NYU Arts & Science

 

Curriculum & Speakers

Start at the SHERP home page, if you haven’t been there yet.

Curriculum & Speakers

SHERP students take a two-day trip to Brookhaven National Laboratory every year.
Designing data graphics in a SHERP classroom
A SHERP-sponsored forum on synthetic biology featuring, among others, geneticist J. Craig Venter.
Visiting CNN and meeting with Anderson Cooper.
Behind the scenes at the exhibit workshop of the American Museum of Natural History.
SHERP students, alumni and faculty at the ScienceOnline conference. SHERPies are also regulars at NASW, SEJ, AHCJ and AAAS.
A talk about bioengineered prosthetics at Brookhaven National Lab.
Learning about space dust research at Brookhaven National Lab.
At the National Synchrotron Light Source at Brookhaven Lab.

SHERP’s customized curriculum is centered on case studies and real-world reporting assignments, as well as conversations with dozens of prominent guest speakers every semester from the worlds of journalism and science. In addition to numerous in-class speakers, SHERP is now the proud host of the Kavli Conversations on Science Communication at NYU, which are interactive, live webcasts (you can join in!) featuring conversations between leading science journalists and eminent scientists who reach mass audiences. You can see videos of our previous “Inside Out” evening discussion series, too. SHERP students also interact with Ph.D. students, post-docs and medical students at NYU who sign up for the Science Communication Workshops, a four-week short course that introduces scientists-in-training to the basics of communicating their research to lay audiences.

We recently hosted best-selling science writer Mary Roach as our inaugural Simons Visiting Science Journalist; she met with students, alumni and faculty of SHERP and the Science Communication Workshops. Our students also interact with two “visiting scholars” each year who are leading figures in the world of science journalism. The current designees are Amy Harmon and Virginia Hughes. Past SHERP visiting scholars have included Carl Zimmer, Mariette DiChristina, David Corcoran and Corey Powell.

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 CNN. Many SHERP 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.

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.

Multimedia training, including video production in Final Cut Pro, audio podcasting and data graphic design, begins in the first semester and continues throughout the first year of instruction.

The SHERP sequence consists of 12 classes (including one elective) over 16 months, for a total of 42 credits.

Curriculum quick links: first semester, second semester, summer semester, third semester, recent guest speakers, current faculty and past faculty.

First Semester (Fall) Classes

Writing and Reporting Workshop I (Prof. Robin Lloydsyllabus, 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 blogging, video production and interactivity. They put their new skills into practice with varied assignments, with the aim of publishing their best work in Scienceline.

Current Topics in Science, Health and Environmental Journalism (Prof. Dan Fagin, syllabus, four credits) (NOTE: Will be taught by Prof. Charles Seife in Fall 2017) 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., syllabus, 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.

Second Semester (Spring) Classes

Writing and Reporting Workshop II (Prof. Stephen S. Hall, syllabus, 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, stand-alone videos 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. Most classes also reserve time for an informal “story meeting,” where students will pitch story ideas. This culminates with a formal query letter pitched to a specific media outlet.

Environmental Reporting (Prof. Dan Fagin, syllabus, 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.

Summer Session Classes

Journalistic Judgment (Prof. Robin Henig, syllabus, 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.

Entrepreneurial Science Journalism (Prof. Christie Nicholson, four credits), is a project-based course to introduce students to business skills that will help them thirve as science journalism reinvents itself for digital platforms. Through research, interviews and exercises, students gain a foundational knowledge of how to build and defend a business concept. Some students work closely with well-established legacy brands in science journalism to develop new products or services that enhance those brands. Other students conceive and plan their own original startup businesses. The final deliverable is a thoroughly researched and polished pitch deck that is presented to a team of judges, along with accompanying documentation.

Fieldwork in Journalism (Prof. Rene Ebersole, 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.

Third Semester (Fall) Classes

Science Writing (Prof. John Rennie, syllabus, 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.

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. Rene Ebersole, 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.

