Curriculum & Speakers
SHERP classwork is centered on real-world reporting assignments and extensive interactions with leading practitioners in journalism and science.
The SHERP sequence consists of 11 classes (including one elective) over 16 months, for a total of 38 credits. Beyond the elective class in the final semester, it is also possible to further customize the curriculum by substituting other courses for required classes, with the permission of the program director.
In addition to regular classes, we teach multimedia storytelling via two intensive, eight-week workshops: audio in the first semester and video in the spring. We want our graduates to be “platform agnostic” storytellers; the comprehensive skill sets they develop at SHERP give them the freedom to choose the best way to tell every story — and to compile diverse portfolios that show prospective employers exactly what they can do. You can see some of the students’ audio and video work on Scienceline.
SHERP students learn many other skills, too, including data mining and visualization via Python and R programming, and survival skills for freelancers (about one-third of our graduates decide to freelance instead of taking staff jobs).
In addition to bringing in dozens of prominent guest speakers every semester, SHERP hosts the Kavli Conversations on Science Communication at NYU, which are interactive events held both in-person and online. Now in their sixth year, these very popular events feature moderated conversations between leading science journalists and eminent scientists. So far, they’ve attracted more than 70,000 views online and in person — take a look for yourself! You can also watch videos of our predecessor “Inside Out” evening discussion series. SHERP students also interact with Ph.D. students, post-docs, medical students and science faculty at NYU who sign up for Science Communication Workshops, which are four-week short courses that introduce scientists to the basics of communicating research to lay audiences.
We have also brought in eminent science journalists to work with our students and alumni via the Simons Visiting Science Journalist program. Best-selling science writer Mary Roach was our inaugural Simons Visiting Science Journalist, later joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz, author David Quammen and editor Laura Helmuth, now editor-in-chief of Scientific American. Our students also interact with two “visiting scholars” each year who are leading figures in the world of science journalism. Past SHERP visiting scholars have included Carl Zimmer, Maria Konnikova, Melinda Wenner Moyer, Mariette DiChristina, David Corcoran, Corey Powell, Amy Harmon and Virginia Hughes.
Another new curricular opportunity for SHERP students is the Physics Journalism Fellowship, funded by the National Science Foundation via NYU Assistant Professor of Physics Joshua Ruderman. Fellows pursue in-depth reporting projects at the frontiers of physics. The first recipient, Ryan Mandelbaum, visited CERN (the European Organization for Nuclear Research) in Geneva and published this story in Gizmodo based on his fellowship experience. The second, Mark Kaufman, visited Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and wrote about Martian exploration for Mashable. The third, Charlie Wood, visited the Atacama Large Millimeter/Sub-millimeter Array (ALMA) in Chile and wrote about the birth of planets for Popular Science. And the fourth, Dana Najjar, visited LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) in Louisiana and wrote about the intricate science of measuring gravitational waves for LiveScience.
SHERP organizes seminar field trips every year to Brookhaven National Laboratory, The New York Times, the American Museum of Natural History, the Jamaica Bay National Wildlife Refuge and the New York Aquarium. With the help of stipends from SHERP, many students also attend the annual conferences of the National Association of Science Writers, the Society of Environmental Journalists, the Association of Health Care Journalists or the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (SHERP’s faculty includes current or former leaders of all three journalism groups.) There are also fellowship opportunities for students to attend other conferences, including the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative and the Society for Neuroscience.
We also host special events. In the fall of 2012, for example, more than 170 alumni, students and friends of SHERP gathered to celebrate our 30th anniversary, which included a panel discussion (watch the video!) with best-selling authors Rebecca Skloot and Mary Roach and Radiolab creator Jad Abumrad. In 2007, we celebrated our 25th anniversary with a full day of events, including a symposium on artificial life featuring famed geneticist J. Craig Venter.
The program’s award-winning student-run webzine, Scienceline, is fully integrated into coursework. SHERP students assign, report and edit stories, blogs, videos, audio podcasts and data visualizations, some of which begin as class assignments.
Writing and Reporting Workshop I (Prof. Robin Lloyd, four credits) introduces students to the tools of the trade, while helping them report, write and, most importantly, think like journalists. Students learn the ingredients of a great news story, along with basic reporting techniques such as how to find story leads, track down information sources, and nail an interview. They also learn the principles of how to write with clarity, accuracy and style, and how to make the most of the editing process. In this class, SHERP students are also introduced to the burgeoning world of digital journalism, including multimedia production. They put their new skills into practice with varied assignments. Pitching stories to professional sites with an eye to publication is an integral part of this class. International students who wish to use the Curricular Practical Training option for this practicum class should contact the NYU Office of Global Services.
