Limited Options Make for Easy Choices

via tumblr

Engineers hate writing. Well, most of us. Somehow I’m the odd one out when it comes to the generic engineer’s opinion of written word, which is what landed me in the Minor in Writing program in the first place. Unlike most of my peers, my options for this repurposing project are pretty limited. As an engineer, I’ve only taken one class in the University’s English department. As an engineer, most of my assignments have nothing to do with reading, writing, or editing and everything to do with process design, thermodynamics, or fluid flow. As an engineer, I panicked once I realized how limited my options are.

via tumblr

But I really want to pull on something from the science-oriented part of my world and bring it into the writing-oriented part of my world for this project, which narrows those already-slim options down to only one option: my Introduction to Engineering freshman project. (I presented a few other weak ideas to my group, but more than anything I think the recommendation that I pursue this idea was a direct result of my disproportionate enthusiasm about it.) A course specifically targeted towards engineers deciding between Chemical and Biomedical Engineering, this introduction to the profession covered relevant material to these two fields and provided a comprehensive understanding of the engineering community’s culture and standards. Basically, the particular introductory course I chose to take taught me how to be an engineer and that I wanted to be a chemical one. (Over half of the class declared as Chemical Engineers the following semester. The reason? Our professor made the biomedical field seem so intimidating that we were all scared away. Now, when we’re bonding over the torture of thermodynamics, we reminisce about how silly we were to think the chemical path would be easier. But I digress.) The course centered on a team project focused on developing a presymptomatic diagnostic test for a particular disease. In my case, my dream team of four overachievers developed a nasopharyngeal swab test for pertussis, more commonly known as whooping cough. The test was designed to target outbreaks in third world countries in order to protect infants, as they are most susceptible to deadly infections.

The piece I am going to repurpose is the crowning jewel of this team project: the final report detailing our research and presymptomatic test design. The report is a classic engineering report, thirty-two pages long, formatted extensively, and chock full of jargon, data, and references. Intended as a proposal for an imaginary biomedical company, the report’s target audience is the CEO, CTO, and manager of this company. I’d like to change the mode of this report to target a new audience: the decision-makers in organizations like Doctors Without Borders. While this is still a highly educated audience that would comprehend the nitty gritty jargon of the current report, I want to alter the focus of the piece by shifting the focus more on the target population of the diagnostic test, rather than the specific scientific details of the diagnostic test. This shift will appeal to my new audience’s mission: to bring medical aid to impoverished communities in third world countries. Essentially, I want to change the piece to focus on the humanitarian’s cause in challenging the recent upswing in outbreaks of whooping cough in underdeveloped areas of the world; if a few heartstrings are played in the process, I’ll be happy at the end of the day.

4 thoughts to “Limited Options Make for Easy Choices”

  1. Hey Rachel –
    I’m trying to be a better member of our MIW community by commenting on more posts, and have some difficulty deciding which pieces to read and/or focus on. I feel you should know that I picked yours because your title and first line caught my attention immediately; the piece really stands out in a crowd of otherwise similar looking titles.

    Also, I think that you’re getting at something interesting in this post. I think it’s a little strange that there’s a stereotype that people in the “harder sciences” are afraid or intimidated by writing, because I don’t see the two as being mutually exclusive. I’m glad that you’re choosing to adapt something more science-y onto a creative medium; I’m sure that like this post, it’ll stand out from the crowd 🙂

  2. Rachel,

    Hearing this idea in group discussion was really cool! I think that it’s really smart that you’re choosing a piece in your field. This course’s purpose is to prepare us for our respective careers, and I’m sure that choosing this piece will help prepare you to shine in a field dominated by logistical, non-writing types.

    I also think that your re-purposing idea is really cool. By keeping the legal jargon, you’re maintaining the essence you need for the engineering field. Like we discussed in class today, though, including whatever emotional anecdotal evidence you choose will prove really persuasive. I’m sure that these board members have heard thousands of scientific reports and arguments, so by looking at the issue through an emotional lens, you’re breaching new ground that could prove individualistic in such a scientific world.

    Good luck on your project! I’m sure that it’ll turn out great.

  3. Rachel,

    Your repurposing idea really captured my attention. I am very interested by the different type of writing experience you get through engineering and I actually had no idea what writing for engineering was like until I read your post. I think it will be really compelling to switch your intended audience to members of an organization that directly serves people. Focusing on the target population of the diagnostic test will provide you with a very much people-facing and emotional backdrop for your project. I think often, academia may disregard the impact of a study or something similar on people themselves and their stories. I also like that you are choosing to write about something within the challenging biomedical field from a different perspective. Good luck with your project, I’m excited to see how it turns out!

  4. Your proposal has been one of the most interesting I’ve seen so far. Most people come from a background where writing is one of their favorite activities. The fact that you have taken only one English class so far makes me curious and excited to see the way that you take this.

    I am also surprised that you are such an eloquent writer; it took me many years to learn how to write well, and I’ve been thrown in English classes since I was little.

Leave a Reply