A Partial List of Guest Speakers Since 2011

  • Marshall Allen, investigative reporter, ProPublica
  • Simon Anthony, post-doctoral fellow in virology, Columbia University
  • John Ascher, research entomologist, American Museum of Natural History
  • Rachel Aviv, staff writer, The New Yorker
  • Colin Beavan, environmental activist and author
  • Kaitlin Bell Barnett, author
  • Belinda Batten, director of the Northwest National Marine Renewable Energy Center.
  • Colin Beavan, author of No Impact Man
  • Lisa Benenson, chief communications officer, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Sharon Begley, science writer, Thomson-Reuters
  • Charles Bergquist, producer, NPR Science Friday (SERP 15)
  • David Biello, associate editor for environment and energy, Scientific American
  • Burkhard Bilger, staff writer, The New Yorker
  • Ariel Bleicher, senior editor, Nautilus
  • Deborah Blum, author and professor of journalism, University of Wisconsin
  • Jef Boeke, professor of biochemistry and director of the Institute for Systems Genetics, NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Jennifer Bogo, executive editor, Popular Science
  • Kate Bolger, partner and 1st Amendment lawyer, Levine, Sullivan, Koch & Schulz
  • Brooke Borel, author and freelancer
  • Seth Borenstein, science writer, The Associated Press
  • Curtis Brainard, digital content manager, Scientific American
  • Alan Brown, associate professor of clinical psychiatry and epidemiology, Columbia University
  • Shannon Brownlee, author and freelancer
  • Adam Bryant, deputy science editor, The New York Times
  • Arthur Caplan, bioethicist, NYU Langone Medical Center
  • Benedict Carey, neuroscience writer, The New York Times
  • Stephen Cass, technology writer and editor
  • 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
  • David Corcoran, editor, Science Times
  • Michael Coren, managing director, Major Planet Studios
  • Joseph Davis, environmental writer and editor
  • Bob Deans, associate director of communications, Natural Resources Defense Council
  • Mariette DiChristina, editor in chief, Scientific American
  • David Dobbs, author, blogger and freelance writer
  • Eamon Dolan, book editor, Harcourt Houghton Mifflin
  • Susan Dominus, feature writer, The New York Times
  • Rachel Dretzin, documentary writer and producer, Ark Media and PBS Frontline
  • Emily Driscoll, freelance documentary producer (SHERP 25)
  • Charles Duhigg, investigative reporter, The New York Times
  • Katherine Eban, author, investigative reporter
  • Rene Ebersole, features editor, Audubon (SERP 17)
  • Jonathan Eisen, professor of microbial genetics, University of California, Davis
  • Randi Hutter Epstein, freelancer and author
  • Rose Eveleth, freelance writer and producer (SHERP 29)
  • Jenny Everett, senior editor, Popular Science
  • Richard Feinman, professor of cell biology, SUNY Downstate Medical Center
  • Rachel Feltman, science 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
  • Carolyn Foley, media lawyer, Davis Wright Tremaine LLP
  • McKenzie Funk, freelancer writer and author, Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming
  • Greg Gabadadze, director of the Center for Cosmology and Particle Physics, NYU
  • William Gahl. senior investigator, medical genetics branch, National Institutes of Health
  • Justin Gillis, environment writer, The New York Times
  • Josie Glausiusz, freelance writer and science blogger (SERP 11)
  • James Gleick, author
  • Jacob Goldstein, blogger, National Public Radio’s Planet Money
  • Erica Goode, environment editor, The New York Times
  • Barak Goodman, filmmaker and documentarian, Frontline
  • James Gorman, reporter and editor, The New York Times
  • Scott Gottlieb, deputy commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  • Denise Grady, medical writer, The New York Times
  • Andrew Grant, reporter, Science News (SHERP 26)
  • Mary Beth Griggs, contributor, Popular Science (SHERP 29)
  • David Grimm, online news editor, Science
  • Lena Groeger, developer and writer, ProPublica (SHERP 29)
  • Luke Groskin, video producer, Science Friday
  • Dan Grossman, freelance radio and web producer
  • Emily Hager, videographer, The New York Times (SHERP 22)
  • Susan Hassler, editor in chief, IEEE Spectrum
  • Terri Hambrecht, National Institutes of Health
  • Andrew Han, reporter, GenomeWeb (SHERP 31)