Current Topics in Science, Health and Environmental Journalism (Prof. Dan Fagin, four credits) introduces students to the world of science journalism by looking at scientific topics that are at the cutting-edge of research and have profound implications for the way we live. In other words, they are the raw material for great journalism. As students immerse themselves in some challenging areas of current science, they read the work of highly accomplished researchers and journalists and also hear from them directly in class. The goal throughout is to understand and adopt the practices that the best science journalists use when they cover controversial science. Students learn how journalists interact with scientists, conduct research, organize information and write stories. Just as importantly, students sharpen their analytical skills by writing almost every week for Scienceline. Covering an assigned beat, students follow the peer-reviewed journals and other sources to stay on top of the news as it happens.
Medical Reporting (Prof. Ivan Oransky, M.D., four credits) provides an in-depth look at many of the most important contemporary topics in the always dynamic field of medical journalism, including the biology of cancer, environment-related illness, epidemiology, and the precepts of sound medical research and peer review. Students write several short pieces on journal reports, medical conferences and community health lectures, and one longer, feature-length piece on a health topic of their choice. Medical researchers and prominent journalists are frequent guest speakers.
Writing and Reporting Workshop II (Prof. Melinda Moyer Wenner, four credits) is an introduction to long-form science journalism. Drawing on the narrative techniques of great fiction, students produce news features, books (proposals and outlines), reported essays, audio reports and explanatory pieces. In addition to these major assignments, there are extensive in-class writing and reading exercises, including character sketches, op-eds and close textual analysis. Pitching stories to professional sites with an eye to publication is an integral part of this class. International students who wish to use the Curricular Practical Training option for this practicum class should contact the NYU Office of Global Services.
Environmental Reporting (Prof. Dan Fagin, four credits) has three major components. Students focus on writing — and rewriting! — insightful stories about environment-related topics that are often emotionally charged and highly politicized. They also take deep dives into a series of crucial but often misunderstood topics such as risk assessment, epidemiology, environmental law, climate science, framing and the use of databases and other investigative tools. And finally, they read and discuss the work of exemplary environmental writers and thinkers, from Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold to John McPhee and Bill McKibben. As they explore each of these three components, students practice many forms environmental journalism, including news stories, features, topical profiles, blog posts, persuasive columns and descriptive essays. They also critique newly published environmental journalism every week.
Investigative Science Journalism (Prof. Charles Seife, four credits) gives students the tools they will need to see through lies and shed light on facts that certain people would rather keep hidden. By the end of the semester, they will be able to sniff out deception and find the facts to uncover it; they’ll also be relentless — unwilling to let go once they seek their teeth into a juicy story. SHERP students will get the mathematical knowledge, investigative reporting techniques, and computer skills that will help them cut through hype and obfuscation, and it will do so by having them perform first-rate investigations on important scientific or medical topics. After completing this course, students will be formidable — and dangerous — reporters.
Journalistic Judgment (Prof. Robin Henig, four credits) is SHERP’s press ethics class. It emphasizes the special dilemmas and unique ethical decisions that come with covering science, health and environmental news. The First Amendment, libel, censorship (including self-censorship), transparency and ethical decision-making are key topics in this class.
Fieldwork in Journalism (Prof. Eleanor Cummins, one credit) is the first of two required internships. (A few students also intern in the spring.) Preparatory work for the internships actually begins during the first semester of SHERP, when the program’s internship coordinators work with students to prepare resumes and cover letters and assist them in identifying opportunities that fit their interests and aspirations. A Meet the Editors and Producers event, typically attended by more than 30 supervising editors who work with SHERP, is part of this process. International students who wish to use the Curricular Practical Training option for this internship class should contact the NYU Office of Global Services.
Science Writing (Prof. John Rennie, four credits) is an advanced class that draws on all the skills students have practiced and polished during the previous year. The goal is to give a realistic preview of life as a working science journalist, from finding a story idea to pitching it to surviving the editing process to making sure the final product is accurate, clear and compelling. The class looks at science journalism from the editor’s point of view, and also emphasizes the process of popularizing complex scientific and technical information for the mass media. Students produce at least one feature-length story, as well as several shorter pieces. The goal, as ever, is for students to write stories they can pitch to professional publications. International students who wish to use the Curricular Practical Training option for this practicum class should contact the NYU Office of Global Services.
Elective (four credits each). In their final semester, SHERP students can explore areas of special interest by taking a course offered elsewhere in the Carter Institute (or, by special permission, elsewhere in the university). Possibilities at the institute include graduate courses in advanced television and radio production, data journalism, investigative reporting, business journalism, essay writing, journalism and epidemics, criticism, ethnography and journalism, history of media, literary journalism, cultural reporting, hyperlocal coverage and food journalism, among others.
Fieldwork in Journalism (Prof. Eleanor Cummins, one credit) is the second of two required internships. During this final semester, the focus is on transitioning from internships to full-time work on staff or as a freelancer. Every year, several SHERP students land full-time jobs at places where they have interned. International students who wish to use the Curricular Practical Training option for this internship class should contact the NYU Office of Global Services.
