Writing about Biology with Dr. Jan Pechenik at Cape Breton University

Dr. Jan Pechenik (Tufts University), author of “A Short Guide to Writing About Biology” ended a three-university speaker tour of the Maritimes with two days at Cape Breton University on October 9 and 10.  While on campus, Pechenik conducted four 75-90 minute mini workshops – two directed at faculty and two at undergraduate students. 

Faculty workshops focused on developing effective teaching exercises in “Designing assignments that teach as opposed to just keeping students busy” and helping to guide the editing of students’ written work in “Guiding student revision…without killing ourselves in the process”.  Both faculty workshops were well attended with 15-20 participants, including one graduate student from UNB Fredericton and two from UNB Saint John who were visiting Cape Breton over the Thanksgiving long weekend. Faculty attendees spanned several disciplines and included faculty and instructors from biology, chemistry, geology, public health, nursing, language and letters, and the writing centre.  Student workshops were also well subscribed to, with more than 40 students from the School of Science & Technology learning the dos and don’ts of writing lab reports in “Doing it right: the best way to write a lab report” and 24 students participating in the workshop “Making a good pitch: developing an effective research proposal”.  Feedback from faculty and students who attended these workshops was very positive.

Pechenik also met individually with faculty during his visit to CBU, as well as with several directed studies/honours students and biology laboratory instructors.  In addition, Jan made short visits to our Invertebrate Zoology labs and gave a research seminar to Dr. Michael Orr’s Invertebrate Zoology class.  Along the way, several students asked Jan to sign copies of his books “A Short Guide to Writing about Biology” and “Biology of the Invertebrates”.  Students were pretty excited “to meet the guy who wrote my book”.

Funding for Dr. Pechenik’s visit was provided from a number of sources.  The Teaching and Learning Centre at CBU, the Writing Centre, the Department of Biology, and the Dean of the School of Science & Technology provided financial support for faculty and student workshops as well as refreshments.  In addition, under a special allocation of funds based on its 50th anniversary celebrations, Science Atlantic provided $1000 to cover travel costs associated with Jan’s speaker tour, including $600 contributed from the Biology division of SA and $400 from SA’s Trust Fund.  We thank all these funding sources for their generous support.