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Importance of Writing for STEM Students

At a recent college expo, I spoke to an experienced physics professor who told me something interesting: she was frustrated because so many of her students, even graduate students, did not have the writing skills needed to describe their research. I thought maybe the issue was how difficult it can be to explain advanced science concepts in a clear way, but she said that the main problem was just that so many of her students lacked basic written communication skills. They weren't stating their ideas clearly, they weren't connecting one idea to another, and they weren't clarifying their points with evidence. It didn't matter if these students had the potential to be brilliant scientists; without the ability to communicate their ideas and findings in writing, no one would pay attention to their work.

People love to specialize, and that makes sense. You love to do what you're good at, and I've always preferred writing to struggling at math. However, certain core skills are necessary no matter what field you go into. I've had to learn a minimal amount of math in order to calculate finances, and STEM students need to learn how to communicate their ideas in writing so that their work can be understood and appreciated.

There are advantages to going beyond minimal skills, as well. If most STEM graduates have similar profiles coming out of college (courses, extracurriculars, internships), writing skills can be a way for students to set themselves apart. After all, students who are good at writing can produce papers that other STEM professionals are actually willing to read. Even for students who won't be in research fields, just having the ability to write clear and effective reports or emails can be enough to mark someone as a potential leader. Managers and others in leadership positions need to be able to communicate effectively with their co-workers, often through writing, so this makes sense.

Ultimately, STEM students and professionals will be successful based on their competence and creativity in their chosen field, but having advanced writing skills is an excellent way to make sure that their talents are noticed and appreciated.

Thanks for reading, and write on!

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