  • Amy Harmon, special projects correspondent, The New York Times
  • Michelle Harris, freelance fact checker
  • Robin Marantz Henig, author, freelancer and contributor, The New York Times Magazine
  • Scott Hensley, pharmaceutical industry reporter, The Wall Street Journal
  • Laura Hercher, genetics counselor, Sarah Lawrence College
  • Matthew Herper, pharma correspondent, Forbes
  • Katie Hiler, freelancer producer and podcaster (SHERP 31)
  • Michio Hirano, associate professor of neurology, Columbia University
  • Roald Hoffman, chemist, author and Nobel Laureate, Cornell University
  • John Horgan, author, blogger and professor
  • Robert Lee Hotz, science writer, Wall Street Journal
  • Virginia Hughes, author, blogger and freelance writer, science editor Buzzfeed News
  • Christopher Intagliata, producer, NPR Science Friday (SHERP 26)
  • Ferris Jabr, neuroscience editor, Scientific American (SHERP 28)
  • Anthony James, professor of microbiology and molecular genetics, University of California at Irvine
  • Mark Jannot, editor in chief, Popular Science
  • Sandeep Jauhar, freelance medical writer for The New York Times
  • Nathanael Johnson, freelancer and author.
  • David Cay Johnston, reporter, The New York Times
  • Cynthia Joyce, senior producer/editor MSNBC.com
  • Nathaniel Keohane, vice president, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Roxanne Khamsi, editor, Nature Medicine
  • Maggie Koerth-Baker, author, blogger and freelance writer.
  • Lindsey Konkel, freelance writer (SHERP 27)
  • Carolyn Kormann, fact checker, The New Yorker
  • Miriam Kramer, space beat writer, Mashable (SHERP 30)
  • Robert Krulwich, host, RadioLab, and science correspondent, National Public Radio
  • Anna Kuchment, news editor, Scientific American
  • Sarah Laskow, science editor and blogger
  • Andrew Lawler, contributing correspondent, Science
  • Jonah Lehrer, author and freelance writer, The New Yorker
  • Michael Lemonick, science writer, Climate Central
  • Evan Lerner, science communications officer, University of Pennsylvania
  • Trudy Lieberman, author and freelancer
  • Ben Lillie, founder, The Story Collider
  • Vincent Liota, former senior series producer, NOVA ScienceNow
  • W. Ian Lipkin, professor of epidemiology, Columbia University
  • Morton Lippmann, professor of environmental medicine, NYU
  • Robin Lloyd, online news editor, Scientific American
  • Susannah Locke, science writer, Vox.com (SHERP 26)
  • George Lundberg, former editor in chief, Medscape
  • Abrahm Lustgarten, energy and environmental reporter, ProPublica
  • Robert Lustig, professor of clinical pediatrics, University of California at San Francisco
  • Frank Maisano, principal, Bracewell and Guiliani
  • Apoorva Mandavilli, editor in chief, Spectrum, and freelance writer (SERP 17)
  • Adam Marcus, managing editor, Anesthesiology News
  • Amy Dockser Marcus, health writer, The Wall Street Journal
  • Matthew Martin, trauma medical director, Madigan Army Medical Center
  • Anne Matthews, writer and professor, Princeton University
  • Kathleen McGowan, special projects editor, Discover (SERP 15)
  • Maryn McKenna, author and freelance writer
  • Mary Mears, deputy public affairs director, Environmental Protection Agency
  • 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)
  • Melinda Wenner Moyer, freelance writer (SHERP 24)
  • Michael Moyer, senior editor, Scientific American
  • Siddhartha Mukherjee, physician and author of The Emperor of All Maladies
  • Jason Munshi-South, assistant professor of biology, Baruch College
  • Thomas Murray, bioethicist and president, The Hastings Center
  • George Musser, physics editor, Scientific American
  • Keeve Nachman, director of the Food Production and Health Program, Johns Hopkins University
  • Annalee Newitz, editor in chief, io9
  • Amy Nordrum, writer, IEEE Spectrum (SHERP 32)
  • Miles O’Brien, science correspondent, PBS NewsHour
  • Amy O’Connor, editorial director, Everyday Health
  • Randy Olson, filmmaker
  • Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geoscience and international affairs, Princeton University
  • Charles Ornstein, medical reporter, ProPublica
  • Jennifer Ouelette, author and blogger
  • Dennis Overbye, science writer, The New York Times
  • Richard Panek, science blogger
  • Annie Murphy Paul, author, blogger and magazine writer
