engaged by writing and see writing as an integral aspect of science. Most participants actively invited and relished the challenges of writing in new genres to new audiences, showed an ability to engage both analytical and intuitive understandings of scientific writing, and exhibited both confidence and resilience as writers. This research has implications for the teaching of science writing, and for the development of emerging scientists.

Dr. Emerson, an Associate Professor in the School of English and Media Studies at Massey University, New Zealand, is visiting as a Fulbright Senior Scholar, hosted by MIT’s Writing Across the Curriculum Program. She teaches science writing at undergraduate and graduate level, as well as publishing in the fields of science writing, writing in the disciplines, plagiarism, and New Zealand writing programs. She is an award winning teacher, and won the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Supreme Award for Sustained Excellence in Tertiary teaching in 2008.


Tuesday, October 8, 2013
5:00 pm


Writing Across the Curriculum


MIT Building 14E, Room 304
160 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139 United States
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