The study of the communication of science and technology is an interdisciplinary enterprise that draws upon the scientific, engineering, and communication resources of Vanderbilt University. The program is designed for students who have an interest in science and technology and also are interested in how science and technology are communicated to the larger world outside science, engineering, and medicine.
The Communication of Science and Technology major at Vanderbilt is unique in that it was invented by students in the early 2000s as an independent contract major and continues as an interdisciplinary major, with a small team of supportive faculty advisors, but with no formal home department.
Both the major and minor in the Communication of Science and Technology are interdisciplinary. Students must take advanced courses in writing and public speaking and are encouraged to take courses in video and film production. These courses provide a broad, three-legged foundation of communication skills that are invaluable for students in any profession.
Students must take at least five science and engineering courses; of these, at least three must be advanced courses in one or more scientific disciplines; up to two of these courses may be engineering courses. Students also take a course that bridges the sciences with non-science content and issues (for example, Public Policy or Medicine, Health, and Society courses), a statistics course, and a selection of electives.
Students have a choice of using their required science/engineering courses and electives to probe deeply into a single discipline or of spreading those courses thinly over many disciplines. Many students combine this major with a second major or a minor in one of the natural sciences and/or a program in engineering. This approach, which ensures depth of knowledge in a single content area as well as breadth across several areas of science and engineering, is considered best for those students who intend to become communicators of science.
Majors are encouraged spend a semester as an active member of a science or engineering research laboratory group and/or to do an on-campus or off-campus directed study, either during a summer or part-time during a semester.
Recent on-campus projects have been done with the Vanderbilt Brain Institute, the Vanderbilt Kidney Project, Vanderbilt LifeFlight, and with faculty-led projects in astronomy, biological sciences, chemistry, civil engineering, dermatology, engineering science, human genetics, nanoscience, pharmacology, and psychology.
Recent graduates have gone on to graduate and/or professional schools in law, medicine, dentistry, nursing, physical therapy, organizational leadership, public policy and public health. Others have gone on to pursue professional opportunities in presenting science in both written and visual formats in both the public and private sectors, while others have begun careers in accounting, public relations, pharmaceutical sales, information technology, advertising, consulting, and public service.
The core course CSET 2100 is taught each fall by science writer Stephen Ornes (http://stephenornes.com/). Professor David Weintraub, from the Department of Physics & Astronomy, directs the program and advises most CSET majors. Other core faculty who often teach courses taken by CSET majors include Ole Molvig (History), Jay Clayton (English), Jonathan Gilligan (Earth and Environmental Science), Jeffrey Schall (Neuroscience), Ruth Rogaski (History and Asian Studies) and Jennifer Fay (Cinema and Media Arts and English).