The Importance of Writing in the Sciences: An Interview with Dr. Martin Lukac — by Katherine Lam
Updated: Nov 6, 2021
Amidst the throes of the final days of the spring, 2019 semester, we caught up with Dr. Martin Lukac, Associate Professor of Computer Science at NU. We chatted about the importance of writing in the sciences and his experience working with the Writing Across the Curriculum initiative.
Q: Hi Martin, so let’s get straight to the point - is writing important in science?
Of course it is. If you can’t write what about you are working on, then nobody will know it. Then, the whole point of improving the world through science is not achievable. And writing helps guide your thinking - you’re researching what you’re writing and writing what you’re researching. It keeps you organized.
Q: How do your students feel about writing as scientists?
Well, students now think I’m being too mean with them in their writing, but the students who have graduated and are studying in graduate programs often complain to me that I should have been harder on them. They wish they could have learned writing much earlier.
Q: Now you worked with us this semester as part of our Writing Across the Curriculum initiative to integrate reading and writing strategies in your Computer Science Research Methods course. What were you expecting, and did your results match those expectations?
Honestly I had no expectations whatsoever. I was positively surprised that your advice and teaching methods helped in managing my students. Additionally I was very happy to be able to put structure into teaching reading and writing.
Q: We provided you with some resources to help with the Compute Science Research Methods course. Have these resources been useful for you?
Essentially, it allowed me to structure the class better, and to make the [writing] process more meaningful. The most helpful would be the rubrics - it was a starting point where we could expand on various sections for the final paper. Rubrics were something I hadn’t known about, so for me it was very useful. I started with one assignment, and it led me to design them for other parts of the final survey paper. They’ll also be useful for the students and the faculty that will be evaluating them.
Q: Have you seen differences in the way students are writing now that you have the rubrics?
I have quite a lot of students, so it’ll take more time to for me to say for the whole class. But from the papers I’ve read so far, it seems like the students are on the right track. And this feels like it’s better than before. Working with you to develop these rubrics has really helped.
Q: That’s great to know, and we’re happy that you’re experiencing success! Would you recommend faculty to work with this type of program?
Sure. I think it should be a part of training, especially for new faculty, and those who are teaching these types of writing intensive classes. Or at least faculty who are teaching classes with projects that need some sort of write-up at the end. I think it would be helpful in streamlining the way we think and help students write their paper.