M.A., Science Concentration

Cultivate ways of thinking that are essential to covering any scientific field.

Interpret studies, unearth important details, place scientific developments in context — and make science come alive. 

What You'll Study

Students in the Science concentration focus on themes and ways of thinking that can be used to cover any scientific field, whether it’s health, technology or the hard sciences. They get a landscape view, looking at history, patterns of discovery and innovation. The seminar emphasizes understanding the culture and practice of science, giving students the skills to interpret a peer-reviewed study as well as providing a clear understanding of the peer-review process, its origin and its challenges. The course places particular emphasis on writing creatively and compellingly, whether in a short news story or in a long piece of narrative nonfiction.

Each semester is centered around a close look at a few fields to get at the larger themes of covering science. The fall semester typically starts with the history of science: students look at the continuities between past events, such as the Scopes Trial, and contemporary issues. They delve into climate science, visiting laboratories to understand contemporary research, and they examine the politics of the field. They study several exciting frontiers in physics (black holes and gravitational waves) and technology (instruments and ethics), and finish the semester with sessions on ecology, focusing on current issues such as urban ecology or invasive species. Along the way, they examine scientific funding and think critically about metaphor in science writing. Recent fall lecturers have included historian of science Daniel Kevles, paleoclimatologist Gisela Winckler, mathematician Cathy O’Neil and ecologist Matthew Palmer.

The spring semester focuses on evolution and genetics, neuroscience, public health and medicine. Students often travel to see fossils in situ and at the American Museum of Natural History, and they learn about mass extinction events and how the movements of the cosmos are reflected in sediments on Earth. They learn how to take apart medical studies and use the statistics skills they learned in Evidence & Inference in the fall. They also discuss some of the newest developments in epigenetics and in neuroscience. Recent spring lecturers included paleontologist Paul Olsen, neuroscientist Stuart Firestein, animal behaviorist Diana Reiss, medical historian David Rosner and sociologist Alondra Nelson.

Faculty

Student Work

Alumni Work

Alexis Sobel Fitts, '13 M.A. Science, Columbia School of Journalism

Alexis Sobel Fitts, '13 M.A. Science, is a Senior Editor at Wired, where she edits features for the web, including recent pieces on prison email, fake news , and Twitter bots, and writes about the information wars.