A partial list of guest speakers in SHERP classes since 2018:
- Brianna Abbott, health writer, Wall Street Journal (SHERP 36)
- Marshall Allen, investigative reporter, ProPublica
- Yasmine Al-Sayyad, fact checker, The New Yorker
- Natalie Angier, reporter, The New York Times
- Sridhar Anandakrishan, geologist, Penn State
- Sharon Begley, science writer, Thomson-Reuters
- David Biello, associate editor for environment and energy, Scientific American
- Ariel Bleicher, science writer, University of California
- Jennifer Bogo, vice president for editorial, Popular Science
- Kate Bolger, partner and 1st Amendment lawyer, Davis Wright Tremaine
- Brooke Borel, author and freelancer
- Seth Borenstein, science writer, The Associated Press
- Helen Branswell, infectious disease reporter, STAT News
- Shannon Brownlee, author and freelancer
- Jeanna Bryner, editor in chief, Live Science (SHERP 21)
- Julie Calderone, senior staff editor for health, The New York Times
- Arthur Caplan, bioethicist, NYU Langone Medical Center
- Stephen Cass, technology writer and editor
- Alicia Chang, science writer, Associated Press
- Ken Chang, science writer, The New York Times
- Charles Choi, science writer.
- Jon Coiffman, director of communications, Environmental Defense Fund
- Phil Corbett, standards editor, The New York Times
- Natalie Dean, epidemiologist, University of Florida
- Clarisa Diaz, artist and podcaster
- Rachel Dretzin, documentary writer and producer, Ark Media and PBS Frontline
- Emily Driscoll, freelance documentary producer (SHERP 25)
- Shelley Dubois, managing supervisor, FleishmanHilliard (SHERP 27)
- Arielle Duhaime-Ross, correspondent and podcast host, Vice News (SHERP 31)
- Katherine Eban, author, investigative reporter
- Chelsea Harvey, reporter, ClimateWire (SHERP 32)
- Randi Hutter Epstein, freelancer and author
- Rose Eveleth, freelance writer and producer (SHERP 29)
- Rachel Feltman, executive editor, Popular Science (SHERP 31)
- Sheri Fink, public health reporter, ProPublica
- Kristina Fiore, staff writer, MedPage Today (SHERP 24)
- Ira Flatow, author and host, NPR Science Friday
- Joshua Foer, author of Moonwalking With Einstein
- Greg Gabadadze, director of the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, NYU
- Jon Gertner, author and freelancer
- Justin Gillis, environment writer, The New York Times
- Josie Glausiusz, freelance writer and science blogger (SERP 11)
- Barak Goodman, filmmaker and documentarian, Frontline
- James Gorman, reporter and editor, The New York Times
- Scott Gottlieb, commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
- Andrew Grant, reporter, Physics Today (SHERP 26)
- Mary Beth Griggs, science editor, The Verge (SHERP 29)
- David Grimm, online news editor, Science
- Lena Groeger, developer and writer, ProPublica (SHERP 29)
- Luke Groskin, video producer, Science Friday
- Ben Guarino, science writer, Washington Post (SHERP 31)
- Susan Hassler, editor in chief, IEEE Spectrum
- Carole Anne Haswell, astrophysicist, Open University (UK)
- Terri Hambrecht, National Institutes of Health
- Andrew Han, reporter, GenomeWeb (SHERP 31)
- Amy Harmon, special projects correspondent, The New York Times
- Rebecca Harrington, senior editor, Business Insider (SHERP 33)
- Justine Hausheer, science writer, The Nature Conservancy (SHERP 30)
- Samantha Henig, editorial director for audio, The New York Times
- Scott Hensley, pharmaceutical industry reporter, The Wall Street Journal
- Laura Hercher, genetics counselor, Sarah Lawrence College
- Matthew Herper, pharma correspondent, Forbes
- Katie Hiler, associate producer, Science Friday (SHERP 31)
- Robert Lee Hotz, science writer, Wall Street Journal
- Virginia Hughes, author, blogger and freelance writer, deputy Science Editor, The New York Times
- Craig Hunter, Daily Kos
- Christopher Intagliata, producer, Science Friday (SHERP 26)
- Ferris Jabr, author and contract writer, New York Times Magazine (SHERP 28)
- May Jeong, freelance for Vanity Fair, Wired, others
- Roxanne Khamsi, editor, Nature Medicine
- Maggie Koerth-Baker, author, blogger and freelance writer.
