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University of Iowa News Release


Sept. 25, 2008

UI presents 'Writing Science at the Writing University' Oct. 7-10

Writers and scientists don't always speak the same language, but an upcoming colloquium aims to bridge that gap.

"Writing Science at the Writing University" will take place Oct. 7-10 at the University of Iowa, home to several renowned writing programs, top-ranked research programs, and one of the nation's premier academic medical centers.

Sessions will engage top scholars, educators and writers in discussions about effective writing that can flow across boundaries between the humanities, the sciences and the public.

The conference features writing about science of all sorts, from science journalism to poetry. National, regional and local speakers will discuss a broad range of topics, including communicating science in writing, writing science textbooks, the impact of the writing on the process of learning science, science and creative writing, environmental sciences, public health policy and more.

UI President Sally Mason and Graduate College Dean John Keller will open the colloquium at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, in Room 1289 of the Carver Biomedical Research Building with welcoming remarks and brief comments on two new UI initiatives: the Sustainability Initiative -- the university's commitment to green facilities and environmental practices -- and the Writing University Initiative -- a project to continue and expand the UI's dedication to great creative, nonfiction, and scholarly writing (

"This colloquium is a perfect opportunity to connect Iowa's tradition of writing excellence and its groundbreaking research in the sciences," Mason said. "The possibility of a sustainable future depends on our commitment to living ethically in our global environment. Through research, writing, teaching and outreach, the University of Iowa aims to contribute to these efforts by fostering an informed society in which individual decisions make a tremendous difference."

The UI's Project on Rhetoric of Inquiry (POROI), International Writing Program, Graduate College, and 16 programs across campus are co-sponsoring the free, public colloquium. Registration is not required, and attendees can participate in any or all sessions. For a schedule, visit

Session topics will appeal to a variety of audiences, including:

--Scientists and researchers interested in writing about their work for the general public.

--Writers interested in science writing, including journalists, fiction and nonfiction writers, poets and textbook authors.

--Educators seeking innovative ways to energize and engage young people who are learning science.

--Advocates for the environment, animal rights and public health.

--Citizens interested in examining ways that writing can contribute to our understanding of the world and positively affect decisions we make at home, at work, at the polls and at the stores.

Sixteen UI faculty and staff members will share their perspectives on links between science and writing. The UI presenters represent an array of fields, including biology, business, ophthalmology, internal medicine, hydrology, chemistry, science education, English, engineering, creative and nonfiction writing, global health, women's studies, rhetoric and communication studies.

The conference also includes events with noteworthy guest speakers:

--A reading by Richard Kenney at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7, Frank Conroy Reading Room, Dey House. Kenney, a distinguished poet whose work addresses scientific issues, has been praised by the New York Review of Books as "one of the most gifted and multifaceted and original of American poets." For more information on Kenney, visit

--"Communicating in Science Writing" with Washington Post science journalist David Brown at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, Room 1289, Carver Biomedical Research Building. Brown, along with Kenney and UI faculty, will discuss the challenges and purposes of science reporting. For more information on Brown, visit

--"Writing Science Textbooks," with McGraw-Hill executives Patrick Reidy, managing editor, biology texts, and Michael Lange, vice president, new product launches, and UI faculty, from 2:15 to 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, Room 1289, Carver Biomedical Research Building. Their remarks will focus on the ins and outs of textbook writing and marketing.

--"Writing Rivers in the Footsteps of Rachel Carson" with Sandra Steingraber, acclaimed author of "Living Downstream," ecologist, cancer survivor, and internationally recognized expert on the environmental links to cancer and reproductive health, at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 9, Room W401, John Pappajohn Business Building. For more information on Steingraber, visit

--A reading by Karl Iagnemma, prizewinning fiction writer and Principal Investigator in the Robotic Mobility Group, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), at noon Friday, Oct. 10, 3111 Seamans Center. Booklist calls Iagnemma "a rising star among short story writers." For more information on Iagnemma, visit

--NOTE: A panelist for this event has changed: Nigel Rothfels, director of the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee will join faculty from the UI and Luther College in a panel discussion titled "Articulating the Animal: Writing the Life and Mind of Primates," from 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10, Room W401, John Pappajohn Business Building.

--NOTE: This event has been postponed: Those attending the colloquium may also be interested in attending a public lecture sponsored by the University Lecture Committee by E.O. Wilson, noted evolutionary biologist and ecological advocate, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 8, in the First United Methodist Church at 214 E. Jefferson, Iowa City.  Wilson is professor of biology at Harvard University and a pioneer in the fields of biodiversity and sociobiology. Two of his 21 books have won Pulitzer Prizes. For more information on Wilson, visit

Three of the conference's guest speakers are Ida Cordelia Beam visiting lecturers. For information on the program, visit

For UI building locator maps, visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS:  Andrea Jonahs, Graduate College, 319-335-2752; Hugh Ferrer, International Writing Program, 319-335-3856; Nicole Riehl, University News Services, 319-384-0070 (office), 319-430-6576 (cell),