  • Lynne Peeples, environment and public health reporter, Huffington Post  (SHERP 27)
  • Kevin Pelphrey, co-director, Yale Center for Translational Developmental Neuroscience
  • Charles Petit, science writer, head tracker at Knight Science Journalism Tracker
  • Eric Pooley, senior vice president, Environmental Defense Fund
  • Corey Powell, former editor in chief, Discover
  • James Prudden, editorial director, McMahon Medical Publishing
  • Alex Prud’homme, author of The Ripple Effect
  • Vincent Racaniello, professor of microbiology, Columbia
  • Paul Raeburn, author and magazine writer
  • Evan Ratliff, founding editor, The Atavist
  • Antonio Regalado, editor, Technology Review (SERP 12)
  • Andrew Revkin, environmental reporter and blogger, The New York Times
  • Malcolm Ritter, Associated Press science writer
  • Adam Rogers, articles editor, Wired
  • David Ropeik, writer and risk communication consultant
  • Joanna Rudnick, documentary filmmaker (SERP 17)
  • Andrew Rundle, cancer epidemiologist, Columbia University School of Public Health
  • David Sassoon, founder and publisher, Inside Climate News
  • Lynn Schaefer, director of neuropsychology, Nassau University Medical Center
  • Johnathan Schooler, professor of psychology, University of California at Santa Barbara
  • Alan Schwarz, reporter, The New York Times
  • Jon Scieszka, author of Science Verse and other science-related children’s books
  • Clay Shirky, writer and professor, New York University
  • Jamie Shreeve, science editor, National Geographic
  • Jessica Snyder Sachs, author and freelancer
  • Nancy Shute, science writer, U.S. News & World Report
  • Rebecca Skloot, freelancer and author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
  • Sarah Slobin, interactive producer, The Wall Street Journal
  • Sandra Steingraber, author of Living Downstream
  • Jim Sterba, author
  • Dawn Stover, contributing editor, Popular Science (SERP 1)
  • Maragaret Sullivan, public editor, The New York Times
  • Robert Sullivan, author of The Thoreau You Know, A Whale Hunt, Rats and other books
  • Maia Szalavitz, author and blogger
  • Joseph Terwilliger, statistical geneticist, Columbia University Medical Center
  • Andrea Thompson, senior science writer, Climate Central (SHERP 24)
  • Clive Thompson, columnist at Wired and author of Smarter Than You Think
  • Nicholas Thompson, senior editor, The New Yorker
  • George Thurston, professor of environmental medicine, NYU
  • John Timpane, associate editor of editorial pages, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Ronald Triolo. professor of orthopaedics and bioengineering, Case Western Reserve University
  • Bijal Trivedi, freelance science writer (SERP 18)
  • Steven Vance, research scientist, Jet Propulsion Laboratory
  • Matthew Van Dusen, editor, Txchnologist.com
  • Dan Vergano, science writer and editor, National Geographic (SERP 14)
  • Michael Waldholz, health editor, Bloomberg News
  • Amy Wallace, freelance writer
  • Dan Wartenberg, professor of epidemiology, Rutgers University
  • Walter Ray Watson, senior producer, National Public Radio
  • Don Weiss, communicable disease epidemiologist, New York City Department of Health
  • Margaret Wertheim, author of Physics on the Fringe
  • Erica Westly, science writer (SHERP 25)
  • Frank Wilczek, physicist, author and Nobel Laureate, MIT
  • Amber Williams, associate editor, Scientific American (SHERP 29)
  • Florence Williams, author and freelance writer
  • Kate Wong, online editorial director, Scienctific American
  • Phil Yam, news editor, Scientific American
  • 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
  • Bora Zivkovic, science blogger

A Partial List of Former SHERP/SERP Adjunct Faculty:

  • Natalie Angier, reporter, The New York Times
  • 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)
  • Emily Laber-Warren, writer, editor and professor, CUNY
  • Michael Lemonick, senior writer, Climate Central
  • Trudy Lieberman, author and freelancer
  • Corey Powell, editor in chief, Discover
  • Jessica Snyder Sachs, author and freelancer
  • Armand Schwab, former managing editor, Scientific American
  • Rebecca Skloot, author and freelancer
  • Gary Soucie, author and magazine editor
  • Glenn Thrush, reporter, Politico
  • Robert Windrem, producer, NBC News
 

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