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Is there a profession out there that's an equal balance between creative writing/publishing and biomedical science?

I am torn between majoring in English and Biomedical Science/Engineering. I love to write stories and strive to become an editor for a publishing company/fiction author or screenwriter, but I also love genetics and would love to be a genetic engineer and researcher (see the details from my previous question.) My parents don't want me to pursue an English degree because the profession "isn't that lucrative" and I'd spend a long time working my way to steady earnings, but they also want me to find a job doing what I love. They've suggested technical writing, but I fear that technical writing could also mean less creativity when writing instruction manuals or scientific journal articles. Any suggestions or advice from real-world experiences?

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Hi Jada! It's great that you have a passion for some incredibly topics. To answer your question, there is a lot of publishing and writing that goes into biomedical sciences. In order to get a patent, publish experiments, etc., you have to constantly write fascinating articles and reports about your research in order to support your thesis. Now, creative writing and the sciences becomes a bit more difficult; however, there are opportunities, such as documentary-maker or working for a science journal and writing interesting science-related topics. Ramtin M.
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Elizabeth’s Answer

Look into being a science writer or editor, which is very different from technical writing (and much more fun!). Writers who have what's called "subject matter expertise," especially in science, are in high demand. Having solid scientific knowledge in any topical area gives you freedom to write in a variety of formats and places.


However, there’s no need to commit to one narrow career path now. College is the time to try different things and be open to discovering what you love. It’s great that you’re developing two passions. Take the classes you love now, and your career and likely your major/minor will sort themselves out. Stand on your own, listen to your intuition, and accept that life always has twists and turns.


I've been a developmental editor for 30 years. Early in my career, I spent seven years working on science and computer magazines—something I never would have predicted, considering my severe math/science anxiety. I’ve hired many, many writers and editors over the years—I have no idea what they majored in. In the end, your experience, interests, drive, and networking will determine what you do, not your college major.

Elizabeth recommends the following next steps:

Check out http://casw.org/casw/guide-careers-science-writing
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Shulin’s Answer

Hi Jada,

I saw your previous question too. Sounds like a dilemma.

I would like you to check the link below. These are all scientific articles but they are not manuscript.
https://www.nature.com/news/newsandviews

There are different kinds, different level of scientific articles. These "News and Views" are the summary from the top scientific journal, and mean for the out-field professional. Do you feel less creative? Maybe a little bit, but I feel challenging too. To shorten a several pages scientific report into a one-page summary, precisely and not missing any important information is difficult. Not to say, they have to be attractive. To do this, we need someone who understands science and good at writing.

The second? example, When Breath Becomes Air, a non-fiction autobiographical book written by Paul Kalanithi. Please read through this book. Unfortunately, Dr. Paul passed away. He was a medical doctor. He was majoring in English literature. I am going to give you a third example. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2010), a non-fiction book by Rebecca Skloot.

I believe either path you choose, will be good. It is just the problem that you are trying to convince yourself or your parents. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. There will have a career, regardless which side you choose. AND, it does not necessarily mean? that you have to choose among two things that you love.
My answer is not as great as Shulin's:), but a cool thing to do would be to work in biomedicine, and write a fantasy novel series loosely based around your experiences. You could do short stories instead if a novel is too much. An interesting twist would be to do some sort of adult "magic school bus" sort of thing. Khalia Robinson
Quite a broad spectrum here. That said, why not marry your two favorite subjects? Working genetics into a novel could be interesting, though the concept will need to appeal to an audience much wider than the science community. Professionally, genetics is likely to provide a much better salary. My best advice is to choose between book editor and writer. Trying to do both will be difficult. Best of luck in your chosen endeavor. Graham (Rusty) Carter Jr.
Thank you all so much for your input! I will definitely consider the field of scientific writing! Jada H.
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Molly’s Answer

Hi Jada, I had the same conundrum! It is a tricky path to figure out because it's not "typical," but rest assured you have a lot of options. I'll tell you more about how I approached it in hopes that it gives you a helpful example.


I grew up very focused on writing and creative pursuits before I got into science, and once I became involved in my own research I realized I had found both of my passions and wanted to find a way to blend them into one career. I ended up pursuing both things at once, and sometimes they overlapped clearly and sometimes they didn't. When I was an undergrad, I majored in biology and minored in poetry. Then, after college I had a research job and an editorial internship at a magazine on the side. I debated whether to do a master's in science journalism (an obvious blend of the two paths, and a great option if you're interested) but ultimately decided to pursue the research I was so passionate about. In my graduate career, as I was working on my biology research, I sought out every possible opportunity to communicate about science--both my work and others'. I wrote tons of grant applications (as I had to) and really immersed myself into learning the strategy of grant writing. I gave every talk I possibly could, to practice crafting a story for different audiences. I enrolled in a science writing workshop and got a part-time job reporting and writing stories for my graduate department website.


All of these things together gave me a lot of experience as a scientist AND as a writer, though only some of those things combined both at once. That's ok--it all counts. Ultimately, I was able to apply my skills both in science + writing in a totally new field (pharma), because the experiences I gained from doing such a diversity of things showed me that I could be really versatile in my career. And one of the most helpful things was to be outgoing and friendly (even if I felt awkward or nervous) to build my network across all the different areas I'm interested in.


My biggest piece of advice would be to seek out very diverse opportunities simultaneously, even if they don't necessarily seem to fit together. Meet as many people as you can. Dive into things that interest you, even if you don't know what the specific path will be. and follow your gut!

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Marilyn’s Answer

You could study biomedical science and minor in creative writing so perhaps you could write for a company in that field and still do creative writing on the side. Best of luck!

Marilyn Lowry

Both majors are great, but I suggest a major in Biomedical with a minor in English. You can always go back and get a second degree, and it's easier to go back to English. I imagine it could be difficult to go back for a Bio degree because of all the prep work and constant changes to the industry. English will boost your Biomedical degree, but I don't think that works the other way around. Deborah Mallek
Also, if you want to pursue a career using both interests, you could become a technical writer or proposal manager for the biomedical field. Deborah Mallek
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Dave’s Answer

Are you interested in TV writing? If so... If you continue with the biomedical science training it could eventually help you land a job on a medical or forensics-related cop show that could help pay the bills while you write the other stories you are interested in telling (which could be a novel or poetry). Certainly study in any other field can be helpful to your writing as a form of research. I would keep pursuing both as long as you can and perhaps your preference will become clear. Hope this helps.

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