Students will be able to apply knowledge of biology to one or more contemporary issues in society.
One of the first times I had to convey the science behind a societal issue to a general audience was in my Sophomore Seminar class. In this class, we were tasked with writing a review paper on a relevant, biology-related issue that we thought needed to be addressed. This review paper had to be geared towards a general audience. I chose to write a review paper exploring coral reef degradation and the many ways we humans have contributed to coral reef decline. I remember finding this assignment difficult at first because I didn’t have much experience writing for a general audience. I had a hard time expressing the importance of the issue without using too much scientific jargon and without sounding like I was lecturing the reader. I think that I was ultimately successful, but it was an important learning experience for me. I went on to use that experience in later classes where we were given similar assignments.
Another class where I had to apply my knowledge to societal issues was Comprehensive Human Anatomy and Physiology II. In this class, we were tasked with writing a paper that explores myths about physical health that are widely believed. For my paper, I explored detox diets and applied my knowledge of human anatomy and physiology in order to debunk the myth that they are necessary or even beneficial for our health. I remember being given specific instruction on how to approach debunking a myth that is commonly believed, as people often don’t like to be told that they are wrong. I think that this instruction was helpful to me because it showed me that extra thought and/or care has to be put in writing for a general audience in order for them to be receptive to whatever message you are trying to get across. I have been able to apply this way of thinking to many other assignments where the target was a general audience, and I know that it is something I will always keep in mind when I try to do the same in the future.
My Senior Capstone in Biology class gave me more experience exploring topics and writing material based on current societal issues. In this class, rather than writing for a general audience, we were tasked with writing a research proposal. I wrote my proposal on the immunopathology of COVID-19 and the need for more research in that area. I had never written a research proposal before, so this was completely new to me. By this time, I had gotten comfortable exploring societal issues through the lens of a general audience, so doing so in such a new and different context was difficult for me. I feel like this was an important learning experience, but, because it was for one of my final classes here at Longwood, I feel like I won’t have the chance to ger more experience through practice. I want to go into laboratory research myself, so I feel like experience writing research proposals is necessary for me and I wish there were more opportunities for me to practice this type of writing before I graduate. I think that learning how to write a research proposal was nonetheless valuable for me, even if I don’t get the opportunity to refine and improve on that style of writing before I graduate.