A jolly good fellowship

If you have read the “about me” part of this blog, you may already know that my first experience with writing about mathematics for a general public was the AMS-AAAS Mass Media Fellowship during the summer of 2007. I published an article about my experience at the Voice of America in the Notices of the AMS the following February (you can find the article by clicking on the first link above and scrolling down a bit). I have mentioned this fellowship to a few people in conversations or emails, but I thought it was a good time to spread the word in case anyone who reads this blog is interested.

The fellowship is intended for people near the end of their college career or in graduate school (although I think recently graduated works too) who are interested in writing about math and science. The AMS sponsors one fellowship every year, so there is always one math fellow. Of course, because you will end up working for a science media outlet, you will not write only math stories, but if you’re lucky you may get to write a couple. In fact, I learned a lot from writing about science since I was not an expert in those fields. You have a better idea of how to write about something that you don’t fully understand and how to understand things just enough that you can get to the heart of the story. I definitely think this is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done, and it was worth the tiny setback to my Ph.D. research (it was only ten weeks of no math). To learn more about the fellowship and all the fellows (not just the math ones) you can go to the official website. The deadline to apply for this program is January 15.

Like I said before, you can read about my experience in the Notices article, but I wanted to write a bit about what I’ve done since. I have tried as much as I can to stay active in math writing in small ways. I was a contributor to the AMS Math Digest for a few years. I have been the main writer of the AMS Joint Math Meetings Blog for the past few years (and will be co-writing it this next JMM in San Diego). I wrote an article for MAA FOCUS on Ken Ono’s work on partition numbers, and I’m working on another article at the moment. And of course, this here blog is another one of the ways in which I try to keep writing about math. I am only listing these things because even though I’ve always been interested in mathematical writing, this media fellowship was really what opened all of these doors for me later on. I must also add that this experience made my mathematical writing (for my own research) much better, and it’s certainly helped with teaching. All around, if you like writing AND math, you should look into this program.

I was recently reminded of another program at the AAAS, the Minority Science Writers Internship. Unlike the Mass Media fellowship, which is intended for scientists and it teaches them to become better communicators and writers, this is intended to teach journalists about science writing. It is also mainly for undergraduate journalism students from underrepresented groups. So the angle is slightly different, but it might be a good thing to recommend to your students (I certainly passed this info along to my colleagues at Bates). I remember meeting the two 2007 fellows at DC, and they seemed really happy with the experience as well.

And since this has turned into a commercial for AAAS fellowships, I guess I have to mention the Science and Technology Policy Fellowship. This is more focused on training scientists to learn to communicate with policy makers. In their words, they want to “provide the opportunity for accomplished scientists and engineers to participate in and contribute to the federal policymaking process while learning firsthand about the intersection of science and policy.” I know a couple of math people who have participated in this program and really loved it. The deadline is December 5, so get started with that application!

Anyway, I just thought that this was interesting enough information to share with you all. Hopefully you will help me spread the word to your students and colleagues.  Also, if you know of any other math-communication-oriented programs, please share them in the comments section below.

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