- Lindsey Konkel, freelance writer (SHERP 27)
- Miriam Kramer, space beat writer, Axios (SHERP 30)’
- Matthew Laurens, Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health, University of Maryland
- Stephanie Lee, health reporter, Buzzfeed News
- Sharon Lerner, environmental reporter, The Intercept
- Ben Lillie, founder, The Story Collider
- Jilliam Rose Lim, science writer, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
- Susannah Locke, projects editor, Vox.com (SHERP 26)
- George Lundberg, former editor in chief, Medscape
- Abrahm Lustgarten, energy and environmental reporter, ProPublica
- Shefali Luthra, science writer, The 19th
- Frank Maisano, principal, Bracewell and Guiliani
- Claire Maldarelli, associate editor, Popular Science (SHERP 32)
- Apoorva Mandavilli, public health writer, New York Times (SERP 17)
- Ryan Mandelbaum, science writer, Gizmodo (SHERP 34)
- Adam Marcus, managing editor, Anesthesiology News
- Maryn McKenna, author and freelance writer
- Christopher Mims, science and technology blogger, The Wall Street Journal
- Steve Mirsky, columnist and podcast editor, Scientific American
- Ligaya Mishan, food critic and author of the “Hungry City” column, New York Times
- Amanda Moon, senior editor, Scientific American Books (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Sam Moore, associate editor, IEEE Spectrum (SERP 16)
- Michael Moyer, senior editor, Quanta
- Siddhartha Mukherjee, physician and author of The Emperor of All Maladies
- Jason Munshi-South, assistant professor of biology, Baruch College
- Keeve Nachman, director of the Food Production and Health Program, Johns Hopkins University
- Annalee Newitz, editor in chief, io9
- Amy Nordrum, editor Technology Review (SHERP 32)
- Thomas O’Neill, former staff writer, National Geographic
- Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geoscience and international affairs, Princeton University
- Charles Ornstein, medical reporter, ProPublica
- Dennis Overbye, science writer, The New York Times
- Brendan Parent, bioethicist, NYU
- Kevin Pelphrey, co-director, Yale Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience
- Corey Powell, former editor in chief, Discover
- Evan Ratliff, author of The Mastermind, co-host of the Longform podcast
- Antonio Regalado, editor, Technology Review (SERP 12)
- Andrew Revkin, former environmental reporter and blogger, The New York Times
- Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press science writer
- Adam Rogers, articles editor, Wired
- David Sassoon, founder and publisher, Inside Climate News
- Lynn Schaefer, director of neuropsychology, Nassau University Medical Center
- Jon Scieszka, author of Science Verse and other science-related children’s books
- Jamie Shreeve, science editor, National Geographic
- Annie Sneed, Scientific American
- Jessica Snyder Sachs, author and freelancer
- Lisa Song, ProPublica
- Gary Soucie, author and magazine editor
- Nidhi Subbaraman, science writer, Buzzfeed News
- Margaret Sullivan, media columnist, Washington Post
- Robert Sullivan, author of The Thoreau You Know, A Whale Hunt, Rats and other books
- Andrea Thompson, sustainability editor, Scientific American (SHERP 24)
- Nicholas Thompson, senior editor, The New Yorker
- Bijal Trivedi, freelance science writer (SERP 18)
- Jane von Mehren, literary agent at Aevitus Creative Management
- Jessica Wapner, freelance writer and author
- Molly Webster, features producer and substitute host, RadioLab (SHERP 25)
- Dan Vergano, science writer and editor, Buzzfeed (SERP 14)
- Nicole Wetsman, science writer, Verge (SHERP 35)
- Amber Williams, senior staff editor, The New York Times (SHERP 29)
- Paige Williams, author of The Dinosaur Artist, New Yorker staff writer
- Ed Yong, science blogger and author
- Manoush Zomorodi, technology journalist and host/managing editor of WNYC New Tech City
- Carl Zimmer, science author, freelancer and blogger
- Michael Balter, contract writer, Science
- Charles Bergquist, producer, NPR Science Friday (SERP 15)
- Burkhard Bilger, staff writer, The New Yorker
- Corey Binns, writer and editor (SERP 23)
- Bjorn Carey, editor, Tech Media Network (SERP 23)
- Mariette DiChristina, editor in chief, Scientific American
- Christopher Dickey, entrepreneur (SERP 15)
- Emily Driscoll, freelance documentarian (SHERP 25)
- Rene Ebersole, features editor, Audubon (SERP 17)
- A. Adam Glenn, consultant and professor, CUNY
- Christine Gorman, health editor, Scientific American
- Sharon Guynup, writer and photographer (SERP 16)
- Emily Hager, video journalist, New York Times (SHERP 22)
- Stephen S. Hall, author and freelancer
- Emily Laber-Warren, writer, editor and professor, CUNY
- Michael Lemonick, senior writer, Climate Central
- Trudy Lieberman, author and freelancer
- Apoorva Mandavilli, editor in chief, Spectrum magazine
- Corey Powell, editor in chief, Discover
- Rebecca Skloot, author and freelancer