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Anja Malawi Brandon

PhD candidate
Civil & Environmental Engineering
Story originally published on Aug 2021
I’m a third-year PhD student in civil and environmental engineering.

I study plastic degradation in the lab of Professor Craig Criddle. Plastic pollution and marine debris are topics I’ve been passionate about since I was in fifth grade. There is a perception that graduate school is supposed to be difficult, and that you have to get through it alone. That is just not the case. Whether you’re struggling with a fellowship, qualifying exams or the first draft of a paper, there are people who can help. 

I have always been a writer, but I am new to technical writing in the world of science and engineering. I was first exposed to the Technical Communication Program (TCP) in the midst of the fellowship application process. Not only was the TCP program helpful in making my application stronger, it also helped keep me on schedule. TCP’s service goes beyond what you’d experience with a writing tutor. The tutoring is not just about grammar. The TCP tutors taught me the general rules for communication. While TCP does help edit your writing line by line, the tutors also help you understand what needs to be changed, and why, so you don’t make the same mistakes over and over again. I believe that the guidance I received through TCP helped me become a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow.

There is an increasing need for scientists and engineers to disseminate their work in a way that’s more accessible to the public. If we want science to be valued by society as a whole, we have a responsibility to communicate our science effectively. As scientists and engineers, we like to use technical terms and jargon because we’re immersed in it through our work; it’s our language. But you can’t impact or engage someone in conversation if they don’t understand you. 

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